Monday, September 29, 2008

Adding Morning Glory in unusual ways

Winter may be getting close for many of us, but for others the cool season may just now be appearing, or maybe the winter is coming to an end. When my sister lived in Sonora Mexico, she couldn't even think about planting tomatoes until October because it was simply too hot to keep a plant alive during the summer months.

For those of you just moving into your growing season, and those planning ahead for next year, it doesn't hurt to take a look at options available in your landscaping.

Last summer I had a garden arch over one of my walkways, but the weight of the morning glory vines, combines with the, um, cheap arch I installed in the first place meant that when we got a good heavy wind, it broke down at the bottom where it stuck in the ground.

I figured I had a fun summer of flowers and I would replace the arch with a better one eventually. I didn't stop to think about all of the volunteer morning glory plants I would get this spring--note I am talking about the annual flowers that put out large colorful blooms, and not field bind weed, also commonly referred to as morning glory, but which is a perennial that can't be gotten rid of with serious diligence and plenty of herbicides.

When the plants began to pop up, I had the decision of whether I was going to find a way to train them, pull them up or leave them in place. I decided on the last of the three choices. I had flowers in the area of the garden where the volunteers popped up, but there were still empty spots, and some of them came up in the new bed I built with my flowering cherry. I did remove the plants in the walkways, and thinned out anything that threatened the plants I had intentionally put there, but what resulted was a vine that covered the bare ground, chocking back other weeds without doing real damage to my good plants. It also twined up my tree, adding color to an area of the yard that is still struggling to get established.

This worked in my cottage garden beds, and it might work in other areas that you hadn't thought of. I've heard of people making fishing line trellises to train the morning glory or similar vines up to shade a side of the house that got too much hot sun, to add a privacy screen to a sitting area in the yard or just to add color to an otherwise blank area in the yard. Though they aren't as invasive as their cousin, the weed, morning glory is very hardy, dealing well with inconsistent water, and other less-than-ideal circumstances.

Return to the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. Welcome to the yourLDSneighborhood newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources, and LDS interviews from around the world--all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

LDS Newsletter Subscriptions are FREE and joining is easy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Leaving notes for next year

Fall fruits and vegetables are rolling in, and tree leaves are starting to turn in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Along with eating, preserving and either selling or giving away the bounty of your harvest, it's time to think ahead to next year.

Have you drawn a map of your vegetable garden yet? Do you remember where you planted your potatoes last year? Will you remember come spring? This may seem like a waste of time, or even ridiculous--of course I'm going to remember where I planted the melons this year. No problem! Only, when I think back to last summer--only one year ago--I can't remember if the carrots were in this plot or that. Did I have potatoes in this bed, or was that the melons?

If you're just starting in the gardening world, these questions may not seem important, but certain plant families should not be rotated into the same beds in successive years (ie, tomatoes and potatoes, or beans and peas) for several reasons. One family of vegetables may all drain the soil of certain nutrients, and rotating the plants in the bed can make your soil healthier with less work and added chemical fertilizers.

Even more importantly, plants from the same family are more likely to spread diseases to each other. For example, tomatoes carry chemicals that can negatively affect potatoes if they are planted in the same place next year. If more tomatoes are planted in the same place, the ground gets even more infested, and eventually your plants will not thrive as well.

I've heard some Permaculture experts (Permaculture will definitely come up in a later post, but it deserves space of it's own), say that you can plant the same type of plants in the same place over and over, but in my opinion, it's only asking for trouble, so *if you have a choice,* it's better to err on the side of caution.

A three-year rotation is best, but in order to remember where you put everything, it certainly helps to write it all down. Even a hastily scrawled piece of note paper with general blocks of space listed with your crops for the season and dated can make a big difference down the road. Some people keep a garden journal with lists of what they planted where, when the first and last frosts happened, their first blooms and tomatoes. Personally, I think that's a brilliant idea, if you're the type to keep up with it. On the other hand, an inexpensive notebook with a few hastily jotted notes can still be useful if you can find it year after year.

Return to the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. Welcome to the yourLDSneighborhood newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources, and LDS interviews from around the world--all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

LDS Newsletter Subscriptions are FREE and joining is easy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making plans for winter

In most areas of the US the days are still warm and balmy, the nights cool, but not inching near the freezing mark yet, but it's still not too early to begin thinking about preparing for winter and in the northern states and Canada, as well as parts of Europe, winter may be inching up, only weeks away.

That means planting spring-blooming bulbs, mulching areas that you want to protect from the cold and fertilizing. Personally, I like to do the last two items simultaneously. This is possible for me because I raise chicken, geese and ducks, and there is always plenty of bedding to clear out of the coop and runs.

Last winter I lost several winter-hardy perennials because that flower bed is up against the front steps and front of the house on the south side, so the snow melted off quickly, leaving the ground unprotected from the daily freeze-thaw cycle during the winter. To combat this, I plan to put at least two inches of mulch on it--coop bedding, shredded leaves, grass clippings, extra straw or any other similar items. This will combat the freeze and thaw issue, while providing nutrients to the plants as the snow slowly melts, carrying nitrogen to te plant roots.

Fertilizing during the winter can make a big difference to your yard, and not just your flowers. After the hard, hot summer, your grass might benefit from a quick nitrogen burst, and again before the cold hits hard, a fall fertilizer with lots of phosphorus can stimulate root growth to help your grass and plants come up stronger and happier next spring. Many of my irises failed to bloom this spring, despite having been int he ground for a full year, so I'm going to make sure they get a shot of fertilizer before I mulch them for winter.

As for spring bulbs--if you have drawn up a plan of your flower beds, marking where you put the bulbs can make it easier to avoid digging them up in the spring before they emerge if you are inclined to dig around late int he winter. I failed to do this last fall or this spring, so I'll have to rely on my memory for where the bulbs all reside--and replant those that I accidentally dig up. Time for me to get out the grid paper.

Return to the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. Welcome to the yourLDSneighborhood newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources, and LDS interviews from around the world--all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

LDS Newsletter Subscriptions are FREE and joining is easy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Putting your border in a vase

I love flowers. I love the color, the variety of leaves, the honey sweetness, the way they draw butterflies and bees. I love them enough to put up with invading weeds and finding my walkways encroached upon by nicotiana or cosmos heavy with blooms by the time fall arrives.

And I love most of all, being able to bring them inside.

My garden claims roses and gladiolas, daffodils and tulips and plenty of other flowers you normally consider cutting to brighten the living room, but I've found there are a multitude of flowers out there that most people don't think of for flower arranging, that also do great in a bit of water and a light room. Currently I have this mix of petunias on the round table beside my sofa--I picked them on Monday and they still look great. In the past I've cut blanket flower, snapdragons and other blooms. My first year of gardening I planted marigolds--which look great in a vase for the better part of a week.

A little trick to keeping marigolds--most people won't cut them for bouquets, because their smell isn't exactly honey sweet. In fact, it stinks quite a lot, but I learned years ago that a bit of sugar in the bottom of their water for twelve hours or so before adding them to your arrangement sucks all the smell out of the blooms. Try it--it really works.

I bet there are other flowers in your yard that you never considered cutting to bring inside, check it out, you might be surprised.

Return to the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to our fantastic newsletter. Welcome to the yourLDSneighborhood newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the LDS newsletter brings you LDS articles, LDS products, LDS services, LDS resources, and LDS interviews from around the world--all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

LDS Newsletter Subscriptions are FREE and joining is easy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Filtering your pond

I promised to bring up pond filters, so now I have a few minutes we'll give it a go. A pond without some kind of filtering process soon becomes an algae-infested, soupy mess--thus the need for a filter. There are many varieties from inexpensive homemade to costly purchased filters--you can even use plants as filters if you plan ahead.

the size of your pond will obviously determine the amount of filtration you will need. In my little pond I don't use a regular filter, instead I use plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce (both are illegal in areas with large waterways that never freeze over), though there are plenty of non-invasive plants available for use as well. I also occasionally wrap my pump in a bit of quilt batting (something like a dollar and a half at Wal-Mart and will last me for ages.) when I have serious cloudiness.

For a larger pond you'll have to take stranger measures. Plants can be great biological filters--they pull the nitrogen out of the water, stealing the nutrients that algae grow on. Some people plan an extra small, shallow pond at one end or the other of their water circuit (ie either have the waterfall drop into it, then that water drop to the main pond, or have the main pond empty into the shallow pond where the water is pulled from to carry back to the waterfall).

If you plan it right, that can work, but usually, even then, you may want to use an additional biological filter. These filters use a pump that pushes the water through a media with many surfaces. There are lots of different kinds you an use. Some people swear the only safe media is the little balls or PVC shreds provided by companies that specialize in building filters. Others will tell you any non biodegradable items that have a lot of surface area (for example, thousands of tiny plastic toy soldiers) will work. Another site I have spent a lot of time at suggests using new, clean scouring pads because of the scads of surface area they provide. The idea is that the surface area is a place for microorganisms that will eat the excess nitrogen and other wastes left behind by fish. While the quilt batting mechanically removes the algae and dirt from the water, this kind of filter doesn't remove anything, it just helps promote good overall pond health.

If you have fish in your pond--especially koi--then a filter of some kind is a must. There are lots of directions on how to build them, but one of my favorite can be found here. I have a stash of those scrubby pads sitting downstairs for my own filter--when we get the big pond going.
Purchasing ready-made filters is far easier, but the cost is way outside my budget, so I'm going this direction. hopefully by the time I get to the pond-building step, I'll have purchased all of the individual parts and be ready to put it together.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Coral Embers shining in your winter landscape

As leaves begin changing colors, it's time to consider spots in your yard that need more fall color, and areas to add winter interest. There are a number of ways to add winter interest to your yard from evergreens, to leaving flower stalks to catch falling snow and icicles. Willow Coral Embers is just one of these ways.

This willow loves wet areas in your yard as long as the ground is well draining and does well in zones 2 to 8. It shows off silvery green leaves in summertime, and the leaves turn yellow in most zones. The real interest, however, is the bare branches left behind when winter sets in. This bright red color develops as winter sets in, but only on first-year growth. The willow will grow four or five feet a year, so it can be cut back to 15 inches or so in height in late winter to promote new growth for the following winter show.

This shrub has been popular in Europe for about a hundred years and loves full sun. It makes a great contrast to evergreens in the winter garden and has a reputation for being easy to grow.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Draw butterflies to your yard

I have several more blogs to write on the ins and outs of pond building, but decided to take a break today to discuss another favorite plant from my yard. The butterfly bush puts out a great show of blooms with some blooming from early spring to mid summer and others from mid summer to mid fall. The blooms are anywhere from white, to pink, blue to purple and there is even a variety that produces white, pink and purple all on the same bush. The flower spikes draw butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your yard as well. Also known as summer lilac, this plant is a native of China, but was first brought to England in the 1700s.

Hardy from zones 5 to 10, this plant is suitable for xeriscape, and does well in full sun to part shade. No parts of the plant are known to be poisonous. The flowers are fragrant and add great color to a corner or back of a border.

The bush grows anywhere from 4 to 10 feet in height and 4 to 6 feet wide, depending on cultivar, but in areas that receive heavy snow, it should be cut back to a more compact three feet or so in the late fall or early spring before the leaves begin to appear. This keeps the bush more compact, and as the flowers appear on new stems, it keeps the blooms coming. to make the blooms more profuse, you can also deadhead the flowers throughout the season (or remove them after flowering ends), and they make nice cut flowers if you remove them when they are about half way into their bloom. They stay nice in a vase for about a weeki.

Some varieties put out seeds and are considered invasive, so cutting them back every fall and pulling volunteers is imperative, while others stay compact. All varieties can be cultivated from hardwood cuttings, and many from softwood cuttings. I know some people have had luck growing these from wintersown seeds, but some varieties do not set seeds, or if they do, the plants will not grow true from seed, so check and see which type you have. If growing from seed, they need to be chilled for four weeks and can take up to 90 days to geminate--another good reason to wintersow (I'll explain wintersowing in November or December).

Return to the Neighborhood.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Solo the chick, one week later

So I'm sure no one is as interest in my baby chick as I am, but I couldn't believe how big he's grown in one week. The night he was born I took a picture of him on my hand and I swear he was only a third as big.

We thought he was going to be black, but now his feathers are coming in, I think he's going to be barred--you can see the tips of the feathers are white. This is kind of funny, actually, because the lady who sold me the eggs had marked several as being from her barred run--and this wasn't one of them. I'm still holding out hope for frizzled (curled) feathers, but I won't know until they get a bit longer.

Picking the right pump for your pond

As I mentioned in the previous blog, there are several considerations when picking a pond pump for a fountain or waterfall.

First consideration is how much water you want to move. Pond pumps are graded by the number of gallons per hour they move, and most are marked with this on a sliding scale. As a general rule, you want to move all water in your pond through the pump every hour, or two at the most. My pond is about four foot in diameter and a foot and a half deep-- 4x4x1.5=24 square feet times 7.5, which is the number of gallons per square foot of water=180 gallons. Now my pond actually has sloping sides, so it'll be a little less than this, but we're still looking somewhere near 150 gallons, which means my pump needs to move at least 75 gallons per hour, or GPH.

Also on the side of my pump package was a note about how high it could lift that many gallons per hour. The amount of lift is generally referred to as head height. Every vertical foot you raise the water from where the pump is placed, to where the water comes out, is one foot of head height. My pond is 18" deep, and the water empties from the pump hose about six inches above the surface of the water, so I have two foot of lift--but since I'm also using the pump for circulation purposes, I have it placed on the far end of the pond, and then it curves around the back of the water fall, so the hose is nearly ten foot long. For every ten foot of pipe or hose, you must add another foot of head height. So the head height my pump has to handle is three.

In my next pond build, I plan to build a shallow pool at the bottom of my water fall, then a short stream, and finally the water will drop into the main pond where the fish will be. That means the hose/pipe could be nearly thirty feet from one end to the other, and will probably lift the water at least four feet, so my pump will need to lift the amount of water I want to move at a head height of at least seven feet.

The other consideration for the amount of water you want to move has to do with the width of a waterfall or stream that you plan to use, and how much you want to put through it. If you want a trickle of water, or about 1/8 of an inch across the width of your waterfall, you'll need to move at least 100 GHP for each four inches of spout. For a somewhat more impressive display of 1/4 inch of water, you'll need 100 GHP for every 2 inches of spout, or for a real thick waterfall of 1/2 inch of water, you'll need 100 GHP for every inch of spout or falls. The numbers are similar for a stream--if you want a six inch stream with water running 3/4 of an inch deep (and remember you'll have gravel on the bottom, so you'll need at least that much water so you can actually see it) you'll need a pump that will move at least 900 GHP of water.

In my little pond, my pump will move about 150 GHP at the three foot of head height. It isn't an impressive water fall display, but it keeps things circulating, and provides a nice trickling sound.
Some people leave their pumps off unless they are out by the pond, but I prefer to have mine running all the time for optimum pond health.

A third consideration, especially if you are going to lave a larger pond, is using a filter, and how much power you'll need to push the water through any filter materials. For filtration, the pump should move the entire volume of the pond every hour, at at the very least, every two hours. Erring on the side of caution is best, and different filters require different amounts of pressure--and there are other options for filtration available as well, but that is fodder for another blog.

One last note on pumps: there are two main kinds: submersible, and non-submersible.
A submersible pump goes directly into the pond. This is ideal for smaller ponds, or if you're trying to keep a hole open in the ice. A larger pump for a big pond or water feature might be better off being located outside the pond. These pumps are a little more money, but there are lots of benefits of using this method.

As a general rule, you get what you pay for with pumps. I know they can be pricey, but I wouldn't skimp if you can help it since a cheaper pump is more likely to have problems down the road. This isn't always true, and you may be able to shop around and find a great deal of a high-quality pump. Sites like Craig's list--or in Utah, has a great classified section--could be a real benefit if you are careful and have time to watch for a good deal.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Book Review: The Santa Letters

After a tragic accident takes her husband's life on Christmas Eve the previous year, single mom, Emma, is finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit, in fact, she's struggling with continual depression and crying herself to sleep each night. When her six-year-old daughter insists that she had a dream that Heavenly Father was going to let her daddy visit at Christmas, Emma doesn't know how to tell her it won't happen.

Then, on December 13, two of her sons find a mysterious letter that is sealed in wax with an SC pressed into it. When the whole family is home and she opens the letter, it is signed Santa. This begins a Twelve days of Christmas festivity that slowly brings Emma out of her shell, helps her to let go of the heartache and bitterness that had filled her for the previous year, and teaches the whole family about the true Spirit of Christmas.

Stacy Gooch-Anderson has done a masterful job of writing a touching tale that captures your attention and holds on. I didn't want to put it down and, in fact, spent an entire morning reading it. It's a shorter book, under 200 pages, and it's an easy read. I would recommend this book to anyone, of any denomination, for a touching tale that gently weaves in the true meaning of Christmas--remembering Christ's birth, giving service and learning to love our family better.

This book is hardbound and can be purchased at Amazon or from Deseret Book.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Incubation success..sort of

I didn't want to tell when I decided to incubate this time because my previous attempt was such a dud, but here's what happened.

Well, I did succeed in hatching out one chick last week, so it is a success, even if I put 34 eggs in the incubator to start out with. I ordered a dozen cochins, six silkie eggs, and six mille fleur eggs. The cochins came from somewhere in the midwest (I can't remember, I'd have to look it up) and she sent 15 eggs. The box looked like it had been drop kicked by postal employees en route, so I was pretty sure nothing would make it despite the fact that none of the eggs were a bit cracked. Surprisingly, that's where my only chick came from.

The silkies and mille fleurs came from northern California. She sent 9 of one and 10 of the other. The box looked perfect on the outside. Almost all of these eggs started developing, then stopped about ten days in. I'm not sure why, but this incubator has weird temperature spikes, and all I can figure is the temps got too high and killed most everything off.

I still had three eggs on day 1 when I candled, but I think one was already dead, and the other died around that time. We decided we need to order a new thermostat before I try a batch of valuable eggs again, because this one little baby ended up costing me a bundle!

On the other hand, because I put all those eggs in the 'bator, we started building a new coop. So now I have a half finished coop and only one little baby, we had to order day-old chicks. =) Can't wait until they arrive. I'll definitely post pics because they'll be adorable.

So my new baby is a cochin, we think he'll be black, but he could turn out blue, since they were in the same pen at the lady's house. This also came from a pen of frizzles (chickens with curled feathers) so I'm hoping he will be like that. We haven't named him/her yet, but I figure we aren't in any hurry.

I scrubbed and sanitized my incubator this weekend and raided my Muscovy duck nest for eggs--when she sat on them last time, she only hung around about 3 weeks, then decided she was done, and Muscovies take 5 weeks to incubate, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Wish me luck!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Adding oxygen to your pond

So now you've decided how big and how deep you want your pond, you've decided if you want fish or not, and what kind--you need to decide how you want to add oxygen to your water. If you are raising fish--or even just plants, you definitely need to make sure they have access to oxygen in the water, which will be used up or eventually escape if it isn't added regularly. Another reason to make sure you are adding air to the water is because decaying debri in your pond can steal all of the air from the water, and add toxic gases that can kill plants and fish. The type of aeration needed depends on the size of your pond, but for something small like the one I have, not much is needed. For a larger pond, especially one deep enough for koi, you may need to take more drastic measures.

A pond bubbler is a small device that shoots a stream of water into the air. When the water falls back down, it brings oxygen with it, and mixes into the water below. This can be something as simple as the one pictured to the right, which is made by Pondmaster and run around $30, or something more incognito, like the rock bubbler pictured. These run upwards of $100 and come in various types of rock to fit your landscaping. A bubbler is also an option for keeping a portion of the water ice free in winter to allow an air exchange for any plants or fish you may overwinter there and will work in all but the coldest weather.

There are under-water pond aerators available for deeper water if you don't want to have a spray of water above the surface. This one works great for really large ponds, but runs over a thousand dollars. It forces compressed air into the water just under the surface, but parallel to it--you may have seen it used in large ponds, as the green part floats on the top of the water.

Then there's a smaller fountain to add interest to the middle of the pond. This one by Aquabelle has four different water patterns available and runs around $70. There are many similar set-ups available at big-box stores from the $30-range and on up, though they may be difficult to find at this time of year, or they may be on discount right now with the summer season coming to an end. I saw a pond kit for a complete pond with a small fountain for the middle that had been sold all summer at $100 go down to $40 a couple of weeks ago. My fingers itched to buy it because the price was so good, but I managed to control the urge--this may be one way for you to go, so check around if you are looking for something small.

Then, for those of us who just have to have a waterfall or some sort, you have the standard pond pump. It's important to remember that not all pumps are created equal, and what you'll need will vary depending on the amount of water you want to move and how far or high you want to move it. But I'll cover that topic later this week.

Return to the Neighborhood.