Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pine Straw Mulch

So highly recommended for those of you that grow garden plants that love acidity. I started to use pine straw as my main garden mulch when I lived in Houston where the soils were so clay like and alkaline. My antique roses were the first users of pine straw and they so loved me for it as did my azaleas. I slowly began using it in all my garden beds of flowering perennials, native and non natives, as well as the few flowering annuals I added as fill in.

Pine straw tends to weave itself together allowing it to stay in place much more than the bark mulches I had used for so many years.  The bark mulches tended to float away with the torrential downpours or blow around with winds..especially those hurricane like winds.  Pine straw just seemed to hold together much more.  It was much more efficient in keeping down dirt splashes on to plants thus also reducing water usage that was then needed to wash a fresh look back onto the plants. Another advantage I have found with the pine straw is the ease of planting in between it.  It is so much easier to move aside to add new plants, large or small.

I apply the fresh layer of pine straw in the fall as this is when I can collect it from pine trees in the neighborhood and don't have to purchase it. Of course, that will depend on the size of your gardens and how much you can find or collect from neighbors or friends.  I have never had someone tell me they didn't want me to rake up their pine straw.  One less thing they had to do.  I collect extras so that I can heavily mulch my rose bushes before the MidWest winters set in.  If you use the rose bush covers, it is quite easy to use the pine straw in them to nicely protect the roses.  In the spring when you uncover them, just spread the pine needles out to give everything a fresh spring look.

When the next fall comes and it is time to refresh everything, working some of the older pine straw into the soil helps loosen the soil, aerate it and adds some natural compost material for long term nutrition to your gardens.  My most favorite thing about pine straw is that it really brightens the gardens up whereas the bark mulches always seem so dark.

Some plants which love pine straw include:

Azaleas and Rhododendrons and Camellias
Marigolds, Snapdragons and zinnias and most flowering annuals and perennials
Roses, roses and more roses
Blueberries and tomatoes
Hostas and lilies.

There are many locations around the states that will sell you pine straw if that is what you prefer to do.  Check out some of these:

Custom Pine Straw

The Pine Straw Store

Pine Straw Direct

Check your local home improvement garden center such as Lowe's, Home Depot, Menards.
Check with your local farm and garden centers, particularly those that market to organic gardeners, native gardens.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mother Nature's Garden Inspiration

The fall colors seemed so short this year...probably because of the drought like summer we had.  The colors along the highway coming home were awesome...for a couple of weeks.  I thought for sure that the trees just over the fence in the park were just going to drop their leaves without changing color. Yet, lo and behold...I come home today to a yellow carpet...not only across the fence..but on my side of the fence.  I am pretty sure the trees decided to all de-clothe today...all at the same time..which is perfectly fine for me.

Now...somehow...I have to convince my man and the park to NOT mow them up until after my family photo shoot on Saturday.

It is these homecomings, full of color and inspiration, that keep me asking myself...why the heck do I have my house up for sale?  Why the heck?

Thank you, Mother Nature...for the breathtaking homecoming today.  Thank. You.

Again, you saved the day!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Garden Knowledge

One of my dreams is to be as knowledgeable about gardening as someone like Melinda Meyer of the Milwaukee area.  I don't profess to be so although I think, for the most part, I have a good general knowledge of gardening and plants...and maybe even more than just a general knowledge.

I have been gardening at some level since 1977.  Earlier if you want to count the times I assisted my parents out in the vegetable garden when I was in fourth grade.  Most of my gardening experience is from the southwest edges of Houston, Texas.  Hot. Humid. Buggy.  Clay soil.  Droughty. I learned to garden a lot with native plants and heat and drought tolerant plants.  Most of these, at that time, I believed would never make it in the more northerly regions of the states.  I always wondered how garden magazines/seed catalogs could advertise something like a coneflower in the northern region states such as Wisconsin.  Since then, I have discovered that they were accurate.  Go figure.  It is true, during our winters, the snow acts like a warm blanket, putting the plants to sleep in a 'heated bed' to rest and relax in order to return with the ultimate vigor in the spring.

I have only been able to enjoy a small garden area so far during my life here in the Midwest.  I plan on changing that next year as I refuse to let my life be on hold much longer.  I so miss the hours of digging in the dirt, planting new things, even pulling weeds and deadheading can bring comfort to my heart and soul.

I have had success with some of my favorites such as salvias, coneflowers and penstemons.  It has taken me a couple years to find just the right spot for a Rose of Sharon and the butterfly gaura. At the same time, I've been able to succeed with those that I struggled with in Houston such as the lavenders and clematis.  Lilac bushes have replaced the Crepe myrtles, although shorter lived on the life of blooms.

I miss the lady bugs and the anole lizards that helped keep the bad bugs at bay but enjoy the major decline in population of those bad bugs.  I still enjoy the sound of the cicadas but weep a sound of disgust at the vivacious green metallic japanese beetles that continue to strip my roses of blooms and foliage.

My vegetable garden is a huge success one year and a scrappy looking thing the next.  I still get to enjoy those home grown tomatoes and this year I've enjoyed them for a longer period as the summer has been longer, but not as brutal as those down south.  The change up between warm and cooler days, I believe, have actually lengthened the growing season.  Now if I can just figure out how to grow those tomatoes during the winter months.

There is time.  I will learn.  Experiment. If a plant doesn't work in this spot, I'll try another. Change the soil.  Collect the rain water.  Compost kitchen and yard scraps.

Victory Garden.... I challenge you.

I hope you enjoy what I will share with you on my gardening knowledge and tips.  Please know, these are things that work for me.  Every garden is different, as is every gardener.  I believe the passion one has for a plant is what makes it succeed or not succeed.  If one thing fails, try another.  The difference in the water, the soil, the sunlight and shade all affect the way your garden grows.

If you have questions.  Ask away.  I will try to answer them for you.  I'll tell you what has worked or not worked for me.  Growing plants is just like raising children.  It takes time, practice and patience.  Trial and error.  I have to warn you...sometimes it takes just as much money...depending on the level of your passion. (smiling)