Monday, February 28, 2011

What We Start With

Part of having a great yard is great preparation.  With the warm weather that we have had lately, there has been ample time to get some prep work done in the yard.
Now is the time to get your upcoming flower beds in order.  Have you tilled them?  Have you added soil amendments?  Have you tested the soil?  If not, it is not the end of the world.  If you have, great!  It will better your chances. 

With everything beginning to pop up, but before everything turns green, it is a great time to look at what you have.  Try to simplify areas that need more work than others.  Don't try to go overboard and overwhelm yourself trying to fix every problem in your yard.

One year concentrate on the yard,the next a particular flower bed.  A beautiful yard takes time and if you do it right the first time, your work will reward you with a beautiful yard.

This year I decided to concentrate on my back yard.  The bed that I am starting with is primarily just dailies.  I plan to change that this year.  I also created new beds and paths that will be built upon this season.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions.  The new beds are partial to full shade. 

The last picture is a bed that I had built last year, but wasn't big enough.  You might recognize the flags in the picture.  They are the ones that I pulled up from when I had the yard marked.  They are great for new plantings that haven't come up yet.  In this case, they are marking hostas that I planted that will begin showing themselves in the next couple of weeks.

With these beds so close to the woods, I have had a big problem with deer eating many of the new plants that I try to plant in this area.  More careful planning would have saved me money last year in finding more plants that are more naturally deer resistant.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grower's Outlet Open

Grower's Outlet opened TODAY!  They have the best prices I've seen anywhere. 

Just make sure that before you buy that it is the right time to do so for that plant.  Even though plants might be in the nurseries, doesn't mean it should be planted now. Make sure to do your research first and have the area that the plant is going to be planted in ready prior to bringing it home.

See below for Grower's Outlet's website.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

I have a spot in my garden that has been crying for an evergreen shrub.  I had been thinking about either azaleas or boxwoods. 

On my way home yesterday, my mind was made up for me. 

In one of the neighborhoods I drive through on my way home from work, there were six huge boxwoods that had just been dug up.  They were destined for the chipper, but by simply stopping and asking if I could have them, they soon found their way to the back of my truck.  I was still in my suit from work but luckily had some work gloves in my truck.

Yes, the looks from the passing motorist says it all.  I mean, how often do you see someone in a suit loading boxwoods into the back of a truck in a suburban neighborhood?

Let me just go ahead and say that my actions, even for myself, were highly unusual.  I ended up planting them that night and watering them in.

If they what.  I didn't pay for them, and worse case scenario, they go into my compost pile in the woods.  If they live, I have just saved myself several hundred dollars.

The moral of the story...I had already in my mind, new what I wanted to plant in that location, I had already prepared the location, and I was actively looking for opportunities to get something for FREE!

You have to take these "bargains" with a grain of salt, but by doing so, you could potentially save a lot of money and have a beautiful garden to show for it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Call Before You Dig

Let the planting begin…almost.

A couple of weeks ago, Georgia’s Official Weather Prognosticator saw his shadow. With that, General Beau declared that spring is just around the corner.

Before you go into your yard though, shovel in hand, it is important to find out what is already under the ground.  Imagine taking that first shovel full of dirt, ready to plant your new rose bush, only to get a jolt of electricity from an underground cable. Or worse yet, too have to explain to your teenage daughter why she can’t watch Hannah Montana, because you took out the cable.

Not only could this make life difficult, but more than likely the utility company is then going to charge you for the repairs.

Georgia and most other states provide programs that homeowners can call to get their utility lines marked prior to doing any kind of digging, and it’s free!  In Georgia, homeowners can call 811 or go to   This service will ask what type of digging you are planning on doing and then will contact all the applicable utility companies for you to come out and mark your property.  Different colors and flags are used to identify what utility is being marked.

The utility companies have usually two business days to mark your property, and then you are safe to dig.

I take pictures of the markings in order to reference later on other projects.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What Works for 5th Grade Science Also Works in The Garden

Think back you your first elementary science experiment.  It probably involved some sort of paper mache volcano, baking soda, and some colored vinegar.  Well, the same can be used for testing the pH in your garden, minus the volcano.

The pH is a basic fact that every good gardener should know prior to sticking any plant in the ground.  It is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline something is, including your soil.  With the right pH, plants thrive, but without it, they can wither away or struggle, never maximizing their growing potential.

There are several different ways to test pH levels.

The following link is for the Georgia Cooperative Extension Office.  Your local extension office provides soil testing at a nominal price.  Usually this involves taking various soil samples from around your yard and mailing in to have a lab analyze them and send you the results.

Most home improvement stores or garden centers will have some sort of product that can be used to measure soil pH.  Although both of the above methods are more accurate, there is still another method that is much more cost effective. The best part is, it will still give you an idea of what you are working with.

When you mix an acid (Vinegar) with a base (Baking Soda), you get a chemical reaction.  In order to see this reaction in your soil the steps are pretty basic.

You will need the following for the measurements:

1)      A glass jar or bowl
2)      Vinegar
3)      Baking soda
4)      Distilled Water

1)In the glass jar or bowl mix in a small amount of soil that is going to be tested.
2)Add Vinegar-If it fuzzes, you have a more alkaline soil.
3)Wash the bowl out and dry.
4)Mix in another sample of soil into glass bowl.
5)Add small amount of distilled water.  You want enough to saturate the soil.  Distilled water is used here because your tap water or even rain water is slightly acidic.
6)Same as step 2, Watch for fuzzes, if so your soil is more acidic.

This process needs to be done several times in order to test a large area.  Even though it's not as accurate, it should at least give you an idea as to whether or not you need to add lime or something like wood ash to alter the soil to the proper pH for the plant.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Time to Prune your Crape Myrtles

It's that time of year again to trim your crape myrtles!  Below are the steps that will prevent you from getting locked up by the landscape police for crape myrtle murder.

Since crape myrtles bloom off of new growth, prunning keeps the tree providing more and healthier blooms.

Here are some tools that you might need (step ladder not pictured).

When selecting which limbs to cut it is important to know how the new growth will come in.  After making a cut,  two new limbs will sprout from underneath where the cut was made.

Make sure to cut any larger limbs that cross through the middle of the tree all the way to the bottom.  Crape myrtles need air flow through the center of the tree.

Don't clip all the way down to the knuckles of the tree.  Measure up between 4-6" from the knuckle for each limb.  This will provide the new growth with support and allow for it to fan out.

Remove any smaller limbs that are shooting off the main trunks.  You want the over-all look when finished to form a "Y"

Hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Saturday = Fun Times at Home Depot!

In our family, we look forward to the first Saturday of every month. Why? Home Depot has come up with a brilliant concept. You can take your kids between 9am-12pm on this day and they have pre-packaged projects that are easy enough for the little ones to do. Each month, they have a different theme. Today, we worked on creating heart shelves..perfect for Valentine's Day, which is right around the corner! In past months, we have put together spice racks, butterfly houses, and battery holders just to name a few!

It was the first time our 18-month-old, Kelsey, got to participate with her twin brothers. As you can see, she felt quite proud modeling her Home Depot Apron, and I must brag, she was pretty good with the hammer too!

Each time the kids complete a project, they receive a certificate and a button to add to their apron with a picture of what they created. Needless to say, they are proud of their accomplishments, and our stack of Home Depot projects, buttons and certificates is growing here at the house!

When it comes to marketing, Home Depot came up with an ingenious concept when they put "First Saturday" on the calendar. Not only does it create future business, but what dad is not going to spend money in the store after project time is over!? I can always find something I "need!"

A Rose By Any Other Name

Imagine a rose that is less picky than any other in your garden.  One that doesn't like to be messed with, hides in the shadows of large shade trees, yet provides color in the garden when most plants are still withered to the ground from winter.

I'm not talking about a rose in particular, but about a type of hellebore called Lenten Rose.  These wonderful evergreen perennials are a must in any shade garden.  The flowers, which are actually sepals, first appear in early spring. In fact, mine have already started blooming and they will bloom throughout the summer.

They are perfect for woodland environments where deer continually eat my hostas. Lenten Roses enjoy partial to full shade and can reach a height between 18-24'. They are hardy in zones 4-9 and can easily be divided. However, don't expect flowers the following year because these plants don't like to be disturbed. They don't like having their root system wet, so make sure you plant in an area similar to a forest floor that stays moist but provides good drainage.

Although this plant has many perks, it does take a long time to establish-usually between 3-4 years. Because of this, it is beneficial to find a mature plant if you decide to purchase  one. Once they are established, they will propagate from seeds or division.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Upcoming Blog Posts

Sorry that it has been so long since my last posting.  I have been working on several ideas for upcoming posts.

Here is a quick sneek peek:

-A rose by any other name
This is going to be about growing Lenten Roses.

-Roses for Valentine's Day
Why buy, when you can grow?

-Measuring Your irrigation system...even if that is just a sprinkler.

-Pruning Crape Myrtles...
Don't commit crape myrtle murder.

-Transplanting Begonia

-Deer Fencing

-Just what the Ph ordered.
How to do a home soil test with common kitchen items.

Hope you all enjoy...look for these posts soon.