Posts Tagged ‘garden’

winter prep

Monday, December 12th, 2011

It’s 28 degrees this morning. Brrrrrrr. We’ve been trying to wrap things up outside for the season.

Like last year, that means chopping up our bagged leaves instead of dragging them out to the curb…














However, unlike last year, we now have an electric chipper…





















Chops the leaves finer than the reel mower — better yet, it lets us chip all the oak branches that fall throughout the year and add them to the pile. Especially handy after a hurricane, lemme tell ya. We spread out the pile where it will remain under a tarp until late summer, when I’ll start using it around the plants…





















I have to water less and the worms love it, so it must be working.

What else? Well, I sunk the pots of hardy lotus and waterlilies, then pulled all the water hyacinth and water lettuce out of the koi pond…





















Those will be added to the compost pile. No need to waste them.

Now that the water temp is in the low 30s, we’re not supposed to feed the fish. Sorry, guys…





















(Leaf net still up to keep debris out.) They get high-protein food in the warm season, but when the temperature drops below 50 they get low-protein food because their metabolism slows down. Guess that’s why they move more slowly, too. We’re not supposed to feed them again until the spring when the temperature goes back up again.

Have also been making hay — when the sun shines, of course…





















Okay, we didn’t make it — and it’s not hay, it’s straw (no seeds). Picked up from Allie’s in North Kingstown. Which means we can now put the plants to bed. Like the hardy banana (Musa basjoo)…





















Dare I leave it outside in New England all winter? Well, yes. Should be fine with some preparation. I wrapped it in burlap…





















Then I padded it thickly with straw and tied it up tight…





















I will wrap the whole thing up like a burrito to keep it dry for the winter as soon as my white tarp arrives. (White won’t heat up when the sun hits it, unlike green or black.)

I gave the bamboo a thick blanket of straw. The three Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo)…





















And all fifteen of my Fargesia rufa…





















There are only a few spots around the yard that are still pretty barren looking. I covered this bed with straw to keep the bare soil from sliding downhill next spring when the rains hit…





















Hopefully this will be grown in by this time next year and will not require prophylactic measures.

Last of all, I gave each of my five Japanese maples a little protection from the cold, drying winds that are on their way…





















Wilt-Pruf is organic and biodegradable. Just mix it with water…





















Then spray it on and it coats the branches to hold in moisture. Good for azaleas and rhodos, too, if you have them…





















You probably can’t tell the difference, but the Acer Palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’ can. She says thank you and see you in the spring.













what’s your angle on this light?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Okay, time to order path lighting for the outside so people don’t break their necks trying to get around out there. These lights are specifically for the steps and we really only need a few out front and back.

After tons of poking around for something that’s not over-designed (“i’m an attention hog, do not look away from me!!”) and not too out-there (omg it’s like makers think the word “modern” = quirky and hideous), plus not too delicate (this house calls for something beefy, not slender) etc., I’ve finally located two options that are not only modern and minimal but pretty affordable!

First, this simple right-angled path light in aluminum…

hinkley right angle light bronze















From the Atlantis Collection made by Hinkley Lighting, it’s available in bronze, hermatite or titanium finish…

hinkley right angle options






Or this angled path light from their Piza collection, also in aluminum…

hinkley angle light bronze















Available in bronze and titanium finish…

hinkley angle options





I think either style could work. Our house has both right angles and angley angles…

angles and right angles




















Ah, remember summer when it was warm and the garden was just starting to take off?

Anyway, whaddya think? Angle or right angle? Bronze would blend into the scenery the best. Titanium would almost but not quite go with the aluminum window frames and flashing, as well as the galvanized aluminum planter boxes and steps. Decisions, decisions.

fish goo and molasses

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

What do you suppose that smells like, fish goo and molasses? It doesn’t smell great, I can assure you of that. However, your lawn and your soil love it. So today, I opened up this container (*engage gag reflex*)…

fish goo container




















Initially I was going to mix up my own compost tea to give the baby lawn a much-needed end-of-season feeding. Don’t worry, URI horticulturists tell me it’s okay to feed the lawn until around Thanksgiving. (Do you think I do anything without researching it to death first?)

But in the interest of getting it done at the last minute, I hunted down this Aggrand Natural Based Fertilizer. Already made. Cost just $8.95 for a 32 oz bottle (covers 5000 sq ft). 100% natural! Between the koi pond and the kid, I’m not about to add chemicals.


fish goo in a cup












The best news: the recipe is almost exactly what I’d use to make my own compost tea. So what’s in it? Hydrolized fish solubles (menhaden salt water fish, to be exact), kelp, bloodmeal, sulfate of potash — oh, and molasses to help create a literal microbe orgy in your soil. Apparently this will lead to better soil structure, which leads to deeper, denser roots and healthier grass.

There’s nothing much to it. Measure it out. Add water. Spray…

fish goo in the sprayer




















And then, good gawd, smell the stank. It’s the stank of green.


Handy bookmarks:

- Harvard’s landscaping is now organic, yours can be, too. Build your own tea brewer to feed your lawn at home.

- And create your own compost tea for your lawn or trees.

- Need a visual? How about a video.

Yes, I’ve posted these before. These links still rock.


can’t avoid it any longer

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The leaves are suddenly departing the trees…

leaves are finally fallish












That’s a net over the koi pond to keep out the fallen. Now where is that grass I planted? I swear it was here just a moment ago.

bamBOO! happy halloween

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I apologize for that. And yet I’m not changing it. Oh well. So out front sits a fresh mound of loam — 6 yards of it…

fresh loam












It doesn’t look like much until you start shoveling it. Then you realize it’s never-ending. So why the soil? I finally got around to planting the Phyllostachys nigra ‘Hale’ black bamboo that’s been waiting for its permanent spot. Quite a project. The hole is somewhere between 2 and 3′ deep, so it required a LOT of soil to fill it…

bamboo planting 1




















This is the 80 mil bamboo barrier that should (hopefully) keep the roots from escaping…

bamboo planting 2




















Try dragging that 70 lb thing down the hill and tossing it into the pit. No, really. Go ahead…

bamboo planting 3












I dug a trench for the barrier a little deeper than the hole. Then David and I ran the sheet around the oval…

bamboo planting 4












Stainless steel clamps run up both sides of the overlapping barrier to ensure that the bamboo roots don’t sneak out…

bamboo planting 5




















Yes, there were nuts and bolts and power tools involved…

bamboo planting 6




















And now the Hale is happily in its new home below the retaining wall, where it should be safe from strong winter winds…

bamboo planting 7












Luckily, I got it in the ground right before the temperatures dropped below freezing this weekend. Nothing like the last minute. Now I’d better get outside and move the remaining 4 yards of dirt. Oy.

giganteus! oh my

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I’ve been known to stalk plants. This year, Miscanthus ‘Giganteus’ (Giant Chinese Silver Grass) has been my prey. I came across it last summer when I was stuffing my yard with other grasses — unfortunately, I only came across it online…

miscanthus giganteus photo by marcia sofonoff

miscanthus giganteus photo by marcia sofonoff















Wowza. Giganteus! More info here. You may have come across it while ogling Margaret Roach’s garden via A Way to Garden

miscanthus-giganteus-fall via

miscanthus-giganteus-fall via (best garden blog ever)


Gorgeous. But try to find it at a nursery. Impossible! Actually, that’s not exactly true. In July, I finally stumbled across it at Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown, RI, far toward the back in their display garden…

miscanthus giganteus at farmers daughter



















To look at, not to buy. But get a load of that stature! And I’m very impressed at how it stands up to the wind…

miscanthus giganteus vs. the wind












So after a little more research I found that you can easily pick it up on eBay (in season). That’s where I got mine this summer — cheapcheapcheap. Little known fact: apparently it’s been grown in Europe as a source of biofuel since the ’80s and it’s finally making its way stateside for the same purpose.

I really wanted to see this monster at work in a real-life garden — in person and not just online. So when I saw that Duncan Brine was opening his Hudson Valley garden to the public for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days schedule, I was psyched. We were sooooort of headed in that direction anyway last weekend for a visit to NYC. It was worth a jog to the north to see what he’s done with six acres.

This stand of giganteus greets you on the way in (click to biggify)…

brine garden giganteus hedge












So what secrets lie on the other side of that 12′ hedge?

brine garden giganteus on the other side












Twisting gravel paths and naturalistic plantings. I love the way the giant miscanthus contains this garden.

And how about a zinc bench ringed by giganteus? Cozy…

brine garden bench in giganteus












I can so make this work, even in our urban garden. My eBay plants are still mere spindly stalks at around 6′ or 7′. They’re eager to get into the ground before winter…

my giganteus




















Can’t say as I blame them. Maybe this week?

Thanks to the Brine Garden and its lovely host, Duncan, for encouraging my obsession. And for not making fun of me for my stalkerish tendencies.

two weeks later

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Misty, foggy days are ideal for baby grass…

grass at two weeks, closeup




















Starting to look like a lawn! Click to biggify…

grass starting to look like a lawn

















160 hours later

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

My friends, we have achieved grass. One week from planting.

baby grass

136 hours later

Friday, October 7th, 2011


no grass yet

followup: how’s that hillside?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This is for you, Shiva, my dear!

MARCH 30, 2010

hillside: march 30, 2010 a disaster after historically heavy rains












APRIL 3, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 reshaped with new soil













APRIL 5, 2010

hillside: april 3, 2010 biodegradable erosion control added











APRIL 6, 2010

hillside: april 6, 2010 brand new planties












OCTOBER 4, 2011

hillside: october 4, 2011 first view












hillside: october 4, 2011 second view












hillside: october 4, 2011 third view/closeup of sweetfern




















Not completely filled in but looking fabulous. No more erosion issues. Yippee!

If you’re interested in the plant choices, check this out. FYI, we ended up putting the Cornus canadensis (creeping dogwood/bunchberry) at the top of the slope in the shade instead of on the slope in the sun.