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Archive for the ‘plant and garden how to’ Category

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?

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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. You can purchase the Kindle version here

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

 

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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.

 

Thanks for stopping by to see John the Plant Man.

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A Redneck Garden in August

I had to go see my mother over the weekend of July 4 and I’m going to cheat and re-post this article from a couple of years ago.  Enjoy.

Bud is proud to be a redneck.  He grew up on a farm on Sand Mountain, Alabama and moved to town for work a number of years ago.  One day I showed Bud some of my blog posts and he said, “Why don’t you show them folks a redneck garden?”  I agreed with him that this would be a good idea, so here it is

Bud checks out the rabbits across the road.
Bud checks out the rabbits across the road.

I showed up to find Bud weed eating his front bank on a 95 degree afternoon.  He had seen something in the woods across the street.  He turned off his weed eater and looked up to see me and said, “They’s a bunch of rabbits over there.  I’m going to have me some good Brunswick stew this winter.  You wait and see.”

We talked a few minutes about how he should prune his ten foot tall and wide knockout rose, and then, he said, “bring that there camera down back and I’ll show you my real garden.”  We walked around the house and I saw the vegetable garden at the bottom of the hill.  It is about a 30 by 30 foot area prepared by using cross ties and filled with a good compost I had gotten him a couple of years ago.

I looked down the hill at the raised vegetable garden.
I looked down the hill at the raised vegetable garden.

The crossties hold everything together, and the compost is well mulched with wood chips that were provided free by a local tree surgeon.  The tree surgeon was happy to have a place to dump the chips and Bud was glad to get them.  “The chips really hold in the moisture” he said, “and that there dirt keeps on getting better and better every year. I add a little manure every time I take a notion to, but I make sure it is well rotted.”

Crossties hold in the compost. Note the mulch of wood chips.
Crossties hold in the compost. Note the mulch of wood chips.

On the east side of the garden is a seven foot high trellis of beans. They sort of form a back “wall” for the project.  Bud said they are “Blue Lake Runners” and that they produce until they freeze and that, “it takes a really good freeze to kill them.”  I asked where all the beans were and he said, “Helen picks everything every day and puts them up.  The more you pick, the more you get.  Look at them vines, they’re still blooming.  That means more and more beans.”

Beans.  Blue Lake Runners produce until they freeze if you keep them picked.
Beans. Blue Lake Runners produce until they freeze if you keep them picked.

The tomato plants have a good bit of dried up leaves low and inside, but the tops are a lush green with lots of flowers.  Bud had already picked me a bagfull of tomatoes and peppers because “I knowed you was coming.”

Tomatoes will keep producing all summer if you keep the tomatoes picked.
Tomatoes will keep producing all summer if you keep the tomatoes picked.

The peppers were loaded with fruits ranging from dark green to dark red.  I took a big bite of a beautiful jalapeno and smiled as the top of my head broke out in sweat, allowing the warm breeze to cool me off.  I was told that there were four kinds of Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers almost ready for harvest
Cayenne peppers almost ready for harvest

I noticed a lot of lush and beautiful sweet banana peppers.  Bud said, “If you plant the hot and the mild peppers together, the sweet bananas get a little heat to them.  That makes them better when we make our year’s supply of ‘chow chow’ next month. I just naturally got to have chow chow with my black eyed peas and hog jowl.”

Sweet banana peppers are an essential for chow chow.
Sweet banana peppers are an essential for chow chow.

I saw some young okra plants and was told that they would probably produce a crop of late okra if the heat held up.

Young okra plants in August.
Young okra plants in August.

Bud had given me a carton of “aigs” not long ago that looked like Easter eggs.  They were all kinds of different colors and almost too pretty to eat.  When I cooked them and ate them, they didn’t taste the same as the ones from the grocery store.  Bud has fresh eggs all the time.  The chickens were hiding in the shade.

The chickens were hiding in the shade
The chickens were hiding in the shade

I got to thinking and I asked, “What do you do with all of the produce?  We’re talking a lot of food here.”  He grinned and took me to one of his sheds.  I walked inside and looked around. I was impressed to say the least.

I couldn't believe the racks of preserved vegetables and fruits.
I couldn’t believe the racks of preserved vegetables and fruits.

Bud pointed to a stack of boxes.  “Every morning, Helen comes in here and gets a couple of empty boxes.  Every evening, when I come home from work, I carry the full boxes out here from the house and try to find a place to put the jars.” He pointed to one jar which radiated bright yellow, “look at that pickled yaller squash.  I love that stuff. We got enough food here to last the winter without going to the store much.  We give a lot of it away, too.”

"We ain't gonna go hungry.  We give away what we can't eat."
“We ain’t gonna go hungry. We give away what we can’t eat.”

Bud grinned and said, “remember the other day when I told you about all them catfish me and the grandyounguns caught up in the pocket?  Lookie here.”  He opened the freezer and showed me bag after bag of filleted catfish.  “We’re gonna have us one more fish fry one day pretty soon.” The freezer was packed with meats and vegetables from the current season.

"I'm gonna have me a big fish fry one day.  Nothing is better than these here catfish fillets all fried up"
“I’m gonna have me a big fish fry one day. Nothing is better than these here catfish fillets all fried up”

If you follow this blog you will know that I always go looking for garden art.  Bud’s yard contained an interesting collection.  I asked about the little boy with no hands and Bud said, “Wa’al, them rich folks always have old stuff that’s kindly broken.  I figured I could have some, too.  I might get around to gluing them hands on one day, I reckon…well, maybe.”

"I'm gonna glue them hands back on one day....maybe"
“I’m gonna glue them hands back on one day….maybe”

The front porch is graced by a pair of almost welcoming cement dogs.  I kind of liked the idea of a big old dog bringing momma a basket of flowers.

A front porch sentry with a touch of class.  "I brought you these flowers, ma'am."
A front porch sentry with a touch of class. “I brought you these flowers, ma’am.”

There have been a lot of conversations around a pitcher of sweet tea held on this shady front porch.  Bud says, “come on by and set a spell.”

A nice front porch.  "Y'all come set a spell and have some sweet tea, Y'hear?"
A nice front porch. “Y’all come set a spell and have some sweet tea, Y’hear?”

In the winter month, Bud said he grows, “turnip greens, radishes, spinach, carrots, beets, collards, English peas, and lots of other stuff.  It is a year-round garden.”

A couple of years ago when I was writing my book, Bud and I had a lot of discussions on the topic of “just what is a redneck.”  He helped me immensely with my research. One of the characters in the book that came from our conversations is Louann. Everyone who read the book loved Louann. To read about her, --CLICK HERE

I hope you enjoyed the garden tour.  This garden shows that all you need is some scrounging ability, a little hard work, and a big grin to be successful with your garden.

***************

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here: http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/Try “see inside the book”

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When setting out to manage flower bed weeds in a rural area, one must always think ahead. Lots of surrounding pasture land makes for lots of weeds and weed seeds. Here in the southeast U.S. (Rome, Georgia) I think the most difficult weed is Bermuda grass which creeps on underground stems and cannot be controlled by pulling.  I always say, “the more you pull the more you get.”

It was not stated in any exact words but I was hired by one of my clients to make sense of a large yard for a wonderful couple who dearly love growing all kinds of plants. I have been working on the project one or two days a week for almost a year now.  Things are beginning to work out.

One of the projects I was asked to deal with was a large bed with over a thousand day lily and iris plants that were totally hidden by weeds and would not perform. Last year it looked something like this:

Day lilies planted without regard to weed control perform poorly.

Day lilies planted without regard to weed control perform poorly.

I watched the bed and thought about it. Every time I went to the farm I walked up and down the bed thinking about it. As the year progressed into winter most of the weeds and day lilies died back for a spell.

The first part of February I said, “It is time.” The weeds were dead and the day lilies were poking their heads out of the soil enough for us to find them. It took some time but we dug up a lot of the day lily and iris plants carefully removing all of the weeds and dirt from the roots. I had a truck load of my favorite compost delivered by Mike the dirt man. Over the years I have gathered a small mountain of flower pots—well, at least a foot hill worth of them—so we took a truck load of pots and used the compost to plant the carefully cleaned iris and day lilies.

We laid the plants out on black plastic and I spread a granular pre-emergent herbicide to stop seeds from germinating. The pots looked like this in May:

day lily and iris plants cleaned and ready to plant in the garden

day lily and iris plants cleaned and ready to plant in the garden

The vegetable garden on the property is rather large and has a fence all the way around it. I decided to install a part of the new flower bed along the fence. This would give us a background for the flower bed and would also end the necessity for weed-eating the garden border. I marked the flower bed with my paint gun, put down a pre-emergent, and started spraying.

The weeds were about gone in April but the Bermuda grass was just beginning to grow. I knew better than to plant the garden until I had dealt with that problem. Bermuda grass loves heat and the season was slow to heat up. It was probably about the middle of June before I was satisfied that I had the dreaded Bermuda grass under control. The weed-free dirt looked like this:

The weeds and especially the Bermuda grass are under control and the bed is ready to be planted.

The weeds and especially the Bermuda grass are under control and the bed is ready to be planted.

As far as the dirt in this garden is concerned, I believe that it is alluvial topsoil deposited a million years ago by the CoosaRiver and it is very nice to dig and plant in. In March we installed a very simple irrigation system along the fence line.

I decided that since the plants were potted in compost, all I had to do was add some time release fertilizer as we planted. I laid the plants out carefully so that they were spaced just right.

The plants are arranged carefully and ready to be planted exactly where they sit.

The plants are arranged carefully and ready to be planted exactly where they sit.

After a few hours of cheerful work, the plants were in the ground. All we have to do now is pick up the pots and mulch the bed with wood chips which I will hopefully obtain from my tree surgeon friend. I will then have to keep the border of the bed sprayed to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping in and check regularly for new weeds, getting them out before they get a good start.

 

iris and day lilies planted in a weed-free flower bed.

iris and day lilies planted in a weed-free flower bed.

I think next year we will intersperse a planting of oriental lilies in the bed. That will be nice.

Another project on this same property is the “country formal” cutting garden that is designed for easy maintenance—especially weed control. To see it, click on Country formal cutting garden

An update on the “country formal” cutting garden is here

Planting tulips in the “country formal” garden click here

Thanks for visiting johntheplantman.

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A weed is defined as a plant that is in the wrong place. Pulling weeds in the garden can be a wonderful Zen-like experience but sometimes the job transcends meditation and it becomes time to spray.

Kill Virginia creeper with Roundup

If one is careful, weeds may be removed from the garden by spraying

I am often asked if spraying weeds in the garden will kill the desirable plants.  My answer is, “Not if you are careful.”  Here are some tips and techniques:

Equipment: I like to use a one gallon pump sprayer.  There are a lot of different pump sprayers on the market but this is the easiest one for me to handle.  Always make sure that the sprayer has an adjustable nozzle.

one gallon pump sprayer

I find the one gallon pump sprayer the easiest to use overall.

For smaller applications a hand-held trigger sprayer may be used. Trigger sprayers are available at a hardware store and they are cheap.

Using a trigger sprayer with Image to kill nut grass.

Using a trigger sprayer with Image to kill nut grass.

The number one chemical for spraying weeds is Roundup.  This chemical is available in a number of concentrations but for the best buy, look at the label and find the product that contains 43% glyphosphate.  Since the patent for the chemical has become public domain, there are a lot of different names to purchase this chemical under.  Ask a nurseryman.

label for glyphosphate--a widely used weed killer

label for glyphosphate–a widely used weed killer

Read the label and observe the precautions. Mix the chemical as directed.

If you plan to spray large areas, you will want to set the nozzle on the pump sprayer to an open spray pattern.  The adjustment is found by tightening and loosening the brass (sometimes plastic) nozzle at the end of the spray wand.  For close work in the garden, I like to set the spray pattern to a jet stream like one would get with a child’s water pistol.

When killing weeds, the sprayer nozzle may be adjusted to different patterns.

When killing weeds, the sprayer nozzle may be adjusted to different patterns.

With the nozzle set properly I can walk around the garden and spray the undesirable vegetation without harming my pretty flowers and shrubs.  Sometimes, if things are really close, I will place a piece of cardboard between the weeds and the good stuff.

By being careful, one may  kill the weeds without hurting the flowers.

By being careful, one may kill the weeds without hurting the flowers.

When dealing with weeds that grow as vines, I have found that pulling them is counter-productive.  What shows up as a green vine on top of the ground is usually also a brown vine beneath the ground. If you pull off the top, the underground part will branch out and send up even more shoots than you have pulled.  It is much better to spray the vine.

If the vine is growing in desirable vegetation, I like to unwind some of the tips and lay them out on the ground or where I won’t get the chemical on the desirable plants. Then I spray the tips and green growth.

Lay a vine out from desirable material and spray the foliage.

Lay a vine out from desirable material and spray the foliage.

Nut grass can be a problem in the garden because the more you pull the more you get.

Nut grass is hard to eradicate.  The more you pull the more you get.

Nut grass is hard to eradicate. The more you pull the more you get.

Roundup won’t touch nut grass but another chemical will. Image, if used properly, will kill the nut grass in your lawn without harming the grass.

Image--A specific chemical for getting rid of nut grass


Image–A specific chemical for getting rid of nut grass

Always remember to be careful when using these chemicals. Read the label and follow instructions. Clean up and store chemicals properly.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man.

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