These Garden Weeds Should be Sprayed–Not Pulled—Here’s Why…

Frances walked through her landscape garden with me, pointing out some of her maintenance concerns. She said, “I would like for you to hand-weed this area.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I replied.—Here’s why I said that:

There are a number of weeds that are most pervasive and undesirable in the landscape garden. These plants are so survival oriented that they spread their roots out for quite a distance. When you pull one of them as a weed it will break off from these adventitious roots which will then sprout on their own, coming up all over the place (the more you pull the more you get). If you spray these weeds with a good weed killer they will die, roots and all.

I wrote an earlier article on weed spraying techniques, Click Here: Killing Weeds in the Landscape Garden I am sure that you will find that information helpful.

If left to grow, these vines have the ability to infest and totally destroy your special shrubbery. Here are some of them:

1. Cow itch, (trumpet vine, hummingbird vine)

In the south it's called "cow itch" also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

In the south it’s called “cow itch” also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

I loved what Wikipedia said about cow itch:

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended. Outside of its native range this species has the potential to be highly invasive, even as far north as New England. The trumpet vine thrives in many places in southern Canada as well.”

2. Saw briar (smilax)

One of the most difficult weeds to eradicate is the saw briar. The southern Indians used to dig the roots of this plant and eat them like potatoes.

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, "Smilax"

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, “Smilax”

3. Poison ivy

I assume that we all know the consequences of pulling this weed. I found it interesting that my Dutch brother-in-law pulled weeds in Tennessee and then flew to Amsterdam. The next day in Holland he broke out in a terrible itchy rash and had to go to the hospital. The doctors in Holland didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it so they had to call The U.S. You guessed it—poison ivy

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

4. Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper is a pretty plant. My Swiss mother-in-law loves the way it looks growing up a wall. Apparently people in the northern U.S. and in some parts of Europe actually cultivate this noxious weed. Grown up the side of a house, this plant will eat out mortar joints and cause wood to rot and fall apart. In the garden it will cover and choke your desirable plants.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

5 Muscadine

In the right place this grape vine is desirable. The fruits make wonderful jellies and wines. However, in the garden it will take over trees and shrubs in a rampant manner while searching for light. Remember, “a weed is a plant that is in the wrong place.”

Muscadine--a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

Muscadine–a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

6. Honeysuckle

There are some desirable cultivars of this plant but the wild variety can be a nuisance. The blooms do smell good and I have fond memories from my childhood that deal with pulling the bloom apart and sucking on the sweet nectar therein. Now, though, I routinely remove it from azaleas and hollies in people’s yards.

wild honeysuckle

wild honeysuckle

And to finish off this article I am including a picture of the beautiful trumpet flower of the cow itch plant. You can see why it is also called “hummingbird vine.”

"honeysuckle vine" flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

“honeysuckle vine” flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

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?

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

There is a rather old planting of George Tabor azaleas on the side of our driveway and Sweetie has been reminding me relentlessly for months that they need to be pruned and shaped. The last week in May or the first week in June is just the right time for the job. Here’s the “before” picture:

Azaleas at driveway need  pruning

Azaleas at driveway need pruning

There’s a reason for pruning azaleas the first week of June, too. One of my fun mental exercises for years has been to listen to the old people’s comments on growing plants and then to figure out why their techniques work. Please note that Encore azaleas are treated differently.

As for the time to prune azaleas, it’s interesting. In June, the plants have finished blooming and are entering their peak growth stages. The azalea will set its bloom for the following spring in August. The blooms are commonly borne on the growth tips and pruning at the right time increases the number of tips so that you will end up with a more compact plant and many more blooms. You may wish to read my article on Pruning as an Art Form for a concise description of what happens when you prune a plant.

I select a place to cut that is right above shorter new growth

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

One of my goals is to open up the plant canopy to allow more light to reach the inside. This will promote lower growth which will strengthen the plant. I try to keep the sides of the plant neat and pretty but I never hesitate to open up a “hole” in the top. New growth will fill this in rather quickly.

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

I’m a little over six feet tall and this plant was a bit taller than that. I try to watch for danger when I’m working in overgrown shrubbery and my diligence paid off this time. As I worked, a giant poison ivy vine was sneaking up on me. I saw it just in time and backed up. I planned to approach it slowly and carefully.

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

The only really good way to get rid of poison ivy is to spray it but I don’t want to get any spray on the azalea so I placed a garbage bag over the azalea and carefully moved the poison ivy stem on top of it.

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

Using a generic form of Roundup with glyphosphate as the active ingredient, I sprayed the tip of the plant. The chemical will enter the system of the plant and should move on down the stem and kill the roots.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

This is a good time to fertilize the azaleas, also. I grabbed a bag of azalea fertilizer at my local nursery. The analysis is 9-15-13 with the addition of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. If you don’t know about fertilizer labels, they are explained in my article “Choosing the Right Fertilizer”

azalea fertilizer

azalea fertilizer

And here’s the “after” picture. Remember what I always say—“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Now she will be free to find something else to remind me to do.

Azaleas pruned "just right"--Happy Wife, Happy Life"

Azaleas pruned “just right”–Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

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?

Make a Beautiful Mixed Flower Creation With a Wire Basket and Coconut Fiber Matting.

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

I call it “coco mat” and it is one of the nicest innovations for planting wire hanging baskets to come along in a long time. Wire baskets are wonderful because they “breathe” and thereby form the base for more vigorous flowers. Wire baskets come in all shapes and sizes. I needed to plant eleven hand-crafted wrought-iron baskets the other day.

If you are planting in mass manufactured wire containers, your nursery will probably carry coco mat liners that are formed to fit. In my case, I had to custom cut each piece. So I bought a roll of the matting and I got a roll of painter’s paper with which to make patterns.

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

We didn’t want to waste any of the coco mat so we wrapped the basket with the paper and cut out around it.

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

I found that a carpenter’s pencil or a magic marker would work to trace the pattern onto the coco mat.

a carpenter's pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

a carpenter’s pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

I thought about using a razor knife but found that scissors would do the job.  Tip—use cheap scissors and throw them away afterwards. This will probably ruin your good scissors.

Do not use Momma's expensive scissors for this job--go buy some cheap ones

Do not use Momma’s expensive scissors for this job–go buy some cheap ones

We cut a triangle out of the circle where a big fold would be and then we pushed the liner down into the basket and pressed moist potting soil in to hold it in place. A little extra trimming was necessary.

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

I always like to add a liberal sprinkling of time-release fertilizer on top of the potting soil so that it will mix in as I plant. I’m using Osmocote this time.

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

I decided to use Dragon Wing begonias for the center plant. These plants are very versatile and I really get good results from them.

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

I used two colors of calibrochoa (they look like miniature petunias), bachopa (trailing with small white flowers), and Wave petunias around the large begonia. I really enjoy making a royal mess and this time I succeeded.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

The baskets will hang from the eaves of the house facing the pool and courtyard. In the picture below you will see that I am using chains to train a white mandevilla up and over a doorway.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white  mandevilla.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white mandevilla.

The most important consideration in choosing plants for a mixed planting is that all of the varieties must have the same sun or shade preferences.  You may wish to visit some articles I wrote about planting other mixtures, CLICK HERE for articles on mixed plantings.

 

 

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?

Getting Things Ready For Spring.

I call it “Stuff.” It’s all the stuff you have to do to get ready to do some more stuff so that everything will be ready to do what you WANT to do. In making a garden work, timing is everything.

Over the last year and a half (more or less) I’ve been working off and on with a large property out in the country, trying to turn a special place into an even more special place. Joel loves his farm, and over the years he has planted a large number of daffodils. These, of course, have multiplied and later this spring we will need to divide them. I will need to find a place to plant thousands of them. I’ve always admired pictures of “drifts” of daffodils around a lake, so we’re cleaning out around a small lake to make room for a couple of thousand daffodils. Here’s part of the site:

I want to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs around the lake.

I want to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs around the lake.

To get ready for the bulbs, we have cleaned out the undergrowth, small saplings, and vines. The next thing I will do is to clean out the edge of the woods here and there. That’s been an ongoing project, but here’s the last section that we need to deal with.

Cleaning the edge of the woods will make room for even more daffodils

Cleaning the edge of the woods will make room for even more daffodils

On another day, I drive up to check out “stuff” on the mountain work site. There is a bit of winter damage that has to be taken care of. We took the time to cut back the loropetalums and some other plants so that they will grow out nicely in the warmer months to come.

loropetalums after pruning off winter damage

loropetalums after pruning off winter damage

Another project that I am watching is the re-surfacing of an old gunnite swimming pool.  Here is a picture of Christian Esme’ chipping the old plaster off in preparation for the application of something new and better.

Preparing pool for re-surfacing. Lovely view of the mountain

Preparing pool for re-surfacing. Lovely view of the mountain

This year’s stuff is much different than the stuff I dealt with last year.

The funny thing to me was that as I was pondering on what to write about today, I decided to look back at my articles for March of last year. There were none. While I was thinking about that, Dekie showed me the desk blotter calendar from March 2013. She figured that we had traveled 3500 miles to Emory and back for cancer treatments in just that one month. The dates marked with an X designate radiation treatments. March promises to be much more relaxed this year.

Desk calendar for March 2013. The dates marked X are the radiation treatments.

Desk calendar for March 2013. The dates marked X are the radiation treatments.

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?

How to build a portable rock garden

I published this article four years ago. I thought it would be a good time to dust it off and put it back up for my new readers.

Several years ago, I figured out how to build a portable rock garden.  The concept hit me when a client’s sister who was visiting from New York looked one of my large rock gardens and commented, “I wish I could take that home with me”.  I thought this was such a good idea that I went home and spent several days of experimentation and trial and error.  It felt really good to put my first specimen in the back seat of the lady’s car as she left to return home.

A truly portable rock garden.  Who would have thought it?

A truly portable rock garden. Who would have thought it?

I haven’t built one of these planters in several years, but I thought one would be a perfect birthday present for Bob Hicks.  Bob is one of those people who have two of everything—but he didn’t have one of these.  Here’s how you do it:

I started by gathering my materials.  I picked up some nice sandstone specimens from the side of a mountain road and found a suitable  piece of flagstone for the base (there are rock dealers all over the place these days).  I got some moss from the back yard where the grass won’t grow, and some smaller rocks from a friend’s driveway.

find just the right rocks

find just the right rocks

The rocks will be glued together with a polyurethane caulk.  You will need a tube of this and a caulking gun.  These are pretty inexpensive and one tube of caulk will do three or four gardens.  I have tried other types of caulk but have found that nothing will do better than polyurethane.  I use PL polyurethane construction adhesive.

A caulking gun and polyurethane caulk for an adhesive

A caulking gun and polyurethane caulk for an adhesive

Be sure to use newspapers or some kind of drop cloth.  The caulk is very hard to clean up.  I got some on my jeans a few years ago.  I still wear the jeans—the caulk is still there, also.

Begin by laying the decorative rocks out on the flat stone that will be the base.  Experiment and get the rocks just as you want them.  Some times it takes quite a bit of adjustment and experimentation.  Take your time.

rocks laid out to perfection.  I'm happy with this

rocks laid out to perfection. I’m happy with this

Cut the tip of the caulking tube about ½ inch from the end.  It works best if you cut it at an angle.  Use a nail or something like that to poke a hole through the seal at the bottom of the tip.  Insert the tube into the caulking gun and you are ready to go.  If you’ve never used a caulking gun, it may take a little experimentation but it is relatively easy.

Next, carefully turn each rock to the side and spread a bead of the caulk on the base.  When this is done, turn the rock back down on the base so that any excess glue will be pushed to the inside.  Mash the rock down good and hard and then try not to move it around any more. Go slowly and do one rock at a time.

Use enough adhesive, but not too much.  Squeeze to the inside

Use enough adhesive, but not too much. Squeeze to the inside

When the gluing is finished, it will be time for the hard part.  The hard part is that you must let the project dry and cure in a dry, warm location for a few days.  Waiting is always difficult for me, but if you get in a hurry, you will mess it up.

Now for the hard part--wait a few days

Now for the hard part–wait a few days

After the glue had dried, examine the project and look for little holes where dirt might run out and stuff little pieces of moss here and there to plug the holes.

plugging the leaks. Do this from the inside

plugging the leaks. Do this from the inside

Now it is time to plant.  You will need one larger accent plant.  I am using a jade plant that has been pruned following the directions in my previous post “The simple basics of pruning”.  Place the accent plant in the correct position—you will want to experiment.  The root ball of this plant should be up high in order to form a “terrace”.

try the plant in several different positions

try the plant in several different positions

Finish filling the planter with good potting soil.  Pack it in around the accent plant and water everything.  This will be a good time to wash off the excess dirt.

water it in and wash the rocks

water it in and wash the rocks

To keep the feeling of a true rock garden, I like to build terraces with smaller rocks.  Sometimes, if the shape and feel is right, I like to use aquarium gravel for a “river bed” or flat rocks for a “stepping stone path”. At this point, pack the dirt and the rocks in so they will stay.

Terraces make the finished product look better. Be an artist.

Terraces make the finished product look better. Be an artist.

After studying the garden, I have decided to enhance the Ikebana effect with a smaller plant in one of the crevasses.  I am using a haworthia here. This will give me a three tiered effect with the difference in elevations of the jade, the haworthia, and some moss. An essay on Ikebana will be the subject of a future post.

just for effect

just for effect

Now, I will pack moss on top of the soil and tuck it in around the rocks.  The moss will live well if misted on a regular basis.  The effect I am looking for is a woodland scene with the moss representing the garden floor.

oooh!  Pretty moss will finish it off

oooh! Pretty moss will finish it off

Here is the finished product ready to be watered in and set in a place of honor.

Water it in and clean it up.  Be sure to set it on a trivet to keep from scratching your table

Water it in and clean it up. Be sure to set it on a trivet to keep from scratching your table

Look at this.  Now Bob will come in for his birthday dinner, admire the planter, and we will say “happy birthday”.  The plants will grow well in good light with a weekly watering.  The moss will probably need misting every couple of days.  As the jade plant grows, proper pruning will enhance the bonsai effect.  Yay!! I’ve changed this picture from the original article because the rock garden–four years later– is visiting our house for a bit of R&R. Bob kept it alive for all that time

I first documented the building of this garden four years ago. It's still

I first documented the building of this garden four years ago. It’s still going strong.

For more adventures of johntheplantman, read “Requiem for a Redneck”, a novel by John P. Schulz.

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?

 

Build a Christmas Tree Watering Funnel

Poor Sweetie. She loves her Christmas tree but it’s wide and bushy and I found her trying to figure out how to get water into the Christmas tree stand.  John the Plant Man to the rescue

I found poor Sweetie down on her knees wondering how she would get water to the base of the Christmas tree

I found poor Sweetie down on her knees wondering how she would get water to the base of the Christmas tree

I waited around for a while to see what she would do and I walked in to see her perplexed.

"What do I do? This is getting to be complicated"

“What do I do? This is getting to be complicated”

So, I went to Ace Hardware and got a plastic funnel and a roll of Christmas Duct tape. It was rather difficult to find Christmas colored Duct tape but it was there. I found a piece of ¾ pvc pipe in my irrigation left overs.

A funnel, red duct tape, and a piece of pipe should do the job

A funnel, red duct tape, and a piece of pipe should do the job

Nothing like duct tape and pvc pipe. I couldn’t figure out anywhere to use WD-40 though, or I would of.

There's nothing like a bit of duct tape and a piece of pvc pipe.

There’s nothing like a bit of duct tape and a piece of pvc pipe.

It didn’t take much to find the hole in the Christmas tree stand that was meant for adding water

I thought I saw a hole in the Christmas tree stand made just for this here pipe.

I thought I saw a hole in the Christmas tree stand made just for this here pipe.

It worked!! Sweetie can add water to the Christmas tree easily. The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to keep from getting too much water.  In case you’re wondering, Dekalb is the name of a hybrid corn and it is also Sweetie’s name—the one they get “Dekie” from.

It works and Sweetie is happy. Now I can go back to solving the Middle East crisis.

It works and Sweetie is happy. Now I can go back to solving the Middle East crisis.

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.

What Happened to My Pretty Christmas Plant?

For the past few years, at Christmas time, The Home Depot here in Rome, Georgia (and I assume elsewhere) has been stocking some impressive Christmas plants. These come in the form of well-grown and healthy rosemary and “Stone pine” plants. Here’s a picture of the display

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

To my way of thinking, these plants are a bargain in that they will perform well in outdoor planters for the winter, they will give a Christmas feeling to their location, and with care, they will live for years.  But…But…They will not maintain their shape for years.

The plants that we bought at Home Depot have been carefully shaped as they grew so that they would end up looking like a Christmas tree. This doesn’t mean that they will always grow in that shape—that is, not unless they are properly pruned to maintain their shape. The process uses the principles developed in the growing of Bonsai plants.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients—I’ll call her Susan because that’s her name—asked me, “What happened to my Christmas plants that I put on the front porch last year?” I went around front to check them out and this is what I saw:

After a year the stone pine had lost it's Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

After a year the stone pine had lost it’s Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

Here’s the analysis: 1.The dead that you see in the tree is a natural replacement of needles that we see in any pine tree. 2. the wild looking growth coming from the top of the plant is the natural growth of the plant. I told Susan that with cleaning and pruning the trees could be brought back into shape within a year but with Christmas approaching she made me a gift of them. I’m going to have fun with those trees. I’ll guarantee it.

I was given a couple more of those trees about three years ago and I stuck them in the back of my “plant hospital”. I had gotten one of them out some time around the first of September after three years of total neglect. The stone pine was about five feet tall and strung out all over the place. I’m going to make a wild topiary out of it, so I cut the tips and cleaned it up. A month and a half later the tips look like this

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

I’m sure that the stone pine has to be one of the most bonsai-friendly plants ever and I’m going to work on my collection and report back next Christmas.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, your assignment is to read the following suggested articles on pruning and start your own plant-shaping experiment. What plant will you start with? Let me know

Turn overgrown plants into nice topiaries

Pruning For Betty, Japanese Maples, Topiaries, and Bonsai

Pruning an overgrown topiary

And one of my most popular articles:

Pruning as an Art Form—The Basics of Pruning

 

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.

D’Ann’s Garden—Raised beds with brick borders to grow perennials

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.

10 steps for seeding a new fescue lawn in the fall

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.

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?

How to Install a Near Perfect Sod Job– Part Two

21 steps to installing a perfect sod job This is part two of a series. To start at the beginning click here for Near Perfect Sod Job—part one. This article is written in answer to many questions about sod installation. In the entire article you will find 21 steps to installing a good sod job. A good beginning is the key to laying the sod. I always try to find the longest straight line in the project and begin there. If you keep a straight line it reduces trimming and all of the pieces fit. To begin, don’t worry about any curves, they will be trimmed out later.

The best start for the sod job is a straight line. The pieces should be placed as tightly together as you can get them.

The best start for the sod job is a straight line. The pieces should be placed as tightly together as you can get them.

When starting the second line of sod, set the pieces in so that the seams will hit the middle of those in the center row. It’s kind of like laying bricks. The piece on the right shown in this picture will be pulled up snug to the offset piece on the left. Don’t worry about the overhang, it will be trimmed off later.

The best start for the sod job is a straight line. The pieces should be placed as tightly together as you can get them.

The best start for the sod job is a straight line. The pieces should be placed as tightly together as you can get them.

Pay attention to sprinkler heads and any other underground items that need to stick up. Go ahead and deal with these items as you go. It’s easier that way

Be sure to deal with sprinkler heads as you come to them. It's much easier at this point

Be sure to deal with sprinkler heads as you come to them. It’s much easier at this point

Here’s what the sprinkler head should look like after the sod is installed:

I like to take a razor knife and carefully trim the grass around the sprinkler head. Doing it as you go makes the job easier

I like to take a razor knife and carefully trim the grass around the sprinkler head. Doing it as you go makes the job easier

There are a number of tools to be used for trimming sod. Here is my collection. I have butcher knives, box cutters, and a hatchet. I try to keep them sharp.

Cutting tools for trimming sod

When trimming curves and other spaces in the new sod, you will find a need for several different kinds of cutting tools

Some people like to trim sod with a hatchet—especially in open areas.

A hatchet works well to trim sod in an open area if you have a strong arm

A hatchet works well to trim sod in an open area if you have a strong arm

My preference for trimming sod is a box cutter knife with a clean, sharp blade.  This tool is excellent for trimming to the concrete edge.

A razor knife (or box cutter) is an ideal tool for trimming newly installed sod next to

A razor knife (or box cutter) is an ideal tool for trimming newly installed sod next to concrete borders

While laying and trimming the sod, we try to use the pieces cut from one spot to fill another spot. It’s kind of like a jig saw puzzle. Figuring the pieces out is also fun – on a certain level.

Use scraps from the sod trimming to fill open spaces--just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Use scraps from the sod trimming to fill open spaces–just like a jigsaw puzzle.

After the sod is laid and trimmed it should be watered enough to moisten it but not to get it really wet. When it is moist the roller should be run over it several times. This will mash the sod pieces down so that the roots will come in good contact with the ground and it will also make the job smooth.

Running a water filled roller over the sod makes it smooth and nice. It also mashes the sod roots down on the ground.

Running a water filled roller over the sod makes it smooth and nice. It also mashes the sod roots down on the ground.

The final part of the job is to water the sod well and then stand back and admire your handiwork. The seams between the pieces will grow together in a week or two.

The final task of the sod job is to water and then stand back and admire the finished product.

The final task of the sod job is to water and then stand back and admire the finished product.

You should water the newly installed grass every day for 3-4 days and then every other day for a week or so. At this point, the roots should be growing into the ground (you can lift a corner and check it). Once the grass starts growing, watering well once or twice a week should suffice—it all depends on the weather. 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?   Thanks for stopping by to see John the Plant Man.