Archive for the ‘plan’ Category

Gardening workshop, Aberdeen SD Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The Prairie Partners’ Gardening with the Masters fall workshop will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Dacotah Prairie Museum, 21 S. Main St.
Within the day will be four individual workshops: starting seeds, growing garlic, hardy roses and raised bed/square foot gardening.
Cost: $5 and payable at the door. Treats and refreshments will be served.

Spring bulbs: when subtraction = division Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Spring bulbs have pushed their way up out of the dirt, like baby bird mouths hungry for sun and rain. I know it’s spring when my daffodils and grape hyacinths show that tell-tale shock of spring-green where there was once only gray rubble.

It’s been a few years since I planted these – a great fall investment of both time and money. The first signs that spring-blooming bulbs need to be divided is a lower blooming rate than in previous years. Some, like the hyacinths need it more often than others like tulips. If you pay attention they will tell you.

One thing I’ve forgotten in past years is to mark where my spring bulbs are so that, come early fall, I’ll still be able to tell where they are long after the shoots have withered back. I’ve been wanting to move them around anyway so I’ll be taking my smaller trimmed pieces of maple branches and poking them in the ground to note their location. My reason for moving them is simply aesthetics – I plopped the short bloomers in the middle of a south-facing bed so I end up with a dead spot come June, right in the middle of my perennial flowers. That or I end up trying to plant something new in June or in fall and I slam my trowel right through a mess of bulbs – and a slurry of 4-letter words bloom forth.

Ahead of myself Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Agave parryi, zone 4, well-drained soil, most cold-hardy agave

I just stopped at High Country Gardens as I’ve been drooling over their catalog for a week straight. They have a focus on xeriscaping, native plants, and their descriptions are some of the best as far as what conditions each plant can thrive in, and what ones they can’t. Last year I ordered a zone 4 agave and a sugarbowl clematis. Unfortunately I planted the clematis in a less than optimum spot and tried too-late to transplant it somewhere better. The agave started in an elevated berm surrounded by spreading sedums and I decided to move it as well to a place where it would get better insulation from winter exposure. Crossing my fingers on that last one. I wanted it insulated but now, under 4′ of snow, will the spring thaw and wet be to its detriment? I learn best by trial and error – though it’s not easy from a money standpoint.

So, at HCG I loaded up my online cart with everything I could want (at least being that I’m in Zone 4 – my queendom for Zone 5?) and scrolled down hoping for major sticker shock to turn me away. Under $100 means plenty of room for justification, right? So, I push harder to talk myself out of hitting the ‘checkout’ button:

  • Go back to these archives to stick to my focus for the year: Here and here
  • Remind myself that I have a third child on the way who will inevitably take more time and money than I ever think she/he will
  • I love walking aimlessly around our area nurseries in May and June and usually find something there to try – yeah for supporting local businesses
  • I already have an intensive seed regiment planned
  • Remember that my garden was ridiculously out of control and haphazard 1/2 through last season so there is lots of work to do with what I already have
  • Do I actually have specific, ideal spots for these plants or will they fall the way of the clematis I shoved in the ground without enough thought? Truthfully, NO
  • Oh, and  credit cards don’t pay themselves off.

Whew, I think I finally convinced myself to sit on my hands for now.

Spring growing calendar Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This calendar may need some adjustments but should be a pretty good guide of when to start your seeds indoors during the next 2 months. GrowingCalendar Each plant has its optimum time to be germinated both indoors and out. In our zone 4, our growing season for edibles is on the shorter side. Keep this in mind when ordering seeds – most catalogs and seed packets will give you and indication of the veggie or fruits’ fruition time – how long it takes to bear produce, max. growing season 120 days. Plants with longer growing seasons will need to be started indoors or purchased as transplants and stuck in the ground starting around May 15 – our average last frost date. On especially cool years it is good to wait until soil temps are warm so planting even in the first week of June is good as planting into cold ground can set some tender annuals back weeks in growth.

Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Garden plans Friday, January 15th, 2010

Whether you are just starting out or are a garden pro (are any of us?!) it does one good to start garden plans early.

If you’ve gardened before, think back about what worked and didn’t as far as layout.

  • Were things too crowded
  • Too spread out
  • Too far from a water source
  • Could you not get to your peppers because of the jungle of raspberries

Taking note of these items always helps to improve on the coming growing season.

If you are new or like things orderly – here are a couple good sources for planning.

The square foot garden is great for beginners and those with limited space.

This garden-planning helper is just plain fun to dink around with.

At any rate – make sure your garden is:

  • By a water source
  • Away from fence lines – neighbors have been known to get carried away with weed killer so keeping your edibles a bit away from property lines will help ensure their survival
  • Little plants can get big fast so don’t think you can cram too much into a small space – then nothing does well
  • Low-lying areas can mean wet feet (rot, mildew) for plants so opt for higher ground
  • Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun – so stay away from big trees (which can also suck up all the moisture) or north and west sides of any structures