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Every Mile is worth two in Winter…

February 3, 2010 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

…Well, it seems that way, anyhow.  This winter feels like it has been going on for quite some time, although spring is right around the corner!  Apparently we have about six weeks left!  I am very fortunate to be in my third semester in the PG program during this time.  I rarely have to face 8 hours of cold weather each day, like some of the gardeners here… But I must say, the semester has been quite intense thus far.  Below is a list of the classes I have been taking for the past five weeks and a brief description of each…

Turfgrass Management– Study and practice the fundamental aspects of Turfgrass science including identification, propagation, fertilization, pest control, and other soil-plant relationships.

Arboriculture and Pruning– Study and practice the concepts and techniques of arboriculture, such as climbing, pruning, cabling, bracing, planting, evaluating trees for hazards, and safety. This course prepares students for the International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist Examination.

Plant Propagation– Study and practice the propagation of ornamental plants by asexual and sexual methods, including seed, cuttings, grafting, and micro-propagation.

Landscape Design and Construction– Landscape Design & Construction assists students in developing a basic framework for observing, analyzing, and creatively combining basic elements of garden design. Students learn basic construction skills needed in landscape designs by designing and then constructing a seasonal garden installation in the Gardens proper. Students also will complete construction documentation, plant procurement, and interpretive material for their display gardens.

Conservatory Plant Identification and Management– The identification, culture, and use of indoor foliage and flowering plants, and the management of the interior environment pertinent to home, garden, institutional and commercial applications. Course covers at least 150 plants grown throughout Longwood Garden’s Conservatory.

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As a part of the Landscape Design/Construction class, we are also taking part in a student project that will be installed within the ‘core’ of the Longwood Gardens proper.  The nine student in my class split up into four teams and designed four separate gardens.  Longwood has set aside four 20’x 50′ garden plots, each of equivalant size and allowed students to come up with creative ideas in which they will apply the following Spring 2010.  These gardens were ultimately designed to follow the LWG 2010 theme Fragrance.

An elevation view of our proposed planters and heights of the different plants in our borders (From the North side, facing South).

I was partnered up with my fellow classmate; Suzanne Caron.  We decided our garden theme would be ‘The Four Corners of the World’.  We split our individual garden into four recta-linear quadrants-North, South, East and West.  Each geographic location represents a certain cluster of continents; North-Europe, South-Africa, East-Asia/Australia, and West-The Americas and Canada.  Within the four sections of our garden, we gave each section a container, or group of containers which will display fragrant plants from their assigned geographic area.  The plants that will be planted in the beds will also be fragrant (most) and also serve to add color and variety to the garden space.  To separate each of the four sections, we designed plants with blue, or neutral colored foliage to represent the ocean water separating the continents (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Heliotropium arborescens ‘Alba’).  Below are some pictures of our design and proposed plants used.  Another post with more details and pictures will follow!

Picture of the site BEFORE the construction crew arrived to excavate and re-design the garden layout.

This is a picture of the site during construction.  The area has been graded, topsoil amended, and the arborvitae screens that separate each of our gardens have been installed.  You can see our section of the garden below.  To reference to the design photo above; the East section of our garden is the one closest to the camera where the seating wall appears.

And this is a picture of our section still under construction from the other side.

One more picture.  The plants seen on the bank below include: Clethra alnifolia, Itea virginica, Ilex verticillata, and Magnolia virginiana.  These plants were selected because of their tolerance of wet conditions.  Because of the hill and surrounding topography of this area, moisture tends to build up towards the bottom and low-lying places.  We needed plants that would be able to absorb a good amount of moisture to reduce overly saturated soil conditions in our adjacent garden plots.

Spring Forward, FALL back

December 3, 2009 Tags: , , , Blog No comments

It has been awhile since my last post on here…Fall has since set in, and now winter is right behind it.  Daylight savings has ended, and the days are now much shorter, leaving less time for gardening.  Although there isn’t as much ‘light’ time for outdoor gardening, it seems like most of the work has come to an end for this year.  I have dug out my tropicals to over-winter them.  I had two medium sized banana plants (Ensete ventricosum and a Musa acuminata ) and some hedychium roots.  All of these have been removed from my garden, shaken loose of most soil particles, put in a black garbage bag and left dry in my basement for the winter..  I know it is late, but I still need time to dig out a Brugmansia that someone is letting me have for our capstone garden project this coming spring.  As for the rest of my garden there are three main tasks I have to complete yet for this fall/winter.  1-I need to cut back the remaining perennials and remove the debris, 2-I need to pull some winter weeds (tilling is probably not an option because it has been fairly wet lately and I do not want to damage the soil structure), and 3- Plant my winter container (pictures coming soon).

WINTER CONTAINER– I have a few guidelines I am following while doing this… First, I will be selecting plants that are hardy to 1-2 USDA zones lower than ours (6) – 1-2 = either zone 4 or zone 5.  So, I have comprised a list of some shrubs, perennials/grasses that would be cold hardy to those zones and that would have some kind of winter or evergreen characteristics.

Here are some pictures of my WINTER CONTAINER!  In the container I used plants with lots of interest; as well as cut greens/berries for color and varied texture.  I did not focus my container on LIVE plants, or-plants that would ‘survive’ in our zones (as previously mentioned above).  Instead I took advantage of the current winter interest the plants/materials offered…

The two main plants that I used were Hydrangea paniculata ‘DVP Pinky’ and Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’.  For the greens I used: Pinus strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’, Pinus wallichiana ‘Zebrina’ and Magnolia grandiflora.  I used Viburnum hupense and Celastrus orbiculatus for red berries.  P. strobus ‘Hillside Winter Gold’ was a great cultivar to use for an outstanding yellow on a pine!  P. wallichiana ‘Zebrina’ was interesting because it had variegated creamy stripes along the needles.  These plants added together made a great combination (in my opinion) and have been offering winter interest and color for several weeks now-and many more to come…

WORK ROTATIONS… So far this fall, I have worked in research, with the arborists and now with curatorial for a second time.

In RESEARCH, I did a lot of re-potting, watering, plant breeding (cross-pollinating etc.), grafting and of course, labeling.  I spent a month in that rotation (October).  I also helped collect ovaries/seeds from the camellia trials.  We collected from three main plants, Camellia japonica, Camellia oleifera, and Camellia -the Ackerman hybrids.  The two most impressive specimens in the trials, with excellent form, standing at about 10′ tall, loaded with flowers and fruit with outstanding dark, glossy-green foliage were the Camellia japonica  ‘Longwood Centennial’ and ‘Longwood Valentine’.  These two plants have been crossed with others to attempt to form a great hybrid camellia that is attractive and cold hardy to this area.

In THE ARBORIST ROTATION, basically, I learned knots!  No, I learned more than that…But learning the appropriate knots is very important.  Some of the knots I learned were; The double fisherman’s loop, Blake’s hitch, Clove hitch, Girth hitch, Anchor hitch, Bowline, the basic Slipknot, a bowline on a bite, figure eight on a bite, a slippery bowline and other various knots.  This rotation was 3 weeks, because Christmas changeover/Thanksgiving vacation occupied most of the 4th week of that month (November).  Along with learning my knots, I learned HOW to use them and WHEN.  The most important knots I had to know, and bascially be able to tie with my eyes closed were the Double fisherman’s loop, blake’s hitch and the slipknot.  I was equiped with a saddle/harness that attached to my waist and legs, which consisted of many straps, loops, carabiners and a split tail system (explained later).  Basically, after I would get my main climbing rope over a selected limb further up in the tree, I would attach one side to a carabiner (with my fisherman’s loop), and bring the other side of the rope down towards my waist.  From there, I would have a short rope (about 3′ long) attached to my saddle, which I would use to tie my Blake’s hitch knot unto my remaining main-line side.  After those were tied, I could slide the blake’s hitch up, put tension on it and it would ‘lock’ and keep the knot from sliding down.  From there, I could grab the main line that the blake’s hitch was on, hip-thrust my way up, one at a time, and slide the blake’s knot up at the same time.  If I would ever reach the limb that I had my line around and wanted to go higher, I would attach my lanyard around a tree, tie in first, then I could take off my knots and throw up to another limb-while safely being secured in the tree with my lanyard.  This is one of those simple ways to safely climb a tree.

After learning how to work around trees, both in them and on the ground, I was able to take it a step up and do some pruning, brush removal, chipping and more.  A few of the tasks that I completed that were in this step were crown raising, developemental pruning, dead-wooding, and general christmas light installation/repair.  Most of my time in this rotation was spent doing christmas lighting, on trunks/branches of trees and also setting up the ‘cones’ of lights in the palownia allee etc.  Although I wasn’t able to do as much pruning/chainsaw work as I had liked, being around the christmas lighting environment created a more safe place to work where I could ask more questions and observe basic skills needed when being an arborist.

Currently, I am in the Curatorial rotation and I will be here for under 3 weeks.  I will mostly be working on mapping trees on the Abbondi property with a gps system, correcting/labeling accession tags, and working with BG base.  Working in curatorial is a great way to see the behind-the-scenes work done here at Longwood Gardens.  It helps you understand the accessioning and work involved in each plant and how important it is to make each plant a priority so that correct identification and records can be made.

After our Christmas vacation in early January, I will begin a new class semester.  My classes will include Turfgrass managament, Plant propagation, Arboriculture and pruning, Conservatory plant identification, Landscaping design & construction, along with other evening continuing education classes, yet to be determined.

Here are some pictures from the Christmas changeover.  I worked mostly in the East Conservatory, planting blue Colorado spruce, plectranthus, artemesia, amarylis, and paper white narcissus.

Remember September

September 30, 2009 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

September has been a great month here.  We have seemed to have a steady amount of moisture so far.  We had a pretty decent cold front come through the last few weeks.  It warmed up a bit at the end of last week, but another front is coming in and we are now feeling the chill again.

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Most of the plants in my herbaceous section are still flowering and are healthy.  I have had a few losses, mostly due to overcrowded plants.  Next year I will definitely have to thin out my plot, move a few things around, and possibly plant less annuals.  I was pleased with my Verbena bonariensis, but things such as gomphrena are ones I may skip next year.  So far I have learned that annuals can be very important in providing constant year-long color and depending on their vigor or aggressiveness, can be very effective in filling up empty spaces in a short amount of time (which seems to be typical of most annuals).

Becoming one of my top smaller shrubs.  Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’

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My banana plants have grown a lot this year, Sometime soon I will probably need to remove them and store them in the basement for the winter.

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I have planted some fall annuals into my fall container, but still need to finish it off with more plants for Monday’s grade on our ‘fall container’.  I have added a pink chrysanthemum and a Pennisetum (millet) into the container so far.  I would like to remove my bachelor’s button and place some kind of large annual, or maybe an ornamental cabbage of some-type as a plant that likes cooler weather.  We will also be preparing a winter container in the next month or two, so I am also brainstorming ideas for that.

Other than having to deadhead, cut back dead/ugly growth and occasional watering to my container, no other significant changes have been made to my herbaceous plot in my garden.

Helianthus ‘First Light’- This is finally blooming.  I couldn’t wait for fall to see this bloom.  Here it isn’t even at it’s peak.. To the left you can see a raspberry plant I have staked up after letting it growing outwards all summer.  Some of the stems were around 6 feet long!

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My vegetables have been slowly fading, and I have removed most of them after they have reached their peak.  I have removed all of my beans and corn which took up a majority of my garden.  I used the corn stalks and a few extra dried ears of corn, bundled them up and tied them to the ends of my fence posts.  Once I removed many of the spent veggies from my plot, I weeded and then mulched the entire area.

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The newest addition to the plot is garlic cloves (underground-now sprouting) and some leaf lettuce.  I still have some carrots left that are continuing to mature.  I have harvested my early crop of carrots a few weeks ago, they turned out nice!  One thing I would recommend to anyone who wants to grow carrots-which is a very fun crop to grow by the way (if you know how to grow them properly).. Sow carrot seeds directly into loose, well drained (even-sandy) soil.  I planted mine in my raised beds which improved the drainage and pore space, which allowed for easier penetration for the root and a larger/well-formed carrot.  Some people have trouble getting the seeds to germinate consistently.  One thing you can do to compensate for this is wait until they are larger and easy to transplant, thin them out and move excess plants to areas that are more sparse.  If you want to be a naturalist about it, just sow it and grow it. 🙂

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My lettuce crops are all growing at about 6″ currently.  This time, I decided to harvest more frequently, taking less at a time.  This past spring I let them get too large and had to cut excessive amounts at a time.  I did not have a problem with bitter leaves, but just simply too much lettuce!  The deer seem to enjoy walking through my rows/patterns rather then nibble on them.

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My sorghum is becoming very large-at about 6 feet high!  I’m almost certain that they will not form seed heads before it gets too cold and there is not as much daylight, but I wanted to grow them mostly for the foliage and corn-like form. (see above pictures)

This coming spring I plant to utilize as much area in my 15’x35′ vegetable section and try to grow plants that I can ‘survive’ from.  I want to produce a majority of the food that I consume and see how I can consistently provide produce for myself throughout the season.  It would be similar to a CSA organization, but in a very small scale and for a ‘test run’.  I want to try and grow plants that are indeterminate producers (produce steadily throughout a long period of time -tomatoes..).  I also want to use the greenhouse space available to grow transplants ahead-of-time so that I can get a head start on producing vegetables.  We will see how this works out.. I will still need to make a crop-schedule so that I am properly prepared to harvest when I need to, and I will also know exactly when I should sow  the seeds indoors or outdoors and when to transplant into the garden.

There’s much more happening here than I could write in a few paragraphs.  I at least wanted to give you all an idea of what I do in my ‘spare time’ here at Longwood.  Well, I guess you can call it spare time :p

Oh, and I now have a groundhog living in one of my raised beds.  I’m not sure if I’m simply going to charge him rent, or send him off to find a new home. We’ll see..

Augusto

August 18, 2009 Tags: , , , , , Blog No comments

August is flying by very fast.  We have finally been getting some warm weather.  After all of the rain we’ve gotten this spring/early summer, things are finally taking off with the heat!  My Ensete is really growing fast.  When I first planted it about two months ago, it was only a foot and a half tall!  I applied a good amount of Oscmocote when I planted them and I believe that is really kicking in now.  I have only fed the banana plants twice with liquid feed, all other waterings were with straight H2O.  Everything else is really filling out as well.  Early this fall I will definitely be re-arranging some plants due to crowding and different heights.  I have made a few recent additions of some small, common perennials to fill in some empty spaces and to create rhythm, but they are still very small.  My Cleome, Agastache, Canna and Verbena bonariensis are still blooming strong!  I have a purple ornamental kale plant towards the north end of my herbaceous section that is about 3 1/2 feet tall and really neat!  My Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ has really put on some new growth and excellent chartreuse color.  My Cotinus has also pushed some nice, new, purple growth this year.

One plant that has showed significant decline this month was my campanula.  It is similar looking to Lobelia erinus, but spreads more and has different flowers.  I am not certain of the cause of death, but this will definitely be added to my ‘not to grow’ list for Joyce’s evaluations.  The last thing a client would want is a plant that does not fair well without constant attention and care (unless they are willing to pay us to do it).

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For my vegetable section..Things are winding down.  My first harvest of beans and onions have come to an end.  My second crop of beans should be coming in soon after flowering.  I have yellow wax and purple wax beans.  As for my tomatoes, I had to kiss them goodbye.  Most all of the tomatoes in our growing area got blight this year.  We decided to remove all plants to reduce the disease spores for next year.  Once thing that definately contributed to the blight problems was the excessive rain we had early in the season.

Since I have ripped out my over-mature lettuces (left in for ornamental purposes) and some of my other crops, I have begun to fill in with near crops.  I have planted sorghum where my tomato plant were previously.  This sorghum (broom corn) will be used for a fall harvest sale along with other small pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.  I am also soon going to be ready to plant my fall lettuce, spinach and peas.

My zucchini plants have been producing well and I have kept up with picking them at the appropriate sizes lately.  Both crops -yellow courgette and black beauty slowed down in production about two weeks ago, but are both picking up again.  One problem I have had with my spaghetti squash is that they have mildew problems, as well as bacterial wilt.  My fruits were all close to the mature size, and have mostly ripened.  Because most of us are growing our plants the ‘natural way’, some of my zucchini have gotten the squash vine borer and will soon come to an end.  I would have to guess that I have harvested somewhere around 160 pounds of zucchni from my black beauty alone.

Aside from needing weeded, and a bit of mulch, my veg. section is doing fine. 🙂

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July flies..

July 21, 2009 Tags: , , Blog No comments

The biggest change in my garden this month has been the growth on many of my plants.  I haven’t added anything major.  There is still some space left for a few neat herbaceous perennials, but I still need to go to the nursery to pick some out.  So far the only plants that I have fertilized are the bananas.  I have Musa ‘Dwarf Red’ and Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’.  Both of those have been fertilized with Osmocote slow release fertilizer and also water soluble fertilizer on 3 different times.  My summer container seems to be growing nicely.  The Lobelia erinus has finished blooming and is beginning to look a little messy.  I have cut it back to the nicer growth to see if it will flush clean again.  If not then I plan to replace it with Russelia equisetiformis. The deer had eaten my Heuchera (‘Plum pudding’) but it has flushed back nicely since then.  Many of my plants are blooming well, including my coreopsis, canna, agastache, cleome, catmint and cassia.

For my vegetable garden.. I have removed my cabbage about three weeks ago and have planted more beans, beets and carrots in their place.  In my raised beds where I had beets and some lettuces I have also planted more beets, bunching onions, carrots and beans.  Sometime later in August I plan to do a late summer planting of lettuces, spinach and peas for a fall harvest.

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The deer have been a real pain.  Aside from eating my Swiss chard, they have been trampeling through my garden where my young seedling are planted.  They haven’t eaten anything other than the chard and a few nibble at my beans, but I’m sure they will be going after my corn soon!  I haven’t had time to set up a fence like I wanted to earlier this summer, but Steven has some cinnamon spray that is supposed to deter the deer from the area.  I think I will try that to see how it works.  Other than the deer leaving their footprints, there seem to be no signifigant pests in my garden!  My corn should be ready to harvest in another 7-14 days.  Sweet Corn doesn’t always yield the most (in terms of weight) compared to the area they grow in, but I think it’s rewarding enough.  Besides, what is a garden without corn?

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Here is a picture of my netted squash!  They will ripen a lot faster than melons will (my original plan was to use melons) but at least it’s somewhat artsy.  It’s also fun and different to try hanging the fruits rather than have them grow on the ground.

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June bugs

June 30, 2009 Tags: , , , , Blog No comments

Well.. It’s been awhile since I have blogged and there is alot to catch up on!  And no, I don’t seem to have problems with June bugs, but I thought it was a catchy title for this month.  As for my veg. plot; my cabbages are huge and are ready to harvest!  The corn is really growing and so are the beans and squash.  I am beginning to train my summer squash up my fence posts.  The potatoes and tomatoes are both growing a lot also.  The deer have decided to make their first noticeable visit to my garden and took my Swiss Chard with them.  I also lost some of my beets and my two Heuchera plants in my herbaceous plot.  I actually removed the larger leaves of the Chard to let the younger ones grow and take over, but the deer managed to stop by the night after that and eat them too!  Oh well, you snooze you lose I guess.  I have harvested the largest of my beets and I am getting ready to sow more of them.  There are other ‘holes’ in my garden now that the cabbages, beets and a few other things are ready to be harvested.  I will be planting more beans, carrots, bunching onions and other crops that have a short DTH.  Probably around 60 days.

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Here is a better view of the cabbages that I was assigned to grow for my market crop by Harold Taylor

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This is the way I am training my Squash to grow up on my fence post.  Once the fruits begin maturing, I will then use hanging nets to hang them from the structure.

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As for my herbaceous section in my garden, things are really growing well.  I have added a few things to fill in the open spaces.  Some of the newer things I have planted include Musa accuminata, Ensete ventricosum ‘Marielii’, Verbena bonariensis, Cleome, Pentas and Tagetes. My Asclepias has been eaten by some Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  The plant wasn’t totally defoliated, but it seems they eat more everyday.  I have added Osmocote fertilizer to some of my plants that may need more nutrients than others and also to give them a slow-release supply of it.  I have fertilized my ‘bananas’, Canna, and the plants in my summer container.

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Here is a picture of my summer container.  Including Millet, Lobelia, Verbena, a Cayenne pepper plant, Bachelor’s Button and a newly added orange Marigold (not in picture).

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End of May…

May 25, 2009 Tags: , , Blog No comments

A picture of my vegetables again.  You can see the beans (Yellow wax) are coming up (next to the cabbages).  Under the fencing, I have summer squash, zuchinni ‘black beauty’, and some cantaloupe.  I’m going to try and hang my fruits from the fence, like some sort of art I guess.  We’ll see how it works out.

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Most of my herbaceous plot is filling up.  I still have some room for some other perennials though.  Considering that I’m only here for two years, I can probably get away with planting some things closer that normal.  In the back I have some taller plants, such as Canna and Rudbeckia.  I tried to layer the garden so that the further front (closer to the viewer) it is, the shorter the plant.  Some of the woody plants that I have won’t grow too fast, so I’m able to fit a few in.  Those include; Viburnum trilobum, Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’, Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’, and Cotinus coggygria.

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Some of the perennials I have are Boltonia asteroides, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Amsonia hubrictii, Lychnis chalendonica, Gaura ‘Crimson Butterflies’, Salvia lyrata ‘Purple Knockout’, Helianthus ‘First Light’, Dahlia ‘Weston Spanish Dancer’, Iris ‘Versicolor’, Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’ and a bunch more/more to come.  Most of these are plants I haven’t grown.  I have grown different types of Salvia, Iris, Helianthus and other ones, but not necessarily these species or cultivars.

I’m trying to keep my colors in different schemes, somewhat.  The front left of my garden is more cool colors/blooms.  The back right of the garden seems to be more warm colors.  I also had to figure in the heights of the plants, so things got switched around a bit.  Now, probably the most important thing I need to do is label my garden with my name.!

Mid-May-ish

May 25, 2009 Blog No comments

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Things are taking off in the garden now!  I have continued to water only with the well water provided, no fertilizer.  You can see my Lettuce is well on it’s way.  The Cabbages are growing well.  I have other veggies planted now, including Swiss chard, Artichoke, Beets, more onions and corn (in rows closest to the viewer-in the picture).

Below is a view from other end of my garden plot.  We received our planters from Joyce and I planted the annuals I had previously purchased.  In my container, I have Millet, Callibracoa (which seemed to be wind-burnt and was later replaced with Ipomea-potatoe vine), Lobelia, Verbena-Light purple with eye, Bachelor’s Button and a Cayenne Pepper plant in the middle.

I had a few perennials I propagated last fall that I popped in the ground awhile.  This is just the start to the herbaceous section in my garden.  I plan on purchasing more plants to pack-into my tiny space.  I will be trying to purchase plants that I’ve never grown before.  As Joyce says,”To grow it, is to know it”.  Something like that…maybe it’s the other way around.  Another update should be coming soon!

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Time to get serious ;)

May 5, 2009 Blog No comments

This was awhile ago, but at least it’s an update.  I have 3/4 of my raised beds planted with spring lettuces, carrots, onions, radishes, potatoes and other things.  I decided to get going on the 15′ x 15′ herbaceous section of my plot.  I wanted the “back” of my garden to be raised up and higher than the front.  I used field stone and a few other types of stone to build my walls.  They were not symmetrical, but I wanted one on either side of the garden.  I also began to lay out the course of my path.

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My walls are complete.  I used the soil that I removed from the wall-area and the path to create other small mounds.  I used leaf mulch to cover the surface until I got my plants to put in.  I also seeded the bare spots in the lawn with a mixture of grass seed I had left over from last year’s work.  I used wheat straw on top of the seed to protect it from the intense sun, to reserve moisture and so people can see that I have seeded there.  For some reason, it seems like most people are attracted to the straw and step on it anyway, not knowing that I sowed grass seed there.  It’s not a big deal.  I guess it’s just a Lancaster County thing. 🙂

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Updated Veg. Garden!

May 4, 2009 Blog No comments
My Veg. garden, + new fence posts and cabbages!

My Veg. garden, + new fence posts and cabbages!

Here I have installed fence posts.  I also planted my cabbages (my required crops- 24 count), potatoes, bunching onions, bulbed onions, radishes, lettuce, spinach and carrots.  The fence posts will serve as support for my squash and melons, yet to come… !!!