Word To The Wise

Do you wait around for the last minute to put your gardens to bed for the winter? That may not be the best thing to do this year. Winter seems to be fast approaching in many areas, and Ohio might get cold quickly. In 2013, the deep cold came with the Thanksgiving holiday, and in 2014 many gardeners are complaining that the temperatures are dropping earlier than usual.

What sort of delays did I rue in the past?

  1. I especially regret leaving out a large pot all winter a couple years ago. It filled with water and froze. Made of resin, I was lulled into believing it would be immune to frost cracking. Not so.  I will be putting all my large pots in a frost free garage environment in the next couple weeks.
  2. Most years I forget until too late to strike starts from some of my tender pot plants. It is already late in the season, but hard frost hasn't impacted the garden quite yet. I hope to preserve some of the geraniums in a sunny window this year. I might have some Swedish ivy, too.
  3. Forgetting to collect some seed, thinking the plants would reseed themselves. They don't always.
  4. Picking up the leaves completely. Well. I don't seem to be able to do that perfectly in this very large yard, but the better I do this job, the better I feel in January. That is the time when loose leaves are matted under snow, sometimes getting free and blowing about the yard, but mostly making problems around my plants.
  5. Cutting back the Pyracantha. I like to keep the berries for the birds, but the branches have gotten out of hand from delaying the proper pruning. I need to remember that.
Those are some of the top five delays I am personally guilty of, but if you leave out hoses until they freeze to to ground, forget to put away outdoor furniture and cushions, or find frozen leftover bulbs on the back porch (I have done that one too!) you may want to compile your own list of fall chores.

Planting Bulbs

I haven't planted any bulbs this year because I have been away so much. Some years I buy loads of them and then it seems I go into a frenzy of planting.

The fact that this job can be delayed until the ground freezes hard sometimes creates complacency. But when I think of the miserable weather that I have sometimes endured to accomodate my procrastination, I shudder. Shudder with memories of cold and wet.

Contrast that with thoughts of the crisp and sunny days of mid-October, when it is a delight to sit in the yard, leisurely putting the bulbs to bed for winter, awaiting a burst of spring bloom.

Now that is the way to plant bulbs!

So Much To Do

This year I need to ready my bird feeders, gather up the fallen apples, perhaps build a better compost area. I decided I want to store my tools the right way this winter: cleaned, sharpened, oiled, and hanging in their places.

A word to the wise is to get busy on all these things... because soon the cold will settle in to stay. And I do believe it will be early this year.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

The Growing Season Review

July looked best

You know how people like to summarize their year during December and especially at the turn of the year? Well, this is that time for Gardeners.

Premature you say? For me, I will yet again be absent from my garden and al that remains for me to do this year is planting and preparing for the next spring. The vegetable gardening will consist mainly of cleanup, and for some reason I am anticipating an early frost and onset of cold.

Every year for the past 7 or 8, I have been saying, promising, vowing to stay with my garden during the growing season. To be there when it most needs me, during planting in the spring, early summer weeding, and late summer harvest, and early fall planting.

I said that, and planned it in this year, 2014, as well.

What happened? I have little to report on except for what I didn't do during the last part of the summer. My raised vegetable beds went to seed, the self seeded tomatoes took over the kitchen garden. And thistle invaded and made itself at home in the driveway beds.

Everywhere in my garden, the signs of neglect mock and jeer at my former promise of taking care of my garden plots this year.

Again, far more than any previous year, I put priority on spending my time in Atlanta with children and grandchildren. Not sorry, but having to pay the piper when it comes to many of my own plans. I have been there for more than two months over the summertime, in two visits.

The determination to make final headway in decluttering had also pushed aside the call of the flower beds, tending to trees and shrubs, and tidying the garden. And oh, I had started so enthusiastically, so diligently.

Yet, the inside of the house received far more of my time and efforts this summer. I managed to make real progress, and that is something I can't regret! Cleared and renovated two bedrooms, cleared half the attic and assorted other spaces were given a lick and a promise.
Overgrown canes of Scotch roses and poison ivy were removed from the side of the house. what you don't see are the piles of branches removed for the burn pile and the strands of poison ivy that was removed to what I call the "rot pile".

What Do You Consider Success?

  • Are you happy to make headway on resolutions, or do you give up after giving it the old college try?
  • Do you need to attain perfection?   Does all else bow to the demand of this perfect accomplishment?
  • Do you tailor your life to smaller goals, so that the final results look better and the work is easier?
We probably all fluctuate between these three perspectives on success. Where we camp probably makes the finished picture.

In The Garden

Nature does not wait for our convenience, and fills in our absence with plantings and growth of its own making.

I would call this a year of mixed results and outcomes, in the garden and in life. But being an individual of rosy far-sighted vision,  I tend to make my decisions and priorities based on my belief that the short term sacrifices for long term goals will make the best choices. A year of weeds or even a decade of second class gardening is worth the exchange of showing the people in my life that they matter.

We each live with the choices we make, and spend the resources we have. The way that balances out in measurable benefit is not always discernable to those outside our own experience. I believe we must make our peace with that fact.

....And there is always next year.

Successes in My Garden

  • Cucumbers! I grew lovely, delicious cukes this year.
  • Sunflowers and wildflowers. The sunflowers reseeded, and american Meadows supplied seed for some pretty wildflower patches.
  • Trimmed and kept a few areas of the garden well, they will be easy to renovate this fall.
  • Had pretty Spring flowers.
  • Cleared long neglected side garden of poison ivy and overgrowth this past June/July
  • Enjoyed some of the loveliest summer weather in memory, here in Ohio.
  • Removed winter losses without too much sorrow.
Failures are many. Most are of the omission type.

The Beauty Bush came into its own in June
There were small joys here and there, heucheras!

pink petunias by the driveway

loved the pinks

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

The Down And Dirty Weeding Tool List

The Bare Essentials

Some essentials when brand new
I've done a lot of tweeting and writing about weeding this season. There are a couple of reasons for that including the unusually wonderful weather (from my perspective, anyway), and my desire to have my yard look like I actually garden, despite many trips to visit the children and grandchildren.

The weather: It has been a cool summer with plenty of rain. That means everything stayed in growth mode and I was able to continue working outside. When heat and humidity skyrocket I hide in my airconditioned room ( we have 1) and write. 

The desire: For years I said I would declutter and renovate my gardens. This has been the year it is happening.

So I thought that would record in my blog the essential tools I drag around with me when doing a marathon of weeding. I have many, many specialized weeding tools, but there are a few that are the most useful for certain jobs.

Before The List

Weather conditions make a difference in how easy it is to tackle certain weeds. Some are best hoed out when the days are hot and dry, others pull easiest after a rain, some cling to clay soil that is damp. Take notes on times when weeding is easiest in your garden. Days been dry and sunny? Grass pulls out easier, small weeds are best scuffle hoed (cut just below the surface). Rain yesterday? Many roots are loosening and can more easily be pulled.

The List Of Best Weeding Tools

Cape Cod Weeder

  1. Almost always, I want my Cape Cod Weeder . It is wonderful for tight spaces between plants or cracks in the walk, etc. sharp blade makes quick work of dislodging roots.
  2. Garden gloves are  more important to me than I ever realized. I have many pairs now, and can grab thistles, rose canes, and grub out hand pulled weeds better than I  possibly could if without them.
  3. I keep pruners close by, and if I think I will have to grub out an overlooked Mulberry tree- I have loppers with me. but always haul along a cutting tool of some sort. Have poke weed? Cut the cane off at the ground level.
  4. Nurseryman spade. Admittedly I don't always grab this particular tool, but if I don't I usually end up going back to the shed for it. Any shovel will do, but a narrow Nurseryman spade will work better in perennial beds and get just the roots you wish to dislodge. This is best for removing Burdock, and other deeply rooted weeds. Simply scoop out the crown of the Burdock- no need to get all of the taproot.
  5. Dutch hoe is a hand hoe that works like the big one, but with more finesse and sharp tip can hack out stubborn weeds. When I don't need the Cape Cod-der for tight spaces I often go for the Dutch hoe. (Seen in the beginning photo).

For Clean-up

I try to keep the garden cart and a leaf rake nearby, so that when finished with the mad weeding I can tidy up right then and there. If put off, a pile of weeds can smother grass, and it delays the feeling of satisfaction from getting your flower beds all cleared away.

What I Did Today

Every once in awhile you need to take care of your tools to keep them in good working order, especially cutting tools.

After viewing some tutorials (yes, my Dad taught me how to sharpen tools, but I needed a refresher), I followed some of the advice. Today I got out the isopropyl alcohol to clean off the blades, and used a Bastard file to sharpen my loppers, pruners, and hedge shears.

The alcohol cleaned the surface and sterilized the edges, the file sharpened the edges quickly. I simply followed the manufacturers edge to know where to sharpen.

It made a world of difference in the pruning and trimming results.

Another thing that is new for my gardening this summer was a solution for my most hated garden task: watering during hot and dry periods. Sure, this is not the year which best tests my new found FAV garden tool, but I am ready for those years when the weather is more normal with late summer droughts. I loved it so much I couldn't wait to write a review on it. Enough suspense...what is it? One of those "advertised on TV" garden hoses that are so light that even wimpy, aging me is able to water the containers and the borders with ease. I am so happy!

Here is the review for the Flexable Pocket Garden Hose . It isn't very expensive, and the amount of grief and work it saves is so worth it. I have no idea how long it lasts, since this is the first year I have bought and used one, but I am loving the ease of use.

Do you have tips to share? How do you handle weeds or what way do you sharpen your tools?

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

Winding Up July

I didn't say "Hot enough for you?" once this month. Not that I am given to using that phrase, anyway, but the weather in Ohio could not have been more beautiful. We had "Polar vortex" in July. Normally I write off this month in terms of garden work. Only mad dogs and Midwesterners work in the heat and humidity, but the so-called "fall temperatures" (the weatherman's terms, not mine) allowed for plenty of garden grooming this year. I called it a bonus of the "rare days of June": with blues skies white puffy clouds, summer zephyrs, jade green grass, and blissful 70's temperatures.

Of course, "in my garden at my pace" simply meant catching up. But it has been a time when I am so glad to have a garden, and drank deeply of the scents of summer's sweetness.

Sad Realities

Not every story is one of light hearted bliss.
This was also a season of facing the losses of last winter in a final way. I noticed quite a bit of tree damage in my area of Ohio, but closer to home the loss of both my cutleaf Japanese maples became evident.

At first I thought they had made it through with their leafing out and seeming good health. But first the green and then the red, both Acer palmatum var. dissectum withered and did not recover. Disappointing both because they are very beautiful, and because they were so expensive. I doubt if I will try to replace their loss.

I have seen this before when I lost my Chinese chestnuts after a particularly hard winter, but was not at all resigned.  In fact, I am just now trying to bring myself to cutting them down. My experience with the recovery of the sweet gum tree probably contributes to this folly of hopefulness.

Liquidambar trees have similar hardiness (Zone 5), but some sources say the Japanese maple, var. dissectum is only reliable to 5b. My garden would bear that out. The red-leaf, in particular, was planted in a more protected microclimate.

I tried to do some research on wilt disease that affects maples, in case that was the culprit in their demise. Many maples that are hardy enough have died, or partially died back this past year. And one of my crabapples had a weirdly unhealthy look. I haven't determined the reason for that, as yet.

You can see, the garden has suffered its share of problems.

What Is So Rare As A Day in June

AND what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
 In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,
- And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,
- 'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

~James Russell Lowell

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

What I'm Weeding Out

Catching Up With Summer

Working Away At the Frontline

I swore to myself I wouldn't do this, but I miscalculated how much I wanted to spend time with grandkids (even though it meant numerous 9 hr. trips). I am now playing catch up with the garden weeds, long grass, and a veritable jungle out there.

So in the spirit of "making lemonade", I thought I would let you know the status of the weeds around here. Maybe you have some of them, too. I'm pretty sure you do.

I make piles to gather up after weeding session is done.

What are the main weeds of July in my Ohio garden? It will take a list.
  • Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  • Poke Weed, Phytolacca americana
  • Burdock, Arctium
  • Canadian Thistle, Cirsium arvense
  • Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans
  • Red Mulberry Trees, Morus rubra
  • Bush honeysuckles, Lonicera
These are the worst of them, I have many others. 

-Purslane,  Portulaca oleracea, loves this time of year for filling in the cracks in my fieldstone pathway. They are quite nutritious edible leaves, but I haven't made use of them except for the compost pile.

-Ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea, has become so ubiquitous I only try to keep it out of cultivated areas; it is taking over the "lawn".

-Hated Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is very difficult, but I occasionally wage war on it.

-Garlic Mustard , Alliaria petiolata, is more of a problem earlier in the summer, but a new crop of seedlings starts to make an appearance this month.

This is the short list, grasses tend to top the work list around here. They are my worst weed, and I go to battle all the time, never really winning. The early summer is deceiving- it looks like I have achieved a nice clean area for the month of June. Then the onslaught.

For all that I don't hate weeding, at all. I only hate being overwhelmed by it. If I go out leisurely each morning, devote and hour or two to meditatively pulling weeds, it is a peaceful and restorative occupation. 

Do you wish to identify weeds in your yard? Ohio State has a picture gallery of weeds that is quite extensive. Ohio State Weed Lab

My Weeding Methods

My daughter helped with these

Yes, I have methods. I don't use chemicals, which means I must develop a certain tolerance for some weediness in my garden. That, or find a hireling.

Poke weed I simply cut off at ground level.

Poison Hemlock and Burdock are removed at the crown with a shovel ( an old farmer showed me that: no need to remove the entire deep and difficult taproot).

Red Mulberry are grubbed out below soil level with a spud bar; depending on size, lopper severs the top part from the root.

Same method is used for Bush honeysuckles as for red mulberry. Although I get them smaller and usually loppers are sufficient.

Ground ivy is pulled by hand and then roots are dutch-hoed out.

Canadian thistle pulled straight up, grabbing near ground level with gloved hand in soft earth. Levered out with long trowel or Dandelion weeder in drier conditions.

Bindweed? You try to loosen soil with fork and then pull out. Yes, its a lesson in futility, but keep at it.
Morus Rubra Removed

Poison Ivy

This merits its own page, actually, but I will try to condense.

I used to be entirely immune, but now I must always wash up and be very careful. If I am smart I wear long sleeves+ gloves+long pants+socks and shoes. In hot weather I am not always smart.

First, I cut off the most offensive long parts to get them out of the way. I lay all parts in a separate pile to get rid of later, preferably in a sunny spot for dessication.

Then, use a claw tool to loosen up the creeping roots, pull out those. Some roots are entrenched, pry those up with a garden fork and remove.

Don't throw the poison ivy on the compost pile, don't ever, ever burn. Bag up the dried out plants and get rid of them.

I devote an entire afternoon to this job periodically. And I am presently way behind.
Flowering pots for sanity. You'll be glad to know I weeded this spot after taking photos.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

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