Archive for the ‘Western Red Cedar’ Category
St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner. Now is a great time to begin planning a celebration of Irish heritage. Why not have it on your deck or patio! This might not be a good idea if you’re hip-deep in snow or drowning in “wintry mix.” But, maybe it’ll all be melted and the temperature in the 60s! Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing. If you have an enclosed sunroom or porch, set it up there.
For a main course try hearty Beef and Irish Stout Stew served with or over mashed potatoes. For a good recipe, visit AllRecipes.com. Stew is a dish that can be adapted easily for more (or fewer) people. Irish Soda Bread is a good accompaniment, but biscuits serve just as nicely.
For drinks: Irish Cow (a warm drink), Irish Spring, Nutty Irishman (shooter or cocktail), and St. Patrick’s Day Mocha Java. I get my recipes from The Complete Bartender (Revised Edition, 2003) by Robyn M. Feller. Search the net for recipes. Need an Irish-themed movie? Try The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara or Darby O’Gill and the Little People with Sean Connery.
One of the biggest issues with using fertilizer is, “How much?” Many people think of fertilizer as they do about vitamins and herbs: If a little is good, then a lot must be better. Well, the opposite is generally true for both: Too much fertilizer may damage plants, attract pests, waste your money and pollute waterways through runoff.
The first major question you should ask is, “Chemical (synthetic) or natural?” One response is that the plant doesn’t care if the nitrogen comes from a bag of chemical fertilizer or, say, cottonseed meal. However, man-made fertilizer could burn plants and harm soil structure. Some people rely on synthetic for houseplants, container annuals and the lawn (occasionally). But for their garden and vegetable beds, they prefer to “amend” the soil naturally with compost or leaf mold. A good gardening center may have a proprietary brand of natural “soil enhancer” comprising organic nutrients or material like bone meal, kelp or alfalfa meal.
Finally, extension services (see my previous post about fertilizer) will tell you don’t apply lawn fertilizer in the spring, Fall is the better season for the grass and to decrease chemicals in water runoff.
As spring approaches, do you feel an urge to visit a gardening center and buy several large bags of fertilizer? Many of us do this as an annual ritual because we have been told that plants require nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to maintain their health and growth. Fertilizer companies, of course, reinforce this mindset through aggressive marketing campaigns. However, many experts recommend that before you mindlessly apply fertilizer, perform a soil test to determine whether your garden or lawn requires additional nutrients.
Testing your soil will reveal what nutrients are deficient and which ones are abundant (and, therefore, don’t need to be added). Indeed, your jurisdiction might require soil testing to prove deficiencies in phosphorus before you can purchase it. For example, some jurisdictions surrounding the Chesapeake Bay require soil testing to protect the bay from chemicals in runoff.
A soil test provides accurate levels of pH (key to efficient nutrient uptake) and organic matter. Now is when you should test your soil so you’ll know whether and what you need to apply (or not apply) to your garden and lawn when they begin growing. Search online for “soil testing agencies” to learn how to take samples, where to send them and how much testing costs. Each type of garden (lawn, flower, vegetable, herb, etc.) should be tested separately. Urban gardens should be tested for lead and other toxic metals.
One common garden shrub that can benefit from an almost-unrestrained pruning attack is the rosebush.
A good winter prune will produce a plant with larger, if fewer, blooms; a more open appearance; and healthier foliage. A neglected rosebush may eventually reach 8 feet tall and as much across, but its thicket of branches are paltry in flower but full of thorns. An annual prune will keep the rose contained and blooming freely. It’s much harder to reclaim one that has been allowed to think of itself as a tree!
Using loppers and wearing heavy gloves, remove dead canes entirely along with any suckers pushing from the soil. If two canes are rubbing against each other, prune the weaker or misdirected one. Your goal is to form a bush with an open center forming a “wine-glass” shape of five or six canes. The canes you keep are cut back from, say, 4 feet to 18 inches. The trick is to make your final cut (using hand pruners) just above an outward facing bud. This ensures that the spring growth is away from the center of the bush to allow good air movement through the plant to minimize blackspot.
Note: Rambling roses are an exception. Don’t cut them back hard now. When they flower in May, they’ll put out new growth continually. So, if you want to retain a groomed effect for these, trim them as necessary during the season.
Now is the time to prune many types of woody shrubs in your garden, since shrubs are dormant, haven’t used energy for new growth and you can see the branch structure (no leaves or flowers). But leave the plant alone if you’re unclear as to why you’re pruning. And don’t ask the guy who delivers your mulch; he probably hasn’t a clue how to prune. Simply hacking at the plant is bad, so here are a few guidelines to help you prune in a beneficial way that should prevent a lot of gangly and weak suckers (water sprouts) that you often see on badly pruned apple trees and crape myrtles. Carefully prune to eliminate rubbing branches, inward-growing stems, and broken twigs, for example. Shrubs that bloom between now and the end of June flower on last year’s growth, so your snips probably remove flower buds. Although not necessarily bad – reduced flowering may be secondary to restoring the overall vigor of a plant – you’ll risk ruining the whole display of shrubs such as wisterias, lilacs and rhododendrons. Some people have an urge to cut back hard their mophead or lacecap hydrangea to “clean up” its dead, twiggy appearance; but leave it alone if you want a beautiful June display. An old congested one will benefit from the removal (later, in season [See my posts for August 1 and 8, 2014]) of entire canes, especially the oldest and least productive.
January is a good time to review the design of your outdoor living areas, no matter what the climate is where you live.
While many of you may be creative at this, some of you might want outside help in planning your landscape and outdoor planting.
Web sites abound that address every aspect of gardening. You might try the Web site of the Royal Horticultural Society, the United Kingdom’s leading charity for promoting good gardening. It offers books, magazines and loads of gardening and how-to information. Another good source of information is the Complete Gardener Series by Time-Life Editors. The series comprises volumes devoted to topics like landscape design, ferns, shrubs and trees, and vegetables and herbs. Check Amazon.com and eBay to obtain these books. Don’t forget so-called coffee-table books on English- and American-style gardens. These are filled with color photographs that you can use as inspiration for your own designs. Finally, many popular magazines contain photos of homes and gardens as part of their feature stories or advertisements.
And why not include one of my 100 percent Western Red Cedar garden hutches to store your outdoor equipment in one convenient place? They are available in three sizes (27, 30 and 49 inches) to suit the needs of your yard or deck.
You have this big, leafy tree that provides wonderful shade and a cool environment for enjoying an al fresco lunch or dinner or a glass of wine and a good book. But, you have a problem: How can you relax under your tree if there’s no comfortable place to sit?
You can spread a blanket or set up a lounge or beach chair. But these solutions usually aren’t very comfortable. The hard ground under the blanket bothers your legs and back…and your arms if you’re trying to read a book by lying on your stomach and leaning on your elbows. And the lounge chair or beach chair sometimes sits lopsided because of the tree’s roots or the unevenness of the ground at the base of the tree.
We have two possible solutions to this dilemma: our around-the-tree bench or our backless quarter bench (the subject of our next post). The tree bench provides five sides to choose from; so, you’ll always find a perfect spot to relax under your favorite tree. This bench is so practical and inviting and will fit around any tree up to 24 inches! It can also provide seating around a favorite statue or similar garden enhancement.
Your Halloween party checklist seems to be complete: pumpkins, food, keg. Wait a minute! Why not turn one of your pumpkins into a keg? First, you’ll need a large pumpkin, one you might be able to put a small child inside (but don’t do that to check the size!).
To fill the pumpkin: a generous serving of a beer that doesn’t require chilling: an IPA, stout, pumpkin beer or English-style cask ale. Andy Farrell, beer director for City Tap House, Washington, D.C., and creator of the beer-o-lantern, says the pumpkin won’t impart much flavor, especially if you scoop it out well. But the finished keg will surely put last year’s punch bowl to shame. Here’s what you need to create your pumpkin keg:
Very large pumpkin, Sharp carving knife, Large spoon for scooping, Trash bag for seeds, Flathead screwdriver, Hammer, Cask spigot (available at home brewing stores, online or from a local beer bar if they’ll trust you to return it), Candle, Beer (of course!), Plastic wrap
1. Pick a pumpkin
Select a fresh one without bruises, as well as one that lies flat instead of tilting.
2. Get scooping
Cut off the top, creating a hole large enough to thoroughly scoop the seeds and inside flesh. BE VERY THOROUGH, since stray debris can clog the tap. The inner wall should be as white and gunk-free as possible. If you want, retain the seeds. They can be used in many recipes.
3. Cut a hole for the spigot
This is tricky, like executing a dainty jack-o-lantern nose. Carving shapes in pumpkins with too much force can crack the outside. Measure the diameter of the spigot, then draw it on the gourd’s surface a quarter of the way from the bottom so the beer flows nicely. Soften the flesh around the spigot’s perimeter by gently pounding a flathead screwdriver with a hammer. It may be best to lay the pumpkin on its side on the table during this step, depending on your angle.
4. Insert the spigot
Once the area around the spigot has been thoroughly loosened, pop it in. If the flesh cracks or the hole is too big, drip candle wax around the exterior to seal-in the spigot. Black candle wax creates a more festive look.
5. Fill the “Keg”
Pour the beer into the top hole, making sure the spigot is turned to the off position. Again, use a brew that doesn’t require chilling.
6. Seal Up the “Keg”
Cover the top with plastic wrap and place the pumpkin lid on top. If you wish, seal the top with more candle wax and cut away any loose plastic wrap.
7. Now, Party Down!
Looking for some Halloween decorating tips? Well, here’s an idea you and your children can create in no time at all! Convert your home (or at least a front room) into a witches’ den. Begin with flickering candles to illuminate the way. You could use a star-shaped craft punch to dress up the candleholders or trace star, skull and bat shapes onto black, orange, yellow or white construction paper and cut them out. Attach to tumbler-style glass candles and line your walkway with them.
You can create a cauldron that bubbles by using a large black pot (cast iron if you can find it) and filling it with spray foam. Let the foam dry, then paint it a proper yucky color like gray or pea-soup green or dingy yellow. The kids can perfect the brew with rubber spiders, toads, and other critters. Use the cauldron as a centerpiece on a table indoors or place it on your deck or porch. Arrange glass jars near the cauldron or on a shelf or the floor to display the ingredients for your witch’s brew.
Witches and Martha Stewart are not compatible! Change your house number sign to something devilish … like 666 Witches Way … with appropriately colored cardboard, cutouts or rubber stamps. Establish a parking area for brooms. Make your own by wrapping twigs and grass around wooden dowels. Light windows to set a backdrop for your spooky silhouettes cut from black craft paper. Now, your witches … and warlocks will feel right at den (er, home)!
Celebrating Oktoberfest can get expensive for you and your friends, especially with cover charges for live entertainment. Instead, invite friends to your home for a beer tasting!
Beer tastings are gaining popularity. They can be less expensive than wine tastings, although some craft beers and microbrews can be pricey. Create a budget covering the costs of the beers you select plus food. Plan to serve at least four varieties (at 3 ounces per guest) for the tasting plus additional beer (of any type) for post-tasting enjoyment. Add seasonal lights to my 20-inch planter with trellis and it’s a decorative cooler for the beer.
One tasting format is the vertical tasting: one brand, several varieties. For example, Samuel Adams has different beers for assembling a good “flight” for your tasting. Its Web site has sample flights assembled by others and provides a way to choose your tasting’s beers. One sample: Sam Adams Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Maple Pecan Porter and Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Many local liquor stores might not stock many varieties, but they might steer you to stores that do or will special order them for you. Next: Another Tasting Format plus Food for Your Tasting