Bunny’s Garden

Instead of spending an hour working in the garden, Corie turned our May meeting of the “Garden Gals” into a special garden party. We toured Bunny’s garden and enjoyed an great lunch on the patio by the waterfall.
pano

water

Gail’s Garden

Gail hosted the “Garden Gals” July meeting at her home in north Boise. First we toured her beautiful yard and vegetable garden, then we worked for about an hour in the vegetables, pruning shrubs and deadheading. After an hour of work, she thanked us with a lunch and many of the things were from her own garden – concord grape juice, zucchini bread and homemade ice cream with raspberry sauce! YUM.

Some photos:

water
The peaceful rippling brook in the back yard

The bridge over the stream
The bridge over the stream
Colorful coreopsis
Colorful coreopsis
Dividing the hostas-
Dividing the hostas-
The veggie garden
The veggie garden
Pruning the boxwoods
Pruning the boxwoods
Garden irrigation
Garden irrigation
A neighbor with his prize lily.  Have you ever seen one this tall? A neighbor with his prize lily. Have you ever seen one this tall? [/caption]

Thanks, Gail for hosting the “Garden Gals”!

garden

Amy’s Garden

The “garden gals” got together to work in Amy’s yard in late June. Lucky for Amy there were 9 ladies working and so we got a LOT of work done. We weeded and wacked away at some stuff that had grown too tall.
Some of her perennials were in bloom, but flopping over because the flowers were too heavy for the stems. So, a tip to remember on perennials- if you need your perennials to bloom at a shorter height, then prune them before they produce flower buds and you will get a shorter bloomer without the flop!
Also, when your perennials are finished blooming, don’t be afraid to cut them down. Many can be cut all the way to the ground or their lowest leaves. This removes the scraggly looking stems and flowers and the plant will produce new leaves and some even will rebloom before fall- like salvias, and catmint.

Here are a few photos of Amy’s beautiful yard and some of the garden gals at work.

patio flowers
Beautiful flowers on the patio
garden
The back yard and a gardener off to work!
Pruning in the flower bed
Pruning in the flower bed
Back yard bed
Back yard bed
The tour of the garden, looking down towards the lower level
The tour of the garden, looking down towards the lower level

The lower part of Amy’s garden contains her vegetable beds and many fruit trees. What a beautiful and abundant yard! Thanks Amy!

Pink and purple petunias

It’s Budworm Time Again

If you have the budworm caterpillar (or tobacco budworm) attacking your geraniums or petunias, you’ll notice it now, in July. Here are some symptoms that will lead you to the conclusion of budworm infestation:

1. Budworm poop (small black dots, the size of a pencil lead)
2. Chewed foliage
3. Lack of flowers – what once was a beautiful plant full of color has become a drab plant with a few blooms.
4. Sexual organs chewed out of the flower- What?? A flower has a female part- the ovary and a male part- the stigma. There must be a lot of protein in these because that is what they go for first.
5. Small green or translucent caterpillars-or they could be the color of the flower they are gorging on! Good luck finding these, but if you really want to search look early in the morning on the plant. During the day they usually hide down low near the soil.

Sad looking pink flowers
Petunias in August, ravaged by budworm caterpillar

You might be tricked into thinking the plants need more water, or they need more nourishment (fertilizer). And, maybe that is the problem, but, if you

See these previous posts for more info and pictures: http://vickisgardentips.com/?p=569 “Petunias-I am reminded again why I don’t plant these”
http://vickisgardentips.com/?p=583 “More on Petunias and Budworm” This article shows photos of what your blooms will look like when the nasty caterpillar has removed the good parts of the flower.

Petunia with evidence of budworm
Here you can see where the budworm entered the petunia, where he had some lunch before moving on.

TREATMENT:
1. Bt sprays (Bacillus Thuringiensis) a soil borne bacterium. Spray every 3-4 weeks. This will control the caterpillars without harming the beneficial insects including bees!
2. Stop growing geraniums and petunias! (which are most susceptible)
3. Hand pick the worms daily.

Beware, these will overwinter in the soil and reappear next year.

Return of the Elm Seed Bug 2014

Yes, it’s that time again when the elm seed bug invades our homes and garages. I find them on every window sill, hanging on doors, climbing into outside attic vents, window screens, in the rabbit feed storage. They really are everywhere. And when the temperatures get hot – in the 90′s or above they really are trying to get into the house where it is cooler.

One thing I know for sure, is DON’T DON’T Do Not squish or crush them at any time!! I have tested this theory over the last 2 years and it is absolutely true!! Last winter, I found one bug on the window in our study, so I picked it up with a kleenex and crushed it and threw it away. Within a few hours, there were more, so I did the same thing- crush and toss. See this article: href=”http://livingwithinsects.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/elm-seed-bug/” title=”Elm Seed Bug” target=”_blank”> at “Living with Insects: Elm seed bug” by J. Neil. He states here that the Elm Seed Bug has scent glands that produce a noxious odor and when crushed, the bugs produce an unpleasant odor. I can’t smell it, but apparently the other elm seed bugs can and so they come out of the woodwork to see what’s going on. My favorite method of killing these vile bugs- drowning in soapy water.

Elm Seed Bug
Elm Seed Bug (Photo courtesy of ID State Dept of Agriculture)

I bought a small shop vac just for this purpose. I vacuum the bugs up and drown them in soapy water. That kills them without crushing the bug to bring out their scent.
Soon, I will go outside to wash the window sills, window frames and siding to remove the bug deposits (POOP) they have left around my house. Oh, why can’t these bugs be extinguished????

Another article to refer to by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture: http://www.privatelandownernetwork.org/pdfs/Spring_2013_ESB_Fact_Sheet_update.pdf

basket of raspberries

Raspberry Rant

The raspberries in my garden are crazy this year! I hope they are abundant in your garden as well. I have been picking every day and am so thankful for all the berries I now have in my freezer. I think some of the success is due to increased regular watering – they are on a soaker hose and I run it for 3 hours every other day. But, I think the greatest reason for the size and abundance of the crop is due to the spring pruning. A special thanks to the “garden gals” who came over this spring and helped to prune.

girl tying raspberry to fence
Raspberry pruning in spring
basket of raspberries
Three colors of raspberries: red, yellow and black.

I have divided my red raspberry patch into two parts, the north side and the south side, with about an 2 foot wide path separating the two parts. The patch is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. This spring, I decided to try an experiment to see what pruning method would produce larger berries. In the past few years, the berries have been the (very disappointing) size of a small marble. The ones in the grocery store and in my friends gardens are much larger! Size matters! It’s no fun to be picking pea sized raspberries- there are so many to pick and they fall out of your hand. But the luscious large ones- ooh what a difference!

large and small raspberries
Comparing last years raspberries on the left, to the larger ones on the right

IMG_6611
The north side I pruned all the canes to knee height (about 16 inches) and then thinned them out to approximately one cane every 4- 6 inches. This type of pruning should produce later berries, a single crop of beautiful large red berries. Most of the canes were not tied because they were too short.

On the south side, our “garden gals” garden club pruned most stems to 3-4 feet high and then thinned them to 6 inches apart. All the canes were tied to the line to stabilize the canes. Tying prevents loss of fruit buds during windy spring weather.

tall raspberries with fruit
Raspberries (south side) in fruit

Now, I have lots of raspberries and LARGER ones on the south side. The berries are at the top of the plants -since the primocanes were pruned to 3-4 feet. As expected, the north side has produced very few berries and the ones that are growing are way down low- that’s because all the canes were cut the same length- short. These berries are very small as well.
Berries
These raspberries were pruned less than 16 inches high. The primocanes are producing small berries, down low

I am so glad that we took the time to prune the raspberries the correct way this year. Already, I have several bags in the freezer! I will you updated on how the north side berries do- once they start producing.
How do you prune your berries? Do you tie them up? Do you thin??

Juniper Hedges and the New Fence

I wanted to add several more pictures to update on the juniper hedges and their removal and shredding, the fence building and the flower bed planting.
Here are the photos with a little bit of commentary.

yuk
See the hulking junipers lurking in the background? And even worse, the dead spot in the middle of the shrub???

Juniper
The juniper that collected clothing, the neighbor’s trash, 3rd grade homework and someone’s cat.

juniper
The world’s ugliest shrub

We hired a neighbor with a back hoe to haul out the junipers and move them to our pasture to be shredded.

Junipers waiting to be shredded! Now that's good news.
Junipers waiting to be shredded! Now that’s good news.
Fence building.  Notice the junipers are gone!
Fence building. Notice the junipers are gone!
Front Yard without the Junipers
Front Yard without the Junipers

Another view of the front yard - without those awful junipers!
The other side of the front yard – without those awful junipers!

landscaping
East side of the yard with the grasses and elderberry shrub

Right now, the fence area does not look that spectacular, but the perennials are new this year. Next year, they will be twice that size and the year after, even larger!
Perennials:
First year sleep
Second year creep
Third year LEAP!!
I have planted:
3 David Austin Roses (two are “Mayflower” shrubs, and one “Elegantyne” these bloom pink and will be about 4 feet high.
There are several self seeded annual red fringed poppies (they came in with the compost and I let several of the stay!)
2 Coppertina Ninebark (physocarpus opulifolius)
About 50 pink tulips
2 Serviceberry shrubs (amalanchier canadensis).
2 Russian sage
3 “blue mist” caryopteris
2 Creeping thyme “silver queen”
My idea was to have color for every season and to stay with blues, pinks and gray foliage. Of course, the surprise red poppies sort of messed that plan- at least temporarily.
The area I had to fill about 100 linear feet of fenceline- that’s a lot of room to fill. And from a distance, it looks empty.

On the east side, there are:
2 Elderberry (sambucus)- that have bloomed and are so pretty!
1 Miscanthus Senesis a tall ornamental grass
2 Panicum “Heavy metal” switch grass
1 Serviceberry

Can’t wait to see the progress in a couple of years. I know the shrubs will eventually crowd out some of the smaller plants, but that’s ok. Plants are like furniture- they were made to be moved!

purple flower

Best Perennials for Attracting Bees and other pollinators in Idaho – Part Three – Fall bloomers and Annuals

Fall Blooming

Here is a SHORT list of  fall blooming plants that grow well in

  1. Idaho heat 
  2. low humidity 
  3. alkaline soils 
  4. do not require a lot of water.    These are the best flowers I have found.  This is not a complete list by any means, and if you have some suggestions- I will add them!

Asters: Just try and trim an aster in full bloom on a sunny day!  The bees are all over them.  I am not sure if its the nectar or pollen or the lack of other plants available to bees at this time of year, but the honey bees just hang onto this plant by the (literally) hundreds.

Aster  in bloom
Aster in bloom

 

 

Caryopteris: I have several of these near my front door and some people have said they were apprehensive about walking past them in full bloom because the bees are all over the flowers.  These plants are great for Idaho because they don’t require a lot of water and love the hot sun.  Prolific and they will reseed.

purple flower
Caryopteris

 

blue flowering shrub
Blue Mist Caryopteris

Goldenrod: Yes, it is a flower and a noxious weed! Don’t dig one out in the wild and put it in your garden.  So many species of goldenrod are available.  It doesn’t need a lot of water and bees will be hanging all over the plant.  It does reseed.

Sedum Autumn Joy: This tall sedum- 1 to 3 feet tall- has pink flowers that fade to a rusty color as the evenings get cooler.  I like to trim them in June so they flower at one  to 1.5 foot high and then they won’t droop over to the ground.  The flower heads can get heavy!

red perennial
Sedum Autumn Joy

ANNUALS

Sunflowers

2 different bees on sunflower
Bees on the sunflower. Sharing the pollen, playing nice!

Zinnias:  There are so many different varieties, colors and heights.  They don’t have to be heavily watered and will bloom until a hard frost.  According to Organic Gardening Magazine the profusion zinnias and common zinnias are the best.  Bees are all a buzz over these bright blooms.

Pink flower
Love those big flowered zinnia’s!

 

Strawberry

Hay Bale Gardening

Hay bale gardening
Potatoes growing in a hay bale

I have read a lot about gardening in straw bales….  But since I had a bunch of old hay bales, I decided to try hay bale gardening instead.

Right now, I am growing a cucumber plant, strawberries and potatoes in 4 hay bales.  I like the bales, because I don’t have to dig in the dirt, or bend down to the ground to plant and water.  I have my bales stacked 2 bales high, so the plants are just above my waist.  How convenient to water and fertilize.

To start, cut a hole in the bale and add some potting soil and your plant.  Then water.  oooh, that’s sooo easy.

I try to fertilize about once a week with a weak fish fertilizer solution. Since I live in a hot dry climate – SW Idaho, I water every day when the temperature hits above 80 degrees.  My plants have been growing in the hay bales since April and so far, they look good.  I am going to be netting the strawberries, though to keep the birds out.  Right now, the potatoes are in bloom.

I am looking forward to finding good sized clean potatoes in the bale in a couple of months.  No more accidentally  stabbing the potatoes with a fork while I am searching in the earth.  No more dirt caked potatoes.   I plan on just reaching into the bale and cutting off a clean potato as I need them.

Strawberry
Strawberry plant in a hay bale.
2 different bees on sunflower

The Missing Link

I have found an interesting article from Elmore County Extension office in Mountain Home, ID- called “Missing Links in SW Idaho Soil Management”.   Here is the site to read it: http://extension.uidaho.edu/elmore/files/2013/12/MissingLinksinSWIdahoSoilManagement.pdf

In this short article, it explains that our alkaline soils need a lot of compost, but also some micronutrients in order for plants to thrive.

I wanted to review the article and then use the best organic methods to fill in the missing links.

The first missing link is phosphorus- you can get that by buying bone meal or rock phosphate.  Rock phosphate I found online at Walmart (WHAT?, yup.  online only) or Dr. Earth brand at Amazon.com.  I know that locally, Edwards Nursery carries Dr Earth products.

The second missing link is elemental sulfur along with organic matter.  I apply compost at least once a year, sometimes fall, sometimes spring, or whenever the pick- up truck is working.  So, along with the compost, we apparently need to add sulfur- which causes a chemical reaction in the soil to produce gypsum.  I found the Elemental sulfur at D&B Supply in a 50 lb. bag.

It’s worth a try. . . .  I have applied it to the soil- it’s a bit smelly but that’s ok, if it works.   I will let you know!

I have not tried the 3rd missing link yet,  but I will.   Potassium is to be applied in the heat of summer.  Try using kelp meal, or ground seashells-  I’ll probably get the kelp meal, don’t feel like driving to the coast in the height of summer.

The fourth missing link-  love it!!  Plant native plants- they use less water!

Hops climbing on bamboo poles- or is it Dr Seuss's plants?

Wild About Hops

A friend gave me some hops last year and I loved the chartreuse  color and the height they provided around the garden.  Last year, two stems grew to the top of my garage and flowered.  The flowers are attractive, aromatic and edible.

I decided to grow my hops in another area of the yard.  I had several 12 foot bamboo poles I bought at my garden club’s plant sale.  Someone’s bamboo was out of control! But I love the stakes- so many things to do with them.  Just ask my granddaughter about her bamboo pole tipi we built in the backyard- it took 5 minutes to erect and then we covered it with a small tarp held up with clothespins.

BUT I DIGRESS!!

 

I placed 2 bamboo poles on my chain link fence and within 2 or 3 weeks the hops had climbed to the top.  Now I think they look a bit strange and so I have added a third stake.

No matter what I do, they look like a Dr Seuss animal! Something to chuckle about and to draw one’s eye up, up, up!

Any suggestions for a better looking hop trellis?

 

Once the hops flower, I plan on making a hop pillow- it is supposed to help you sleep.  Then maybe I won’t have any nightmares about those hop creatures attacking me!

 

Hops climbing for the sky
Light green hops climbing on bamboo poles

IMG_6482 IMG_6484

Lemon Balm with nicely textured leaves

Best Perennials for Attracting Bees and other pollinators in Idaho – Part Two: Summer bloomers

Summer Blooming

Lavender: So many kinds of lavenders, so little time! I agree with the bees on this one- it’s great!  They can be very slow in greening up in the spring, but a patch of lavender is beautiful and fragrant and attractive to the bees.

Lavender, one of many strongly fragranced flowers
Lavender, one of many strongly fragranced flowers

Lemon Balm: (Melissa officinalis) A vigorous reseeder  -there seems to be a pattern here!  When the bees are done, you can make tea with it, too! Has small white flowers in the summer that attract the bees.

Lemon Balm with nicely textured leaves
Lemon Balm with nicely textured leaves

 

Bee Balm, (Monarda).  I always think these flowers look like ladies with crazy hats! They attract many pollinators including honey bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.   The foliage has a lovely fragrance like bergamont (Earl Grey Tea).   It’s not difficult to grow and once established is drought tolerant.  When the flowers are done, cut the stems down to the basal leaves.  You might be lucky enough to get a second bloom, but it will be spotty.  These plants like a lot of sun and each year the clump will enlarge by a few inches, so feel free to divide and spread them out.

Monarda and bee balm
Bee in the bee balm.

 

2 foot tall red flowers
Red Monarda (bee balm)

Russian Sage(Perovskia atriplicifolia) Tall and woody stems with blue velvety flowers. Very low water requirements for this plant and it’s best to not provide luxurious conditions or it will grow and multiply beyond what you might like.  In fall, bees really cling to this plant.  The leaves are aromatic and the flowers are fuzzy.  It can grow quite tall, so you can cut it in half before it blooms, then it will not be so rangy.

purple flowers of Russian sage
Russian sage

Tansy: Definitely NOT my favorite herb/flower.  It’s a bright yellow, button shaped flower. Invasive,  it is a garden thug. Doesn’t need much care, or water, just a lot of sun and it will spread everywhere.  Can be toxic and oils from the plant can cause rashes.  But bees like it, go figure.

Yarrow: Low water requirements, lots of sun.  Give this plant some room and it will reseed.  I have a pink yarrow and think it is beautiful!   I am not so fond of the yellow ones.  You can trim this one before it sets the flower buds to get it to bloom shorter.

Pink yarrow
Pink yarrow in bloom