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It all started when I accidentally found a container that a potter friend had given me long ago. It is a beautiful bonsai dish—but the potter forgot to add holes for drainage. I showed it to my wife and she said, “Oooooh, that’s pretty. Can we get a hammer and chisel and put a hole in the bottom?”

How do you put drainage holes in a ceramic container?

How do you put drainage holes in a ceramic container?

“No,” I replied. “A hammer and chisel would only shatter it—but there is a tool that will drill a hole…”

“Is it a difficult or complicated job?”

“No,” I replied, “it’s so easy that even a girl could probably do it.”

About an hour later, after she started speaking to me again, we decided to make a trip to Home Depot to purchase a “glass and tile bit” to use with our DeWalt drill (hereafter, in redneck manner, referred to as “the DeWalt”). It took a bit of looking to find what we needed.

Looking for a glass and tile drill bit at Home Depot

Looking for a glass and tile drill bit at Home Depot

We found the bits that we needed in the Bosch display and I chose 3/8 and a ¼ inch bits to use for our project. I didn’t think we would use the ¼ inch bit and I proved to be correct.

1/4 and 3/8 inch Bosch glass and tile drill bits. Just what the doctor ordered

1/4 and 3/8 inch Bosch glass and tile drill bits. Just what the doctor ordered

We got together the necessary items for the job—the DeWalt, glass and tile bit, water, the container, and a piece of slate for the work surface. The water is to reduce the heat generated by the friction of the drill.

Drill, glass bit, water, and a container to drill a hole in

Drill, glass bit, water, and a container to drill a hole in

The glass and tile bit looks like this. Be careful when asking for help at the store because a lot of times the clerk will try to sell you a masonry bit which is a different item and won’t do the job.

vBosch glass and tile drill bit is a good item to use when creating neat flower pots.

Bosch glass and tile drill bit is a good item to use when creating neat flower pots.

The DeWalt has a “keyless chuck.” To use it, hold the drill as shown below and run the drill slowly while holding the black thingie. This will tighten the drill’s grip on the bit and things will work properly.

tightening a keyless chuck

tightening a keyless chuck

Pour some water in the container and start drilling. This is a slow process. You will need to put a bit of pressure on the drill to make it work but you don’t want to push too hard. If you try to go too fast the dish will crack.

Pour a little water over the surface to be drilled to keep it cool. Watch the pressure

Pour a little water over the surface to be drilled to keep it cool. Watch the pressure

When the hole begins to develop, it is advisable to have an assistant hold the container to keep it from spinning when the bit goes through.

Have your helper hold the container when the hole is almost done--it may catch and jerk

Have your helper hold the container when the hole is almost done–it may catch and jerk

And there it is—a nice clean drainage hole.

A nice clean drainage hole. YaY

A nice clean drainage hole. YaY

I think we should have two holes, don’t you?

bonsai dish with drainage ready to plant

bonsai dish with drainage ready to plant

Well, Sweetie really liked that one. She started gathering containers. “Look,” she said, “This bowl will make a wonderful pot for my geranium. All it needs is a drainage hole.”

Another container that needs a drainage hole

Another container that needs a drainage hole

And she went to work.

Next thing you know she'll probably be going to yard sales to look for old china dinner bowls to drill holes in

Next thing you know she’ll probably be going to yard sales to look for old china dinner bowls to drill holes in

I sometimes like to use clay saucers to make elf man gardens or to show off small bonsai trees. We drilled a hole in a clay saucer while we were at it.

Drill a hole in a clay saucer and use it for a dish garden

Drill a hole in a clay saucer and use it for a dish garden

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Sweetie play. By the way, Sweetie’s name is Dekie Hicks and she runs Wheredepony Press and makes books for people who write them. She likes her bonsai trees, too and you may see some of them on her blog site: ponderingthepony.blogspot.com

I watched as she paid attention to the drainage in her “new” flower pot:

Rocks and pot shards added to enhance drainage.

Rocks and pot shards added to enhance drainage.

I watched some more as she potted up her new geranium

potting a geranium in the "new" pot.

potting a geranium in the “new” pot.

There’s the newly potted geranium and what I refer to as, “Happy wife, happy life.”

A fun afternoon playing in the yard

A fun afternoon playing in the yard

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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This sign was awaiting placement as the Living and Giving shop was being moved down  the street in Rome, Georgia

This sign was awaiting placement as the Living and Giving shop was being moved down the street in Rome, Georgia

The big event is that of the moving of the wonderful Rome, Georgia shop Living and Giving from its current location on Broad Street to a new location across the street and a block down. The shop owner, Lisa Landry, had asked me to build a rustic water feature that would help showcase her plants. My two previous posts tell of the search for the right idea and the right materials. You will find these articles HERE(March 16) and HERE(March 23). I decided to use the feed trough I had found along with old brick, split-faced, concrete blocks, and an old lion’s head that Lisa had hanging around her house. It took a while to get the materials together but we were ready to start on a Saturday morning,

An old feed trough will be converted to a water feature

An old feed trough will be converted to a water feature

We placed a two-block high row of blocks along the wall and put caps on them to hold the brick and then another row of the split-faced blocks to the front. The fountain is waterproofed with a single piece of Firestone rubber liner. We laid the liner out and spent quite a bit of time thinking and adjusting.

A sheet of Firestone rubber will keep the project from leaking

A sheet of Firestone rubber will keep the project from leaking

I figured out where and how the liner would go. I glued one piece of liner to the wall and installed the plumbing that would take the water from the pump in the trough up and through the lion’s head and retuning it to the trough. We must take great care at this point to see that all water is contained within the system.

Finessing the guts of the water feature

Finessing the guts of the water feature

The rest of the project is to cover up the rubber liner and the pipe, making the fountain look like something that an old farmer had built to water his horses a hundred years ago. We are creating an illusion. I had decided to use a cement mix called Hypertuffa which is made by combining cement and peat moss. Using this material we will get an antique looking texture and a nice patina will develop over time. We mixed peat moss with the Sakrete product pictured here:

Half of the ingredients for hypertuffa. Peat moss is the other half

Half of the ingredients for hypertuffa. Peat moss is the other half

To make sure the hypertuffa stayed in place we cut and fastened chicken wire over the rubber being careful to avoid any punctures. Trial and error finally gave us the proper consistency and we stuck it on by hand, smoothing as we went. If you do this remember that gloves are essential. Here is what it looked like to start with:

Sticking hypertuffa mix with chicken wire

Sticking hypertuffa mix with chicken wire

We proceeded with brick laying and cement mixing for a while. Here is a progress photo:

vprogress with the cover up

progress with the cover up

I took a few days off from the project to allow everything to dry and set up. A few days later we installed the pump, hung the lion’s head and turned that sucker on. We will use some slate to do some fine tuning for sound and splattering. I am looking forward to seeing how Lisa arranges all her plants and goodies around the water feature.

It still needs fine tuning--but it works

It still needs fine tuning–but it works

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what? usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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I’ll get to the redneck report in a bit—first a report on the copper trough for the Living and Giving water feature. (click here to see the article) It seems like the copper was not all that difficult to find, but it cost a bit more than the perceived value of the show off effect. I went “back to the drawing board” and came up with some good ideas that I was pondering as I started a spring cleaning project around my junk pile. I had totally forgotten about the feed troughs.

can we turn this rusty feed trough into a water feature?

can we turn this rusty feed trough into a water feature?

Joel had asked me to haul these troughs to recycling, but it snowed that day and they never got further than my junk pile (which I keep well-hidden). So I started thinking about how to build a water feature (it will be against an old brick wall). I decided I could use pond liner for waterproofing and then make it look like an antique horse trough with old bricks and hypertuffa. Hypertuffa is a material made with cement and peat moss. I made a lot of flower pots one time using this process. They look like this:

hypertuffa--a mixture of peat moss and cement

hypertuffa–a mixture of peat moss and cement

I’m going to build the water feature next weekend so I will document the process. Stay tuned.

Did I mention that my junk pile is out in redneck country?  Every now and then you will see a book titled something like. “I Lived Ten Years With The (Indians, natives, pygmies, headhunters, etc.)”—Well I, John the Plant Man, lived ten years among the rednecks. I ate their chitlins and drank their beer (actually, it was more like they drank MY beer). I even wrote a book about the harrowing experience.

Bud and Travis are two of my favorite characters mentioned in the book. As I was pondering the feed troughs Travis rode up on his lawnmower. Here’s a picture of Travis from a couple of summers ago:

Travis loves his riding mower

Travis loves his riding mower

Travis is quite a philosopher. “Hey, John, you stayin’ busy?”

“It’s been slow on account of the weather,” I replied. “We’re getting pretty busy now, though.”

Travis said, “With all the snow and rain I bet you ain’t been making much money.”

“I been getting’ by,” I said.

“I don’t call it getting by,” Travis replied. “I call it ‘floatin.’” He moved his hand in a wave-like motion. “You just kindly float along as best you kin. Sometimes you get to sinking and you got to flay your arms around a bit and grab you some air.”

He took a sip of his Natural Light. “Yeah, I call it floatin.”

I wrote an article about Travis titled, “Pimp Your Lawnmower Redneck Style”

I mentioned my other redneck friend, Bud.  I wrote an article about him, too. Bud is one of the best gardeners I ever met. Click here to read about his garden.

If you want to know something about farming, ask your favorite redneck

If you want to know something about farming, ask your favorite redneck

 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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What all can I think of to say about this wonderful plant that blooms for Lent, just as its name promises? It tolerates shade, deer don’t eat it, it blooms when the human psyche most needs it, it’s easy to grow, perennial, and it increases its population by free-seeding.

Lenten rose (or 'hellebore')--a true harbinger of spring

Lenten rose (or ‘hellebore’)–a true harbinger of spring

As the cold, the snow, the freezing rain and the dark days of winter begin to change to more acceptable weather, I look for the flowers of the Lenten rose—also botanically known as hellebores. In most cases the blooms hang down, preparing to drop their seeds at their feet. I stretch out on the warming ground to get a picture of the open flower against the sky

Looking up at the Lenten rose flower with the sky blue background

Looking up at the Lenten rose flower with the sky blue background

Lenten rose makes a very practical and pretty under-planting for plants that perform later in the season. Here is a grouping of hellebores in front of hydrangeas and acuba. The combination works well.

planting of Lenten rose, hydrangea, and acuba. A good mix for shady places

planting of Lenten rose, hydrangea, and acuba. A good mix for shady places

The hellebores also work well in larger natural areas. It is not common for a plant to colonize an ivy bed but the picture below is proof positive of the possibility. Lenten roses are available in several pastel colors as well as white.

Lenten rose naturalized in the middle of an ivy bed under a maple tree.

Lenten rose naturalized in the middle of an ivy bed under a maple tree.

A year or two after the initial planting of the Lenten rose you may start to notice the appearance of seedlings around the parent plant. The seedlings should be left in place for a while to mature and then may be transplanted. If you wish, however, you may just leave them in place and they will form a colony.

lenten rose seedlings appear a year or so after the momma plant is installed.

lenten rose seedlings appear a year or so after the momma plant is installed.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Weed:  A plant that is in the wrong place.

Herbicide:  A chemical that kills plants

Pre-emergent herbicide:  A chemical that keeps weed seeds from germinating (sprouting) but doesn’t hurt other stuff

Post-emergent herbicide:  A herbicide that kills plants after they have started to grow.

Fungicide:  A chemical that kills fungus

Insecticide:  A chemical that kills insects.

Broadleaf weeds:  weeds that are not grass

Grasses:  A. The good part of your lawn.  B.  Grassy weeds in your flower beds.

Bermuda grass: A. A nice lawn.  B.  A weed from perdition

 

Happy New Year

I’ll see you again in 2014

John the Plant Man

 

And don’t forget to use your Christmas money to get my wonderful, sensitive, and funny book, Requiem for a Redneck installed on your Kindle for your reading pleasure. CLICK HERE

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If you follow my articles, you will remember Joel, who is one of the most dedicated hobby gardeners I ever met. But he didn’t have an herb garden. Joel wanted an herb garden—and since he is a good man and treats people well we set out to fulfill his wishes before Christmas.  Here is the starting location after we removed several large rosemary bushes.

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

Joel has been saving this site for an herb garden but we had to figure out what an herb garden would look like

The picture below shows a 12 x 20 foot piece of nursery ground cover fabric. It is a little different from the landscape fabric found in box stores and it is a bit more hard to find. You could use one product or the other.  I like the nursery fabric because it gives me an instant square and straight lines to follow. I laid out the fabric and set out a few landscape timbers so that I could get a mental image of the overall design for the finished product.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

We start the herb garden project with a large piece of nursery ground covering and a whole lot of pondering.

I surmised that a well-designed, raised herb garden would be easily tended from all sides and that the gardener would not have to step inside the beds. I settled for a U shape design, two timbers high. I’ve been working with landscape timbers for years and I learned that cutting pieces with a 22 ½ degree setting on a good miter saw is a good way to add class and character to the project. A pick up truck tailgate makes a rather good saw horse.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

A miter saw makes precision cuts an easy process.

I lay out the overall design for the timber work,  experimenting with different cuts. When I get the basic lay out right, I can use each piece for a pattern and quickly cut all of the pieces I need without having to measure over and over.

Moving things around to get "just the right shape" for the raised beds

Moving things around to get “just the right shape” for the raised beds

Down here in Georgia they don’t call the tool I am using a “drill” or a “screw-driver”, they call it a “De Walt.” In sort of the same way, people will refer to a Pepsi Cola as a “Coke”—as in, “If you ain’t got a real coke, a Pepsi coke will be ok.” But back to the project: there are several kinds of self-threading screws that may be used for a timber project. Special screws are made for treated lumber and you should be sure that you get the right kind.

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

Three and a half inch deck screws are used to fit and fasten the pieces

After the timbers are in place and screwed together, I like to go around the project and tap a piece here or move a piece there to make sure that all is lined up properly. After small adjustments we use screws to fasten the top to the bottom. Note the white pipe at the left rear of the project. This is for drainage at the lowest level. We don’t want any puddles, do we?

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

Adjusting and getting everything just right before adding the compost

And here is the finished garden. We used my magic compost mix to fill the beds and then raked in cypress mulch for the walkway and edges.  Joel can do a much better job of planting and maintaining it than I can so I’ll leave that to him.

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

The completed bed for the herb garden with compost and cypress mulch. Ready to plant

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the Plant Man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

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My friend D’Ann loves gardening. She is good at it too, and she doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under her fingernails. I had built some raised beds for her back yard a few years ago and was impressed with the way in which she planted them and kept them up. Her front yard needed help, though.

Before--D'Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

Before–D’Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

When D’Ann asked me to build some distinctive yet workable planting beds in her front yard I knew that I would have to be rather particular and produce something that looked right and that would give her a base for growing some healthy and vigorous perennials. I started a drawing and things just didn’t work out that way, so we removed and saved the collection of plants and I took a roll of twine, some stakes, and my paint gun to do a careful layout. ( I love using orange marking paint on a layout)

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

I think raised compost beds with brick borders are really classy but the big thing about these beds is that they really work. I also like the look and workability of brick borders and pea gravel pathways so that’s where I was going. (By the way, if you go to buy bricks for something like this, ask for ‘pavers’ because they don’t have holes in them). I had spent a lot of time getting the twine in just the right place and that helped the job to get off to a good start.

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Mike Hutchins produces certified compost up in Menlo, Georgia and he brings it to me in ten cubic yard loads. I stockpile it at my stockpiling place and then haul it to the job with a pickup truck. Sometimes we can dump a load on the job but in an uptown city yard like this one I don’t want the clean up job that would go with that. We wheelbarrow the compost into the beds and rake it out carefully. When the job is finished the compost and pea gravel will team up to hold the bricks firmly in place.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

To get ready for the gravel walkways, I used a flat shovel to turn the existing walkway into an efficient border.

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

We raked out the compost, spread pine straw for mulch, and raked all of the trash out of the walkway beds before moving in the pea gravel. This was a job performed carefully with a wheelbarrow and a rake.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Here’s a picture of the finished beds ready to plant.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

As the planting proceeds the plan is to put climbing roses on portions of he fence and to use such perennials as lantanas, daisies, yarrow, and others for accents. Lots of bulbs, from daffodils to amaryllis and a few paint strokes of annual flowers will keep things interesting. And remember, there will be no grass to cut in this front yard.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure.

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Billy’s memorial garden

I was writing this for my mother, Dr. Jane Schulz, but then I thought I would share it with everybody. I love the planning stages of a new project.

Billy Schulz, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, died on September 2, 2012. If you don’t know about Billy and how amazing he was, you may read about him HERE. Billy received his honorary doctorate posthumously from Western Carolina University in December of 2012. As far as his family can ascertain, this was the first doctorate awarded to a person with Down syndrome.

At any rate, it was decided a little over a year ago that people could donate for a memorial garden in honor of Billy.  First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee is handling the funds and providing the location for the project.

The other day my brother, Tom Schulz and I were taken to a nice wooded area that is being developed for church activities. The name of the place is Wemberly Woods.

The pathway heading to a possible garden site in Wimberly Woods

The pathway heading to a possible garden site in Wemberly Woods

As we walked down the wide pathway, I could tell something was going on in that little place with a hillside.

As we walk down the path we can see something interesting

As we walk down the path we can see something interesting

Then we got closer and I could see a spring in the right hand corner which fed a small creek. Someone had built a bleacher sort of sitting area and a large tree had fallen across the back of the site. It will need some work and creativity. It even has a name. Cathedral Springs. Nice.

This is a nice place. I can see all sorts of possibilities.

This is a nice place. I can see all sorts of possibilities.

We got up on the site and I found that I could close my eyes and see a patio/stage/performance area and people sitting and watching an event. A small event, mind you, but nevertheless…

Cathedral Springs.  A good place for a garden?

Cathedral Springs. A good place for a garden?

Tom and I both liked the site. We liked the idea that we could do something that could be used. Billy loved his church and he loved people. A perfect match.

Rhododendrons, Mountain laurel, Azaleas, and perennial ferns would look good, don’t you think? Today I pictured daffodils on each side of the path leading into the area.  There’s no telling what Tom will think of—I can’t wait to find out because he is wonderfully insightful with projects such as this one. This article is the start of a series.

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Diane had only been in the house for a couple of months when I went over to look at the project. She took me to a side of the yard and we looked inside a small fenced in area. She said, “I want a serenity garden here where I can sit and sip my coffee and relax with my thoughts.”

I assured her that this would be possible.

She asked,“Where should we start?”

I thought about it and replied, “How about a stick of dynamite?”

The "before" picture for the serenity garden

It was going to take a bit of work to make this site “serene”

We moved all the furniture, ornaments, and small plants out to the carport to be dealt with later. A lot of roots needed to be dug up in the area where the patio would be built. A trip to Willow Creek Nursery was called for. We were able to pick out a ton or so of some really good looking flagstone.

Hand picked flagstone for a patio project

A ton or so of select flagstone for building a patio.

I played around with the flexible forming until I got a shape that I really liked. Diane and I had discussed building a separate landing under the swing but I liked it better making the landing a part of the patio. The plastic forming material is wonderful. Expensive but wonderful. We used to have to build the forms with one by fours or pieces of masonite that had to be ripped to size. I was lucky a few years ago when a cement guy needed beer and had the forms but no money. He gave me a great deal on them and I have used them for a number of projects.

plastic forming material for masonry projects

I love the bendable plastic forming material.

The forms should be laid out carefully. Water is the boss of the project and the patio should fall (slope) about 1/8 of a bubble to the lowest point. The cement is mixed just right so that it is just the right stiffness to react properly with the stone and the rubber mallet. We have to watch out for high places that we call “toe stubbers.”

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We start laying the patio stone in an available corner.

We don’t worry about the joints until the rock is laid. Here is the first section

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

a section of flagstone laid for a patio without filled joints

The main tools for the first part of the job are a trowel, a rubber mallet, and a two by four. The two by four is laid from one side of the forming to the other. This is the item that makes the difference. Careful attention should be paid to smoothness.

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

The necessary tools for the patio laying job: a trowel, a two by four, and a rubber mallet

Here’s a stopping point for the day. The rocks are laid but all of the joints are open. It is time to “pour the joints” but that is a job that needs to be started of a morning. The mortar has to dry to exactly the right consistency before finishing and if we start on it in the afternoon it may prove to be a long night.

flagstone patio almost completed project

The patio should sit overnight and then it will be time to “pour the joints”

The next morning we use a thing from the cement company that looks like a cake decorator bag to pour a properly wet mortar into the joints. The cement will mound up over the rocks as in the picture below. We keep checking the consistency of the joint material and when it is just right, we cut it off to the level of the rocks with a trowel. It takes a bit of practice.

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

The first step in filling the joints on the flagstone patio

We want stepping stones from the carport to the patio. The level has to be just right and I found out long ago that a guy has to be very careful when he lays out stepping stones for a lady. Also, I’m going to set these stones with mortar so they won’t wiggle and it would be difficult to move them later. I worked with it until I was satisfied.

Stepping stones laid out just right for a lady to walk on

It takes a lot of care for a guy to lay out stepping stones just right for a lady to walk on

Since the patio is down hill from the gate just a little bit we use the level, the two by four and mortar mix to make everything come out right.

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

Using a level to make sure stepping stones are lined up with the patio

The stepping stones are satisfactory. The project will look different after the compost is added.

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

Flagstone tepping stones set carefully for walking comfort

When the joint mortar is just right the edges are finished with a special tool. This step makes it look almost professional.

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

Using an edging tool to finish up the edges of the patio

 

This is the part I really like. I refer to it as a “blank palette”.

new patio ready for landscapingTime to remove the forms, add compost, mulch, and plants

We took out all the small plants and then got out the motor pruners and did a good job of pruning and shaping the larger bushes. I wanted to get this cleaned up before putting in the compost.

A good time to trim the shrubbery

A good time to trim the shrubbery

I love the compost part. We hauled three pick up truck loads before we had enough. Then we raked and shaped until I was totally satisfied.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

We add a mound of good black compost. It is ready to be raked out, covered with cypress chips, and planted.

The planting part was easy. I didn’t have to purchase many plants—I just had to put the ones we took out back but in the right place. Diane had bought pansies, dusty miller, and some dianthus. She thought the finished planting was a bit sparse but I assured her that it would grow out just right. Over planting would not foster serenity.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we'll straighten the swing a bit first.

The garden is ready for company. Maybe we’ll straighten the swing a bit first.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember, Requiem for a Redneck by John P. Schulz is now available in the Kindle Store

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For basic looks, fescue grass is my favorite. It tolerates a bit of shade and it stays green all year. Fescue grass has traditionally been planted from seed but for several years it has been available as sod. Paige and I had discussed the kind of grass that we wanted in her back yard and in September, I told her that if we did a really good job of planting seed we would save quite a bit of money over the cost of sod installation. She started spraying out all of the unwanted plant material in the area the first of September. I showed up to do the job on September 24. Here are the ten steps to a good grass planting job:

1. Run a tiller over the area and rake up the dead stuff and trash. The tilling should only be an inch or two deep but it should be thorough and pulverize the soil.

Tilling soil in preparation for planting grass seed.

Run a tiller lightly over the area to be planted. It doesn’t have to be deep

2.  We like to use a leaf rake to get up all of the unwanted trash. If applied carefully, a leaf rake will also level the soil and leave it ready for seed. A loose surface is preferred. Use a heavy yard rake for filling holes or moving high spots.

Use a leaf rake to remove debris and to level the ground

Use a leaf rake to remove debris and to level the ground

3. The area is ready for seed. The raking leaves a corduroy texture. The seeds can fall into the low parts.

Soil is ready for grass seed and fertilizer application

Soil is ready for grass seed and fertilizer application

4. There is a difference between “turf-type fescue” and pasture fescue seeds. Several brand names are available but what you want for the yard is “tall turf-type fescue”. It is, of course, more expensive, but well worth the extra money. Rebel is a good brand that I’ve used for a number of years.

Turf-type fescue seed and a good starter fertilizer.

Turf-type fescue seed and a good starter fertilizer.

5. I keep buying these seed spreaders and they keep messing up on me. I can’t find the old bag type that had a neck strap. I guess they don’t make them any more. Anyway, I’ll try the seed spreader.

Some times a seed spreader will work to get the seeds evenly distributed

Some times a seed spreader will work to get the seeds evenly distributed

6. Yep. Just as I figured, the seed spreader jammed. I finished and enhanced the seed spreading by throwing the seed out with a careful side-armed movement. I’m beginning to think that hand spreading gives you a better job, anyhow. Here is a picture of the seed on the ground. It’s applied a bit on the heavy side but I like it that way. A lighter application would suffice. This is also time to spread the fertilizer lightly over the area.

fescue grass seeds spread on the ground. This is a heavy but acceptable application

fescue grass seeds spread on the ground. This is a heavy but acceptable application

7. I feel like this is a most important step. We run a rake over the ground and seed which mixes the upper layer of soil with the seed. This step requires a light touch.

Run a rake over the ground to "mix" the soil, seed, and fertilizer

Run a rake over the ground to “mix” the soil, seed, and fertilizer

8. Running a roller over the seed bed eliminates air pockets and bonds the seed and soil mixture. This step could probably be eliminated but I think it is important. It’s a feeling I get. I generally follow those feelings.

A roller will pack the soil, mash out air pockets, and level things out.

A roller will pack the soil, mash out air pockets, and level things out.

9. Wheat straw. I repeat, Wheat straw—not hay—is applied. This will insulate the area, help to retain moisture, and minimize erosion.

Apply wheat straw to the seeded area.

Apply wheat straw to the seeded area.

10.  Now all you add is water. The soil should be kept moist–not wet.  It helps the seed to germinate if you go out on the patio every evening and “stare it up.” To do this, get a nice drink, maybe some cheese crackers, and watch the seed bed for a while.

The fescue seeded yard is ready for you to "stare it up" The area should be green in about two weeks.

The fescue seeded yard is ready for you to “stare it up” The area should be green in about two weeks.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man.

You may be interested in another article on choosing the right fertilizer. Click here.

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