Sunday
Mar132016

The Garden Awakens

The Garden awakens.March brings color back to the landscape, and I wander about, exclaiming over each new sight as though I had thought the dreary monochromes of winter would last forever. Spring is not completely entrenched yet. There are still many bare branches, but every day brings more plants out of their slumber. With a last frost date of April 15, we could still have freezing temps to spoil it all, but I hope not! 

I took all of these images today:Clockwise from top left: Loropetalum; Variegated Winter Daphne in pot under old camellia bush; Unidentified camellia bloom; Azalea Karume 'Coral Bells'

Forsythia blooms were disappointing this year. We had unusually warm weather at Christmas, and many shrubs began to bloom then, only to soon have the flower buds killed by frost. This happened to forsythias, azaleas and even dogwoods, so their performance this spring has been affected. 

The above two images are of mushrooms I found in the front garden.

The camellia blooming in all these woodland garden photos is called Gunsmoke.

By next week there should be even more dramatic changes in the landscape. Get ready for the garden party!

Sunday
Mar062016

Frustration

Have you ever proceeded into a project, only to be conquered by frustration?

I generally avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. I like to use methods and products that support the health of the whole eco system. I want any animal or child to be safe to play on the grass. Did you know that 1 in 3 dogs will come down with cancer? We gardeners often are concerned about protecting our plants from dogs and other critters, but instead it is more likely that our domestic pets or desirable wildlife such as birds, butterflies and bees will be harmed by chemicals we use on plants in our gardens.

For years I have used an organic weed and feed type fertilizer, whose primary ingredient is corn gluten. I applied it to the lawn with a drop spreader twice a year, and I have been happy with the results. 

Nevertheless, it was not available locally, so I had to pay a high shipping fee on top of the cost of the product. This year I determined to buy a local alternative. It was easy to find a good organic fertilizer, but the pre-emergent was harder. Finally I located a corn gluten product designed to be applied with a hose end sprayer. That seemed easy, and it was on sale! I bought a couple of bottles.

I had been happily applying the product for about fifteen minutes when I realized it was not being sucked up by the delivery system. I put the bottle down and went to turn the hose off so I could investigate the problem.

This outside faucet is original to my old house, and when I turned the faucet handle to shut it off, the thing exploded. I gasped as water hit me full in the face, and then I stood in shock under the geyser spraying out into the yard. 

Husbands are good for this sort of emergency. Lou shut off the water to the house, then was able to cap off the broken faucet. It was late in the day and I was soaked, so I decided to wait till the next morning to finish the corn gluten application.

A new day. It was gorgeous! I made a mental list of things to accomplish in the garden, beginning with a few minutes to apply the corn gluten. I attached the hose to another faucet and began the process. I soon realized the delivery problem from the evening before had not magically fixed itself. The product had apparently congealed in the bottom of the bottle while sitting on the shelf. Lou dumped it out into another container and vigorously stirred it until it appeared normal. He put it back in the hose end sprayer, and problem solved. We thought.

Four hours later I was in a nasty mood, and Lou and I were snarling at each other. I was still trying to apply the corn gluten, which refused to stay in solution, no matter how much shaking or stirring. I had abandoned the sprayer that came with it and used my own sprayer, which also clogged quickly but at least I could clean it. Lou kept telling me to just dump the stuff out. Finally, I gave up. 

There was still a lot of it in the bucket that Lou had used for stirring. I picked the container up with the intent to toss its contents on a group of weeds out front. I was walking across the patio when the handle to the bucket broke, and the whole mess of orange gritty corn gluten solution splashed over me and into my shoes, then spread across the patio.

After the fact, I checked reviews online about my particular corn gluten product. Every single review mentioned a problem with the delivery system. I read the same frustration I had experienced. How many folks who try this product will go back to artificial chemicals? Next time I will pay the shipping costs for my previous organic weed and feed, if I can't find a good local alternative. 

Later, I sat on the arbor swing as I sipped a cup of coffee and listened to the birds. I felt the stress leaving my body. It was, in fact, a gorgeous day.