Tag Archive | Sustainable gardening

Time for a Shower

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What? I know some people who shower with pets to give them baths. But showering with plants?

Actually I have been known to take my air plants into the shower with me for a quick watering but that clearly is not what’s happening here.  And although it may be TMI, I didn’t shower with these plants.  They didn’t even shower together.  I brought them up and showered them off one at a time.  This photo just shows them drying.

So what’s going on? Well, this.

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I first saw this–spider mites, I suspect–about a month ago. This is a pair of leaves from the plant that is the much larger of the two.

At that time, I just wiped all the leaves off and vowed to take a look again in a few weeks. Sure enough, they’re back.  And while they don’t look much like–or behave like–traditional spider mites, meaning that there are no telltale webs, this is very clearly an insect infestation.

So, once I decided that, I grabbed the other plant that had been near this plant when it was outside.  Sure enough,  same sort of little critter. That’s when I decided they both needed a shower to wash all these pests away.

Clearly I will need to watch these 2 plants–and all those around them–for reinfestation. But so long as I don’t mind giving the plants a shower, I think everything’s under control.

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Solve Issues With Indoor Herbs Organically

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Rut-roh. What’s the point of growing your own herbs indoors if they’re going to do this?

And lots of herbs grown indoors are prone to this, not just the sage in my photo. Rosemary is notorious for powdery mildew-_- and this is just about the time when all those cute little rosemary trees and wreaths start appearing everywhere.

Well, they’re no longer cute when they’re covered in this!  And rosemary is definitely finicky about being grown indoors.

So what do you do?  If you want some of this sage for stuffing,  you certainly don’t want to spray it with fungicide–or even dish soap, necessarily.

Never fear, I have just the solution ( literally,  and no pun intended). It does require milk, so if you are not a milk drinker, get yourself one of those small cartons like the kids drink at school.

Mix up a small amount–no more than you need for one treatment  because you can’t save it. You are mixing 50% milk and 50% water.

Spray the plant, then discard whatever solution is left. Don’t try to save it over in the fridge. I have tried.  Your sprayer will be clogged by the time you go to use it again–hence my instructions to try to mix only what you’re going to need.

It’s just that simple.  Milk and water. No poisons, no fungicides,  nothing toxic to you or your family–unless of course you can’t drink milk!

The Plant that Keeps on Giving

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I bought this plant (the one in the base of the citrus) as a 6″ annual for an outdoor hummingbird container I was planting in 2015. It was called “Jewels of Opar” (don’t you love common names sometime? They’re so romantic!) The botanical name is talinum ‘limon’ presumably for the chartreuse foliage.

As I was scouting around for the botanical on this, lo and behold, I also discovered it was edible! Gracious! This really is the plant that keeps on giving! When I entitled the post that, I merely meant that since 2015, it has self-sowed into various containers of mine and continues to bloom all over the place. You see it here in 3 containers in 3 different stages: blooming, near bloom, and seedling.

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It was blooming outside in my garden beds as well. When I find these flower stalks going to seed, I shake the seeds over my beds and borders and the next season I find plants coming up in the gardens. How delightful. Plants without work. I am all for that!

The article I link to above makes mention of how wonderful these itty bitty tiny flowers are for pollinators. So many of us grow huge hulking flowers to draw in bees and butterflies but we forget about our smaller bees. There are bees that are the size of a grain of white rice and we need to be mindful of those pollinators too!

Of course, if you are going to attempt to eat what you are growing, make sure that you are growing it organically. No pesticides of any kind, especially on the plants but even in your soils. Be mindful of that.

Otherwise, just enjoy these lovely plants and flowers.

 

Creating the Modern Day Dust Bowl

Remember the photos of my broken clay pots from Friday? Did anyone notice anything odd about the floor tiles on my porch? Here’s another look.

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To the right of the chair, and in the grout, there seems to be this fine layer of grit. See it now?

This chair is 6 feet back from a screen–the same screen where those herbs I showed on Monday are (we will shortly replace it with glass). This fine grit that you see has been “blown in” by the Spoiler, in his attempt to create the next dust bowl in our landscape–all in the name of removing a few leaves next to our door.

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Here’s the basil with that same fine layer of grit. Being so close to the screen, the herbs really get blasted by it.

Long time readers of this blog may remember that I have talked before about the power of home leaf blowers–that hand held leaf blowers emit “wind”–or blow in excess of 150 mph and backpack leaf blowers blow in excess of 250 mph.

I don’t even want to think of what the commercial blowers do–but I know that I have to wash my car–or at least hose it down–every time our lawn service comes through my office parking lot and this time of year they’re coming 2-3 times a week.

All of this “blowing” is excessively wasteful especially if it’s going on more than once a week. Do we need to eat off our lawns–or parking lots? As soon as the lawn guys left our parking lot, there were more leaves coming down. This time of year, it is a never ending process. Let’s let nature take its course a bit, shall we? Particularly if it’s dry so the leaves aren’t slippery.

But the gas, and the noise pollution and the dust and the silt mixed with motor oil that is raised by all this blowing is just horrific. It really needs to stop!

 

House Plant Advice

I am a little bit shocked, I must say, by the fact that house plants are “in” again.

Of course, for me, they never went “out.” I’ve been growing house plants since I was a teenager–which means at least 4 decades. That’s okay. I’m glad that something that I like is suddenly “cool” again.

But of course now everyone is online giving “expert” advice about everything to do with house plants. One of the most amusing ones–to me anyway–is how to bring house plants–or tropicals if we’re being exotic–in for the winter.

First of all, if you’re in the northeastern united states and you haven’t done this yet, be prepared for a major mess on your hands. It’s surely not too late to try to save some of your plants–but the later you wait, the more they have trouble with the transition. I generally bring mine in around Labor Day just to avoid that.

On the other hand, you could take some of the so-called expert advice and slowly transition them inside over a period of two weeks, spraying them no less than three times with some sort of organic insecticide.

I’ve never heard of such nonsense in my life. Clearly these folks don’t realize that the insects are going to go dormant in the winter (for the most part) and won’t wake up again (if at all) until spring.

They also don’t realize that some of these insects have eggs that can live up to 2 years in the soil–so you can spray your durned fool heads off as many times as you like and you’re not going to solve that little problem!

So rather than weakening your plants by thrusting them into the dark and spraying them with insecticide (even organic insecticide!), why not just hose the plants down with a good hard spray of water to try to dislodge anything that you can and then bring the plants in?

I am also no fan of the advice I have seen that suggests that you take the entire plant and submerge it wholesale in a bucket of soapy water. Again, why? This is like killing a flea–or an imagined flea–with a sledgehammer. You are weakening the entire plant and damaging its natural leaf coatings and you don’t even know if there’s a problem. Just. Dont’. Do. It.

Once the plants are inside, do watch them carefully to assure that you didn’t bring in any insects. You have another good month or so before really cold weather sets in. If you need to take a plant or two outside to spot treat with an organic insecticide, that’s certainly do-able. But no need to treat everything willy-nilly if you see no problems.

And continue to monitor. That’s what a good house plant owner does. The sooner you catch any problems, the sooner you can solve them. Both you and your plants will be happier that way!

The Mess is in the Eye of the Beholder

My last two posts have talked about sustainable garden clean up.  What does the garden look like if you do this?

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Here’s what you might see under my hydrangeas right now. Why is this good? All sorts of critters are enjoying this–chipmunks, squirrels and blue jays–and no one’s harming the plants.

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Want some more of a mess? This is what’s under our row of white pines. I counted 10 different bird species enjoying this–not counting the chipmunks and squirrels,  of course.

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And for a real mess, here’s one of the gardens that hasn’t been touched in over 2 years (except of course to be accidentally sprayed by herbicide in that poisoning incident.) These gardens are really dry–we haven’t had any rain for almost a month.

But this garden, for the most part, is usually full of lush hydrangeas so what you are seeing is hidden. Not so bad, is it?

Expect the Unexpected

On Friday I talked about what happens when life gets in the way of gardening.  Things like that have happened before: the year the Spoiler broke his ankle and I had gall bladder surgery on the same day (different hospitals) in mid-March there wasn’t a whole lot of gardening that happened that year either.

Then there was the year that my Mom had a stroke and the Spoiler got kidney stones at the same time. You get the idea. Life happens and gardening takes a big back seat to that.

But if you are a type A perfectionist (something that I have had a tendency to be) this sort of thing really trips you up. It’s all well and good to go around with Tee shirts that say “Compost Happens” and “Impatiens is a Virtue” (that last one is one of my all time favorites!) but wearing a shirt and living the mottos are two entirely different things.

So how then do you reconcile your personality with what you might want to naturally want to do in the garden? Trust me, I am an expert on this because I am the original Type A personality.

The first thing you want to do is to educate yourself about the reasons why you might be doing something in the garden. As I said on Friday, is it necessary to get every leaf out of the garden? Absolutely not!

Yes, you have to get the leaves off the lawn. Yes, you have to get diseased leaves off perennials. Beyond that, let the leaves fall into the garden and stay there.

The same thing goes for cutting back. There is really no good reason to cut back anything perennial in the fall. This is especially true if you are a beginning gardener or if you are new to your garden–you have just bought the house or something like that.  Don’t make a mistake by pruning something at the wrong time.  Better to let it get a little unruly by going a whole year unprecedented if need be,  rather than cutting it back at the wrong time and losing all its bloom.

Finally don’t do something just because everyone says that you have to. My “rose pruning ” story is a perfect example of that. More on Friday.