Monthly Archives: July 2012

Frenzied Weeding: the busy gardener’s way to tidy up

When you’re overwhelmed by the fact that there’s minimal time to tidy up your gardens before visitors arrive use my Frenzied Weeding tactics.  Frenzied weeding focuses only on the areas most likely seen by visitors – the walkways and beds leading to the house and the garden beds most viewable from outdoor or indoor gathering spots. Frenzied Weeding includes pulling the largest, most obvious weeds and deadheading spent blossoms.

As little as 10 minutes each day will allow you to find and remove the weeds about to flower – pull these first, do not let weeds go to seed. Also pull weeds overtaking a more favored plant. Start in the most seen areas -next to where visitors park, along pathways, near doors, around an outdoor deck or gathering spot – and move outward from there.

I did some Frenzied Weeding this weekend to tidy up a couple of much neglected beds around my house before family arrived.

Just 5 minutes of frenzied weeding turned garden static …

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into a much more pleasant, neater planting.

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Frenzied weeding  took this simple fieldstone edge from a messy distraction …

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to a delineation between lawn and planting bed.

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In just an hour the beds looked happier.

Frenzied Weeding is most effective when soil is moist – roots release more easily from moist soil – and when weeds are large enough to grab as a unit. It’s not the ideal way to maintain your gardens, but a few minutes of Frenzied Weeding a few days each week is preferable to letting weeds overtake the plants you want to keep.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Nasturtium at work in the garden

Nasturtium is an easy to grow from seed, easy care, cheery, prolific self-sowing annual that will brighten any Connecticut garden.

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Nasturtium flowers are edible. I often use them to dress up a potato or tossed salad. Nasturtium leaves impart a wonderfully subtle peppery flavor when added to a leafy green salad. But nasturtium serve another purpose in many gardens, they attract aphids.

I’ve planted nasturtium in multiple locations around my house and gardens, in the front beds, rear beds, and among vegetables. I love the intricate flowers and the shape and color of the leaves. Last spring I planted nasturtium in a long narrow raised planting bed (38 feet long with a two foot wide planting area). It’s a bed that does not drain well – I’ve written about it before. I think the landscape fabric lining has become clogged with tiny soil particles and this causes the soil in the bed to really hold water. In seasons with heavy rainfall the soil in this bed becomes downright soggy. To combat the sogginess, and still use the bed for heat-loving vegetable plants while my new raised-bed vegetable garden is being constructed (a two-year project), I plant heat-loving veggies in clay pots that I partially sink into the soil in the bed.

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The above photo is how it looked in June 2011 before the nasturtium, planted in the soil between the pots, sprouted. The clay pots dry quickly, keeping the veggie roots happy (cherry tomatoes and hot peppers really like life in the pots). Turns out the nasturtiums love this steamy, moist environment. They completely filled the gaps between the pots last year. Strangely, though, I did not see one aphid last year so the nasturtium provided color, lots of it, until frost.

Lots of nasturtium flowers means lots of seeds. When I cleaned out the bed in preparation for winter I let many of the matured nasturtium seeds remain in the bed. I figured I’d have a few self-sowers. When Connecticut’s mild last winter gave way to early spring warmth, nasturtium volunteers started popping up here and there in the bed. So this spring I arranged clay pots full of hot pepper and tomato seedlings around the nasturtium volunteers, moving only a few aside.

By mid-June, nasturtium filled the bed. What a cheery sight!

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The self-sown nasturtium were so happy I had to train and prune them to prevent them from smothering the veggie transplants. They stayed happy until recently, when black aphids, hundreds of them, found the row of nasturtium an attractive food source. Aphids are piercing/sucking insects. They feed on plant nectar after poking tiny holes in plant surfaces. Nasturtium parts are filled with the nectar aphids love.

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When aphid numbers are small, it’s easy to control them by washing them off with a gentle spray of water from a hose. If this doesn’t work, organic sprays will kill aphids, but will also kill other, possibly beneficial, insects. If you’re lucky, ladybugs move in for an aphid feast. The infestation on my nasturtium this summer, however, required a drastic, surgical control. As the aphids spread from nasturtium to nasturtium, I cut away infested stems. I bagged infested plant material and sent it off with the trash (no composting for bug-infested plants).

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Such is life in the world of nasturtium … the plants are doing their job.  If conditions favor new growth and new blossoms in late summer I’ll be doubly … no, triply … blessed. A free, no-work nasturtium show early on, a workhorse plant that attracted aphids away from nearby veggies, and a second showing later.

What more could a gardener ask for after simply standing back and working with nature?

Garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

One TALL lily

This TALL lily teaches a good don’t-believe-everything-you-read lesson for gardeners … a plant description’s estimated height may not be the plant’s true height in your garden.

This Asiatic lily ‘Rosella’s Dream’ is supposed to top out at about 4 feet tall. That’s how tall she grew last year, her second summer in my garden.

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As you can see, Rosella has lovely pink blossoms. Her stalks are sturdy, as are her flowers … stood up to the only good, but brief, downpour we’ve had since her blooms opened.

But Rosella is acting a differently this year. Most of her stalks have exceeded 4 feet in height and one is taller than the 5 feet 6 1/2 inch gardener that cares for and so enjoys her flowers.

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Rosella has reached for the stars, standing about 6 feet tall.

Here she is from the opposing view.

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She certainly doesn’t want to be out done by her companions. It’s as if Rosella is taunting the pale-yellow, lemon-scented day lilies (Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’). “Look at me, way up here!”

Could this be a result of the mild winter we had? Could it be that Rosella really likes the warmth of the adjacent concrete-block retaining wall? Did heavy spring rainfall play a role in her height?

It’s hard to tell. All three factors likely worked together to help Rosella’s Dream reach this new-to-me, eye-catching height, which has thrown a monkey wrench into the scale of this border. Rosella played well with her flower-mates when she held her height at 4 feet. Now she is hogging the show.

I’ll give her another chance, next year, to show that she can play nicely in her current location. If she insists on being a show-off she may just find herself uprooted to a new spot nearer the fence, where her height won’t detract from her companions.

Have you observed extra tall or robust lilies this year?

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry
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