August 2011

Katie Ketelsen

Triscuit’s Home Farming Challenge-Accepted and Dominated!

In April, Better Homes and Gardens teamed up with Triscuit to create the ultimate Home Farming challenge for three bloggers {who’d never gardened before} to create their best home farm.

Triscuit Bloggers

Annie, Catherine and Peabody accepted said challenge and frankly…dominated it! Each blogger had different conditions to grow their vegetables in–balcony, typical residential lot and a rural setting, thus creating a variety of challenges. But overall I’m quite impressed with how well their home farms flourished!

Here’s a look at their finished products:

Annie Mama Dweeb

Annie Mama Dweeb

Catherine Davis

Catherine Davis

Peabody Rudd

Peabody Rudd

To get a feel for where they started–check out the progress pictures for Annie, Catherine and Peabody. Or read up on how they overcame their struggles and managed to eat from their garden throughout the summer.

And then help us decide who created the best home farm by voting here {psst….just by voting you are entered to win $1000 yourself!}


Denny Schrock

crabgrass season is here

A clump of crabgrass in a browned-out lawn

Late August is prime time for crabgrass. The yellow green foliage and forked seed heads are especially evident in lawns browned out from hot, dry summer weather conditions.

However, late summer is not the time to control crabgrass. It’s an annual, and will die with the first frosts of fall. But prior to that, it will spread thousands of seeds ready to germinate next spring.

Last year the crabgrass got out of control in my yard, so I vowed to do something about it this year, despite the fact that my lawn is the poor stepchild of my garden. I admit that the perennial beds and shrub borders receive a lot more attention than my lawn. It’s hard not to play favorites! The lawn usually survives with periodic mowing, no fertilization, no watering, and spotty weed control. (I use a dandelion puller, and often hand weed the black medic and oxalis that pop up in the grass.)

GreenView crabgrass control and fertilizer

This spring I agreed to try GreenView’s Crabgrass Control Plus Lawn Food. This slow-release fertilizer and crabgrass control combination is supposed to prevent crabgrass and many other annual weeds all season long, and has the benefit of slow-release fertilizer to promote sustained growth of grass. The time to apply the crabgrass preventer is in early spring before the soil warms to 50 degrees F, which is usually about the time that forsythias bloom.

I was pleased with the results. The grass in the lawn was thicker and greener than in the past, with no sudden flush of growth. And crabgrass has remained mostly under control. (In some of the worst sections, I saw some seedlings sprouting in mid-July, so I applied some corn gluten meal to those areas to prevent further sprouting of the crabgrass.) Since then, I’ve been easily able to keep up with hand weeding the occasional crabgrass seedling that pops up in the lawn.

This fall, I’ll apply the GreenView Fall Lawn Food to give the lawn a boost going into winter. And next year, I’m looking forward to a much-reduced crabgrass crop because I’ve been able to stop it dead in its tracks this year.


Everyday Gardeners

Measuring Summer’s Success

The following is a guest blog post from Helen Yoest–owner of Gardening With Confidence where she is a garden designer, garden writer, and field editor for Better Homes and Gardens, Country Gardens, Traditional Home, and many other magazines.


A tomato, ripened on the vine, still warm from the sun, then sinking my teeth deep into the meat of the mighty ‘mater, pegs my pleasure meter. I can think of nothing better to measure summer’s success. But, did I grow tomatoes in my garden? Nope; not then, but I do now.

It wasn’t my idea to have a vegetable garden; it was my kids’. I was perfectly happy with beautiful flowers and foliage to keep me amused. But then, late one summer, my 8-year-old son, Aster, wondered why we didn’t grow tomatoes. I didn’t have a good reason, but I answered, “I thought you liked going to the Farmer’s Market each week?” His reply was “I do, but I wonder what it would be like to grow my own.” So we did.

We made short work of figuring out where to put our vegetable garden. Co-planting in our packed, wildlife habitat was an option; however, I was more keen on commandeering some turf. We found a small, 20- by 20-foot piece of yard, that seemed like the perfect location — in full sun and right in front of our driveway.

Covered with composted leaf mulch

Despite my son’s need for instant gratification, I was able to curb his enthusiasm to wait until the next growing season for planting. In the meantime, we covered the new garden space with 4 inches of composted leaf mulch, allowing the earthworms do the hard work for us, while we planned our future garden.

We also thought we needed to name our garden, so it was dubbed the Le Petite Potager. At the time, I wasn’t sure if the name related to the size of the garden or the size of my kids; either way the name seemed to fit. (Full disclosure, only 2 of my 3 kids thought this garden was a good idea. The teenage was the holdout.)

We weren’t serious vegetables gardeners, not like those admirable ones in search for the most coveted heirloom varieties, we just wanted a few home-grown tomatoes, big and red; cucumbers, long and straight, and yellow bell peppers. We also added hot peppers in hopes to interest my husband in our new gardening foray.  Our thinking was if he was interested, he might share in the care.

The next summer, we were swimming in success.

IMG_0321

Lily’s cucumber crop was measured in feet beyond her body length, with arms stretched forward.

JulyGBBD 037

Aster’s tomato crop was measured in the number of tomato sandwiches he could eat in one sitting; Lara Rose’s (the teenager) success was measured in how little time her nose was parted from her book.

My success was measured in perfecting the most delicious fried green tomatoes, with the least amount of effort. We each also relished in the taste only a vine ripened, red, homegrown tomatoes could provide.

Lily and BeanOh and yes, my kids successfully lured their father into the garden, who declared himself the one in charge of adding kitchen compost to Le Petite Potager and taking credit for the number of earthworms present, which he boosts as the reason for the garden’s overall success. Ah, Cest le Vie, it’s a good thing the kid’s and I have other measures of the garden’s success.


Everyday Gardeners

color on display

Last week I visited the Gardens at Ball in West Chicago, IL, and spent the day photographing hundreds of gorgeous annual flowers, perennials, and shrubs. The gardens are open to the public, and definitely worth a visit to get ideas on how to combine plants for beautiful displays and to see side-by-side comparisons of flower varieties.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.


Justin W. Hancock

Horticulture on a Grand Scale

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the folks at Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota. Perhaps best known for being the company behind Endless Summer hydrangeas, Bailey is a large wholesale company that does virtually everything big.

It’s amazing going to their growing fields and seeing thousands of plants in blocks, ready to be shipped off to garden centers around the country. Below is a block of gorgeous Endless Summer hydrangeas in their prime. They extend almost as far as the eye can see — and this is just one section. There are other sections like this of just about every variety they sell, including their roses. A block of hundreds of roses is breathtaking!

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I also had the great luck to see some newer varieties on the market — again, in their prime. Here’s ‘Pink Double Delight’ coneflower (which I love; it’s a fantastic performer in my garden!) — again this isn’t a planted bed, these are all individual pots.

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The Bailey Nurseries staff also let me see their gorgeous display gardens where they test out varieties before they sell them. Instead of planting everything in organized rows, though, the company let their staff have a little fun with garden design and created several acres of lush plantings. It was a feast to the eyes!


Justin W. Hancock

Wordless Wednesday!

It’s Wednesday…that means time to show off some fantastic photos from the BHG Share My Gallery.

A homemade ladder planter from reader thevintagegypsy97!

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A fun way to dress up a privacy fence from reader scaffrey158491

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A stunning front-yard landscape from reader kfisher78