Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


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.

This combination of prickly pear (Opuntia) cactus, horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), and hummingbird mint (Agastache cana) is looking good despite the heat and lack of moisture.

This combination of prickly pear (Opuntia) cactus, horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), and hummingbird mint (Agastache cana) is looking good despite the heat and lack of moisture.

Earlier this week while making the rounds in the yard, I noticed how many plants were showing moisture stress. It’s not surprising. After one of the warmest Julys on record, and just an inch and a half of rain in the last six weeks, only the toughest perennials could be expected to be perky in these drought conditions.

Plants must be tough to survive in my yard. I don’t water, except during the establishment year. (That may soon change. I intend to set up some rain barrels, and use my new RainPerfect solar powered rain barrel pump to water some of the more sensitive perennials. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the rain barrels in place before the rains dried up.) But for now, I rely on natural rainfall and mulch to keep the perennials happy during dry periods.

The airy bubblegum-scented foliage of hummingbird mint is a perfect complement to its tubular lavender-purple flowers which, as it’s name suggest’s, attracts hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators. It can grow up to four feet tall. If that’s too large for your yard, consider ‘Purple Pygmy’, a dwarf version that remains under three feet in height.

The combination of hummingbird mint, horned poppy, and prickly pear provides a long season of color. The prickly pear starts the season with bright pink flowers (see below), closely followed by golden blooms on the horned poppy. The “horned” part of the name comes from the long, curved seed pods that develop after blooms fade. I deadhead the seed stalks to expose the deeply fringed silvery foliage, which looks great all summer. If you prefer, you can allow the seed pods to ripen and self-sow.

Pink prickly pear blooms

Pink prickly pear blooms

Deep yellow horned poppy bloom

Deep yellow horned poppy bloom

Purple Pygmy hummingbird mint

Purple Pygmy hummingbird mint

Apparently Pinterest has been around now for quite some time.  I however didn’t jump on the bandwagon until recently. Not to anyone’s fault other than mine: I just wasn’t aware of it! So I’m doing you a favor by introducing you to Pinterest.

Say hello.

Pinterest is about sharing–’pinning’ to be exact. Pinning what you admire. Pinning what you’re doing. Pinning what you’re envious of. Pinning what you’re aspiring to be.

Pin anything. Well…almost anything.

Pinterest to me, is like picking up my favorite magazine filled with images of inspiration tailoring to all my facets: vintage, burlap, gardening and so much more.

Pinterest is also about sharing goodness. If you find something interesting and think the world might also find it interesting this is your platform. That’s what I love the most (other than of course the inspiring images). This closely coincides with my love for Better Homes and Gardens.

What better platform than Pinterest to share the BH&G love! Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m particularly enjoying pinning these days:

To see more of my Better Homes and Gardens favorites…check out my board. Or make a board of your own! Happy pinning!

Lettuce, kale, chives, and pansies make a colorful and edible garden accent.

Why not celebrate Earth Day by jumping on the grow-your-own-veggies bandwagon? Colorful salad bowls are a great way to grow your own produce in a limited amount of space. And they can be far more than strictly utilitarian. Combine salad greens with edible flowers and herbs for a showy and tasty mix.

The folks at PanAmerican Seed and BallHort have made creating your own salad bowl a snap with their new SimplySalad seed pellets. Each pellet contains a mix of several edible greens. Global Gourmet provides Asian flair with lacy red and green mustards paired with lettuces of the same color. The Alfresco blend brings a Mediterranean vibe with arugula, endive, and radicchio combined with red and green lettuces. And for the less adventuresome, the City Garden mix teams mild leaf lettuces in a variety of burgundy and green hues.

This photo shows the Global Gourmet salad mix in a container garden, along with Alfresco mix seed pellets in a vial attached to its store display card.

By planting several salad bowls you can have a steady supply of greens for your dinner table. This bowl is ready to harvest. I’ll simply cut the greens off a couple of inches above the ground. In about 3 weeks, they should be ready to harvest again. I expect to get several cycles of harvest from the bowl before summer’s heat puts an end to the harvest. A bonus with growing the greens in a bowl: I can move the container to the shade when temperatures heat up, extending the harvest season. And I’ll be sure to plant some more pellets in mid-summer for fall harvest. By then, I’ll have lots of tomatoes and peppers from my garden to add to the salads!

One of the themes at the Tropical Plant Industry Expo in Fort Lauderdale last week was living walls–the concept of growing plants in vertical spaces. This attractive display by Triad Plant Company creates a mosaic of tropical foliage plants tucked into a foam substrate wall perched atop a water reservoir. Essentially, the system is a recirculating fountain which trickles water through the foam to keep the plants’ root systems moist.

That solves one of the major problems with living walls. Watering them can be a messy task. Although I’m all for additional ways and places to grow plants, I’m not so sure that I’d want a living wall next to a carpeted floor! Even with this self-contained system, there are bound to be leaks or dribbles of water onto  surrounding surfaces.

Another water-related problem with vertical growing systems is uneven water availability, according to staff at Longwood Gardens, who reported on their experience with their new living wall at the conference. Think back to elementary science class and a demonstration about how much water a saturated sponge holds. When the sponge lies flat, a bit of water drains out of the upper portion of the sponge, but the bottom half remains saturated. When the sponge stands on end, a lot more water drains out of it because there is a much greater distance from top to bottom, and the capillary water (the water held in the pore spaces of the sponge) in the upper portion of the sponge drains out. Similarly, the upper portion of living walls will dry out faster than the lower portion. That means you may need to plant drought-tolerant plants at the top and moisture-loving ones at the bottom if you decide to try this new technology.

Here are a couple more examples of vertical growing systems seen at the trade show:

Planting pockets that hang on a wall.

Tillandsia meridionalis, an air-plant bromeliad, mounted on a wall plaque.

The planting pockets by WoollyPocket are watered like houseplant dish gardens. The bromeliads are misted frequently to supply the moisture that they need.

It remains to be seen whether vertical growing indoors is just a fad or a trend that is here to stay. Certainly it’s another way to enjoy the beauty and healthy benefits of plants in indoor environments. What do you think? Are they worth the extra effort?

Winter Scenes 008Winter Scenes 002All was quiet inside the McKeon house as we slumbered through the predawn hours of Christmas day. While reindeer danced through our dreams, white-tail deer partied the night away in our backyard. We awoke to, not the sound of hooves on the roof, but to the sight of tracks in freshly fallen snow. And to our wondering surprise, four does were lingering in the garden—a flower border planted last summer for birds and butterflies, not grazers.

We had no eyewitness accounts of rabbits, but dozens of telltale hopper trails were all the evidence we needed to prove that a family of cottontails was spending the holiday sleeping off their midnight meal in the cozy warren of our brush pile.

In the wild, deer and rabbits survive cold winters by nibbling on the tender branches from the previous year’s growing season. Called browsing, this method of search-and-devour is Mother Nature’s way of providing food for her flock and pruning crowded vegetation. For gardeners, however, losing plants to hungry critters can be a lot harder on the pocketbook than window shopping, the more common definition of browsing. If left unprotected, young trees and shrubs can be nibbled to nubbins in no time.

I’m all for creating backyard wildlife habitats. Selfishly, though, I like to protect my landscaping investments. The secret to a landscape that caters to both people and wildlife is to reach a respectful balance. I figure if I can successfully keep deer and rabbits from dining on new plantings for the first few years, the trees and shrubs will grow big and strong enough to tolerate a chewed-off branch here and there.

Many gardeners use barriers, such as cages made of stakes and chicken wire, to keep winter browsers at bay. This method is very effective, especially if you have just a few specimens to protect. For large numbers of trees and shrubs, a good alternative is one of the natural wildlife deterrents, such as Liquid Fence and Messina Wildlife Products. These manufacturers offer formulations for just about every critter. The trick is to apply them regularly (every 30 days) when temperatures are above the freezing mark.

What Earth-kind methods do you use to protect your plants from wildlife damage? We would love to hear from you!

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