GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “gardening”

The Need For SPEED(y) Organic Weed Control

“How do I get rid of weeds in my garden?”

This is probably the most common question I get on my blog, website, and Facebook page, usually coming from someone wanting to garden organically and frustrated there’s not a fast, easy recipe for weed elimination. It’s sort of like my inability to lose a few pounds. It’s not truly an inability. I want an easy way without having to change anything. A shortcut. My problem is not the weight. I need to change my entire approach. A healthier lifestyle. Organic gardening only works when the approach is a healthier garden; not just organic plants but an organic environment, one where nature is in balance. There’s no short -or HORTcut. It’s simple, but not easy. And there will be weeds.

What are weeds anyway? One person’s weed is often another person’s flower.

Or even food.

Since I’m a wildflower fanatic and native plant lover who also tries to grow as much food as possible for us and wildlife, I look at it a bit askew.  For me, a weed’s a plant I’ve not found a use for yet that’s trying to crowd out one that I have found useful. George Washington Carver said, “A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.” Many of our weeds have BECOME WEEDS because they are non-native, invasive species. But how do you make sure you have the plants you want in the right places? Here are 3 tips I’ve found to low-maintenance organic gardening that might help.

  • CHECK IT OUT. What and where are the weeds plaguing your garden? Use the weeds as your clue. Dogged by dollarweed ? It LOVES wet spots. Nutty from nutgrass/sedge? It’s kissing cousins to papyrus and other sedges that – like dollarweed – prefer to have wet feet.  By identifying your weed first, you should be on the right track to taming the beast.
  • CHANGE IT UP. If your weeds are moisture hogs, adding a bit of sand to improve drainage might do the trick, raising the soil level just enough to make the weeds less comfortable. If your particular genre of weed loves shade, open the canopy of the area by removing lower tree limbs. If it’s a sun lover, pile on the mulch or mow the grass higher, making it difficult to find its way to the sunshine.
  • CHOKE IT OUT. Some weeds are prolific because they can. If weeds are in your lawn, make sure your grass is fat and happy by adding composted materials and sufficient water. If they’re taking root in a flowerbed, heavy mulch (I use pine straw since I live in a pine forest) should do the trick. Having shrubs and perennials spaced at proper intervals leaves no open range for weeds. Having raised beds often alleviates weed issues, too.  I use several methods to remove weeds in beds, including old-fashioned weeding (I have a special tool for this), hot water, or vinegar – depending on where it is and the time of year. I’ll save these for another post.

Nature truly abhors a vacuum.  So the key to successful organic gardening is filling the space with what you choose, not what chooses to grow there. The other key? Tolerance for nature. It’s pretty natural, after all. And certainly organic.

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TransPLANTed…AGAIN!

Yes, I’m a gypsy. No sooner than I’ve completed the last project on my to-do list (and hubby’s done with his honey-do list),  and I develop an acute itch only cured by priming the ZILLOW app on my iPhone. Hubby recognizes that dazed look on my face. He’s come to hate that look.

Last spring, hubby retired. We decided we’d live at our farm during the week (a 2 1/2-hour drive away) heading back to an apartment on The Waterway for weekends so we don’t miss grandkids or church. Sounds like a perfect retirement plan, right: no-maintenance living on one end, never-ending on the other. After all, I can write from anywhere with an internet connection. Lots of people do that. It’s called tele-pathetic work, I think.

But, God…He not only has a big BUT, He’s got an impeccable sense of comedic timing. The second day out on our retirement road trip to Yosemite, we got a call that could not have come from anywhere except above. So my hubby took the job and I took to ZILLOW. Again. The farm will continue as a weekend hobby for now.

Apparently, my plants have a touch of gypsy, too. Neighbors (of numerous houses) swear they’ve witnessed shrubs and perennials in my yard lift their skirts…uh…er…ROOTS when they see me coming with a shovel. The home we bought THIS time was a rental property for several years. It had good bones; however, a few were brittle, the rest broken. So here I come with my shovel.

shrubface

Want a happy face on your shrubs? Transplant at the right time!

We straddle the Texas Gulf Coast and the Pineywoods here. Our weather is somewhat temperate. Also somewhat temperamental, but that’s for another post. The best time to re-do a landscape is our version of winter, which actually translates as less-hot-than-other-seasons. People who hate cold come live here in the winter, probably in this house till we rescued it. Heat’s the nemesis rather than cold when it comes to gardening here. And snowbirding, too, come to think of it. I guess plants and people are a lot alike when it comes to weather – we both hate both ends of the spectrum.

 

So if you’re like me, always itching to move, my hubby recommends a shovel rather than a U-Haul. He also recommends keeping an auxiliary honey-do list in emergencies. Got your shovel and ready to move? Here are some to-dos for the gypsy plants on your list. Also, check out my friend Skip Richter’s YouTube on digging up the root ball.

transplant.jpg

Root prune plants before moving. I love my sharp shooter shovel because of the no-slip spot for my foot. It’s made by Fiskars. (I received no $ for saying this, or even a discount, by golly!)

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Anti-resolutions

This year has begun the same way last year ended: I’m behind.

My intentions – like that of most other bloggers – are pretty straightforward. Most of us try and get a new post up every couple of weeks, if not weekly. My record does not reflect my intentions.

Yes, it’s been a crazy year… near death for my sweetie… a move…  grad school in another state … a new book out (well, sort of two books since it’s in TWO EDITIONS with different information in each)… me two surgeries and then surgery on two relatives that required travel and care for a week each… our 1st grandbaby born.  Is my year any different from anyone else’s, though? Have you overheard someone exclaim, “this year was so calm. I’m bored” ?I know I haven’t!

So rather than promise change, I’m gonna make a different kind of promise to you and to myself, an ANTI-RESOLUTION of sorts. (Did you know they have an APP for that, too?) I’m predicting unpredictable flurries of activity on this site, with random silences. There will be no pattern seen by the naked eye. Or even by the bespectacled one, for that matter. If I get lots of landscaping questions (usually in the spring and fall), you will see lots of posts. If I don’t, you probably won’t. What I’m saying is the frequency depends on YOU, not me, this year. This is not to put a guilt trip on anyone. It’s kind of like when my girls don’t call, I assume all is well.

When you DON’T get a call from your kids, is that 1 degree of separation from Kevin Bacon?

I do have many garden-blogging friends who report in a regular fashion. Some even posted their New Year’s gardening resolutions. Not me.

If you have a problem in your garden, or don’t; need some organic lawn care advice, or don’t; have a photo of something you need identified, or don’t;  need some life encouragement, or want to offer encouragement to others, let me know. If I don’t hear a peep, neither will you. c:

Another gardening blog?

My dad, Dr. Bob Foster, with me at 18 months old.

Growing up with a gardening parent, I recognize my good fortune.  My childhood was spent soaking in Dad’s knowledge of the natural world, although at the time I looked at it as “work.”  Thankfully, by the time I started my own family, that changed.  The hours spent doing gardening chores as a kid paid out even before we saved up to buy our 1st house.  My dorm window was filled with ivies and aloe veras, items Dad deemed as necessary as a good reading lamp.  My apartment balconies (and there were several) were dotted with small pots of color and crop and greenery.  Every corner inside that boasted even a tiny sliver of sunshine hosted a variegated airplane plant.  Every corner that sat in darkness gained a mother-in-law’s tongue.  And when my daughters left for college, I made sure they not only had underwear, but also their ivies and aloe veras.  Hopefully, they now believe themselves lucky for having grown up with gardening parents.

With a generation now nesting raised with blow ‘n go, hire it done lawns, many find themselves horticulturally ignorant when striking out on their own, no experience to call on when the desire comes to build an Eden for themselves.  (My belief is that we are ALL built to be gardeners, designed with an Eden-sized hole in our psyche.  More and more, scientific data is backing up that theory.) And although I lap up a treatise on gardening like a thirsty dog, I realize my propensity for a nightstand stacked with landscaping literature is not necessarily a normal thing.  Especially for NEW gardeners, bite sized rather than force feeding the whole apple at once makes it easier to manage without choking.  So anyone looking for a few morsels to help them get started, this is your table!  Each entry of GardenDishes will serve a HIT and a MYTH: a plant or suggestion that, as a professional landscape designer I’ve found tasty, and a landscaping lie that we’ll toss into the compost heap for good.  If YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TIP OR GARDENING QUESTION, please send it to me along with a photo.  If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does.  My daddy is still just a phone call away.

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