Over the past couple of months, I have accumulated a trove of gardening/outdoor tips. I thought I’d share a few in-season ones with you in this blog. NOTE: Watch for tips (according to the seasons) as the year goes by.
ROSES. Looking for natural aids to help your roses? Try Epsom salts to encourage bushiness and promote flowering. Banana skins, too, help by providing potassium. Just don’t use skins if your yard’s in an area where critters like raccoons and rats roam.
MULCH VS. MANURE. According to a local (Washington, D.C., area) garden columnist, repeatedly layering bark or wood mulch might be harmful to the soil due to the high levels of manganese that result. Leaf mold or compost is healthier for the soil.
GREEN “FENCE” OR SCREEN. Mountain laurels (with their glossy, evergreen foliage, lovely blooms and manageable size) can make an ideal living “fence” or screen between properties. However, these plants are difficult to establish. Try some viburnums (evergreen or deciduous), oleanders, lilacs or some hibiscus. Try blueberry bushes if you have acidic soil you can water during droughts.
The long, harsh winter that finally ended has bestowed some late-occurring events upon us: pollen from trees and plants has been late arriving, so late-remaining. And winter weeds that usually disappear by late April (lamium, chickweed and hairy bittercress) are now joined by usual spring suspects like wild onion, common blue violet and dandelion.
If lamium crams your vegetable garden, turn the bed with a garden fork, pulling out the weeds as you go and bagging them. DON’T COMPOST THEM! The seeds will return like bad pennies! To remove lawn weeds, don’t use herbicides, either yourself or through a landscaping service. These chemicals can cause other problems. Use a fishtail weeder on deep-rooted dandelions, onions and violets. Remove other weeds with a hoe. A “standard-issue,” clunky hoe that you pull is not the proper tool. Use a hoe with a straight, razor-sharp blade (a draw hoe or a Dutch hoe) that you push. Find one at a garden center, in a garden-supply catalog or online.
Removing lingering winter weeds now will reduce next year’s seeding. If not removed, they’ll leave holes in the lawn as they die naturally. Wire grass, crabgrass and chicory will fill these gaps, requiring additional attention.
Returning to the subject of my April 13 post, how to repel mosquitoes, I submit these eco-friendly suggestions to help you regain control of your outdoor spaces. Some of these ideas are dual purpose: They also decorate your space! You can also become a walking mosquito repeller: Camping and sports stores often sell clothes treated with permethrin, which has been called “highly effective” in repelling and killing mosquitoes and ticks.
Your plants can be your first line of defense. Citronella, geraniums and lemongrass repel mosquitoes but not in small numbers. Plant several of these in areas of your yard where you spend the most time. Note that citronella candles, made from the oil from citronella plants, has a weak deterrent effect. So, you might want to supplement them with other measures, such as bug spray. Mosquitoes are weak flyers. If your outdoor space has a roof or ceiling (think porch, gazebo or covered deck), install a ceiling fan or two to disrupt their assaults. Smoke keeps mosquitoes away; try tiki torches, a fire or barbecue pit, or charcoal grill.
If you have features that retain water, like a pond, fountain, or watering or feeding structure, try commercial water additives that drown or otherwise destroy mosquito larvae.
Easter occurs this weekend, and a fun way to celebrate with family and friends is by hosting an Easter Egg Hunt. Planning one needn’t be complicated and time-consuming; keep it simple.
Decorate with pastel balloons and streamers and some spring- or Easter-themed door hangings. If you’re serving refreshments, cover tables with pastel tablecloths, napkins and Easter-style centerpieces. Prepare Easter baskets for the children to collect the eggs. Purchase inexpensive baskets, “grass,” bows and candy at local supermarkets, dollar stores and drugstores. Fill plastic eggs with surprises, like candy, small toys or tokens for bigger prizes (stuffed animals, chocolate bunnies, books or gift certificates). Estimate a dozen eggs per guest.
For small children, place eggs in easy-to-find places (low branches, base of trees, in the open). For older kids: drain spouts, under leaves, in a mailbox or planters, on a car tire. Be sure to track how many eggs you hide so you’ll know when they’re all found! Some games to play: Golden Egg (hide an egg with money in it) and Egg Bowling (use colored eggs to roll closest to a white egg rolled into the center of an area). No kids? Adapt for adults! HAPPY EASTER!
Summer is approaching; and with it, a major bane of outdoor activities: the mosquito! Instead of cowering inside, here are some ways to alleviate this air-borne onslaught:
Discourage mosquitoes by emptying any containers of standing water, which is where the blood-suckers breed. By container, I mean anything that can hold any amount of water, even Coke bottle tops, plastic cups and “empty” beer cans. This action also helps prevent the spread of the West Nile virus by mosquitoes.
Keep your yard tidy; remove grass clippings, fallen leaves and other excess foliage, which reduces places where mosquitoes harbor.
Be aware that some “solutions” for repelling mosquitoes don’t work. For example, bug zappers kill beetles and other bugs but not mosquitoes, according to a representative of the American Mosquito Control Association, who also cautions against misting systems. He says they unnecessarily spray pesticides into the air every day at the same time; and, while they kill mosquitoes, they also kill other bugs (many of them beneficial to your garden) and encourage pesticide resistance.
In another post I will suggest some eco-friendly measures to repel mosquitoes and reclaim your yard.
Natural rattan is a vine-like palm plant with long, thin fronds. The dried fronds are woven into many shapes, including patio furniture. However, most rattan patio furniture is manufactured using a plastic resin called PVC which emulates the qualities of natural rattan—hence, PVC rattan or wicker rattan.
Wicker rattan furniture has the appearance and color of natural rattan, so it maintains that traditional country garden look you’re seeking. But it’s more durable and more affordable than natural rattan. Water does not affect it, and it withstands heat and cold, which makes it an all-weather, all-climate material. In addition, today’s manufacturing methods include UV inhibitors to produce a rattan weave that is colorfast. So, you needn’t worry about your stylish rattan furniture fading from long exposure to the sun.
Wicker rattan is truly a material for all-weather outdoor furniture. With pieces of wicker rattan garden furniture, you need not completely replace your garden furniture every two or three years. And the look of rattan is versatile: It may also be used in an enclosed porch or a sunroom or even as den or living-room pieces.
As pets, rabbits might remind you of Peter Rabbit, the Easter Bunny and Bugs Bunny (for those of us who remember him!). But they love to devour your flowers or vegetables. The occasional bunny might not be too much of a problem, but several constitute a plague! The problem isn’t confined to a few locations in the United States, either. It crops up around the world.
Some experts believe that, in city and suburban areas at least, lack of predators could be the main cause. Milder winters in some areas and ready access to cover may also contribute to the surge in rabbit populations.
Here are a few humane tips to help you deter the bunnies: 1. Build raised garden beds, at least 18 inches high. 2. Install chicken-wire fencing with holes no looser than 1 inch. For a more aesthetically pleasing fence, attach the wire to a picket or rail fence. Be sure to bury the wire several inches below the ground. 3. Make homemade or buy commercial repellents, although many of these are repellent to humans, too!
What would happen if 30 percent to 90 percent of the human work force quit working? Do you think someone would notice? You bet they would, and a huge outcry would probably ensue! A similar situation is unfolding with honeybees, as honeybee populations have declined by about 70 percent throughout North America, and also in large percentages throughout the world. The death or disappearance of honeybee populations, often called Colony Collapse Disorder, could have disastrous consequences for our agricultural food supply. That’s because, in addition to producing honey, honeybees pollinate approximately one-third of food crops: about 90 different farm-grown foods, including fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Scientists are trying to determine what is causing the problem, but you can help the bees by growing flowers that bees visit for nectar and pollen. Bees need the flowers especially in the early spring, late summer and fall. The bees reciprocate by pollinating your vegetable garden. Bees are particularly attracted to yellow, purple, orange and blue flowers. Some examples are sunflowers, black-eyed susans, lavender, borage, asters, bee balm, and calendula. Relax with an Adirondack chair and table set as you watch the little dynamos work.
Planter boxes are an economical way to beautify your patio, veranda and windowsill. There is no match for an attractively arranged Western Red Cedar planter box of any style. Wherever placed, our cedar planters are an excellent addition to any ranch, back yard, front yard, or cottage or apartment balcony.
We offer three styles of cedar planter boxes, which should accommodate whatever flower, plant or small shrub arrangements your landscaping design requires. You can combine the boxes with our trellises, arbors and planter bench planks to create landscaping designs limited by your imagination only. Indeed, maybe you can contrive combinations we haven’t thought of yet! If so, please share them with us. Our boxes include: 10-inch planter box; 20-inch planter box; 30-inch window box; a window box that is ideal for ledges, railings and balconies; and 2-foot, 4-foot and 6-foot raised garden boxes. Garden boxes can be used in multiples, on top of each other, for deeper rooting plants. And, here’s a novel idea: Use the garden boxes in multiples as outdoor enclosures for small pets! Neat, huh!
It’s never too early to start planning your garden! Happy planning and planting!
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,” as we are on the East Coast and in the Midwest. But, in 10 days maybe it’ll all be melted and the temperature in the 60s! Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.
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.