Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Protect Vegetables from Groundhogs, Rabbits and Squirrels, Part 1: A Chicken Wire Raised Bed Cover

Dear Messrs. Groundhog, Rabbit, and Squirrel,

My friends over at Gardening Gone Wild asked me to write to you to discuss the status of our current dispute. While I have such a harmonious relationship with so much of the other wildlife in the garden--the birds, the toads, the salamanders--I regret that our relationship has become so acrimonious, particularly as it relates to the vegetables.

While I am flattered that you like the vegetables as much as (or perhaps even more than) we do, I find that your appetites leave something to be desired, namely leftovers. Last year, the garlic spray kept you away from many of the vegetables, but I was disappointed to still find teeth marks on my vine-ripened tomatoes and zucchinis, not to mention the fruitless pumpkin and watermelon vines whose flowers you devoured. I can no longer bear your rude interruptions.

In response, I have asked my dear husband to make a simple, custom-fit chicken wire vegetable box cover to keep you away. What it lacks in aesthetic contribution to the garden, I hope it makes up in efficacy. In the future, please find food elsewhere in the wild or, if I may be so bold to suggest, cultivate your own vegetables.

Best wishes,

Heirloom Gardener
UPDATE: Part 2 of this series discusses adding chicken wire around the post and rail fence. Part 3 of this series discusses reinforcements to chicken wire raised bed cover after a break-in.
Related posts:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Do you want to see 45,000 daffodils in bloom?

Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit, New Jersey

Daffodil Day on Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Plant sale, family scavenger hunt, woodland tours, games, arts and crafts, face painting, mini-lectures, refreshments, free tree seedlings.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Freshly Cut Crocuses from the Garden

In my post on Ten Tips for Planning a Children's Garden, tip #6 was "Allow [the children] to cut flowers...They love making vases for our home and to give to friends." The children have been making vases of the snowdrops and winter aconite for a few weeks now, but just this week, enough of the crocuses that I posted for March's Bloom Day are starting to blossom that they have begun to cut them too. For these small, early spring bulbs, I like using bud vases like the ones pictured that you can place all around the house.

The Best of Heirloom Gardener (updated as of March 2009)

I. Trees, Shrubs, and Plants

II. Pruning
III. Hardscaping
IV. Gardening With Children
V. Vegetables and Herbs
VI. Pest Control

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Planting Early Spring Cool Season Crops and Vegetable Gardening 101

Last week, I turned over the cover crops in my raised vegetable beds. Having let the soil rest for a week, I am now ready to plant my first cool season crops: loose leaf lettuces, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas. I am planting all of them from seeds purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

The lettuce seeds need some light to germinate, so all you have to do is press them into the soil. The pea seeds are planted at a depth twice the length of the seed which is easy to do by simply poking your finger into the soil. From here, you don't really water them. You just mist them enough so that they stay slightly moist and don't dry out. How frequently you do this depends upon the weather.


Vegetable Gardening 101: Tips from a Beginning Heirloom Vegetable Gardener

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How to Build a Planting Grid for Square Foot Gardening

In preparation for this year's vegetable gardening, I've been reading Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening (see below). One idea that I got from the book was to build a planting grid with wood lathes to stay true to the square foot gardening philosophy. Just as the book promised, it was easy to build and hopefully will make my vegetable gardening easier and my yield greater. Here's how I did it:
1. Gather together your materials and tools: 6 four foot wood lathes for each 4x4 foot grid you want to make; nuts and bolts to hold your grid in place; tape measure and pencil; and power drill.
2. Measure and mark your wood lathes in one foot increments.
3. Pre-drill the holes in your wood lathes at each one foot increment. Pre-drilling is important as the wood lathe would likely break without doing so.
4. Screw in your nuts and bolts to hold together your grid. At this step, I found that I actually needed to re-drill some of the holes, as my wood lathes were not all perfectly straight.
5. Take apart and put back together again. Well, hopefully you won't have to take this step, but I did. As you see in the second picture, I realized that the grid was 4 x 4 for sixteen squares, but what I really wanted for my raised vegetable beds was 4 x 5 for twenty squares, so I wound up taking the grid apart and re-attaching one set of lathes at 6, 18, 24 and 30 inches.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Winter Aconite Continue to Self Seed

Four years ago, I planted about ten winter aconite in my Front Border. Each year, the patch has slowly grown through self-seeding. Pictured are some of the newest that are just starting to come up. I'd guess the total number in the patch is now somewhere around thirty. Aren't they cute?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Protect Your Roses Now: Spray Dormant Oil Before Your Roses Leaf Out

This weekend, I applied Dormant Oil to all of my roses. This is the best organic pest protection that you can give to your roses, as it smothers over-wintering insects and their eggs. As I wrote in a post last year:

"The dormant oil is horticultural oil diluted in water. Horticultural oil is available at most nurseries. As a dormant spray, the horticultural oil is less diluted than it is when its used after plants have leafed out. The importance of the horticultural oil for the organic rose gardener is that it suffocates many pest and their eggs before they become active as the weather warms up. It's good as a control for aphids, spider mites, scale, sawfly, and thrips. The dormant oil should be applied all over the canes of the roses. The easiest time to do it is after pruning because all the unnecessary wood has been removed; but, if you will not complete your rose pruning until the leaves have already begun to emerge, do it now. The only brand that I know of is Bonide All Seasons Horticultural & Dormant Spray Oil."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beautiful Display of Forced Ceris Branches

Of all of my forced branches this season, this display of ceris Forest Pansy branches is the highlight. About three weeks ago, I cut about eight branches three to four feet in length. The first week, little appeared to be happening. The second week, the buds really began to swell. And this week, I was rewarded with this beautiful display. For a close-up of the flowers, click here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Flowers that Bloom in Late Winter - Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day March 2009 (New Jersey, zone 6b)

What a difference a month makes for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. In my zone 6b garden, the garden is slowly waking up. Winter aconite (Eranthis) started blooming last week in the Front Border.
In addition to the Galanthus elwesii snowdrops that I photographed a few weeks ago, these Galanthus nivalis are also now in bloom in the Front Border.
Also, these double snowdrops Plena Flora are blooming in the Egg Garden.
Crocus tommasinianus just started blooming in the Front Border.
The Witchhazel Primavera is growing next to the Fort.
The Witchhzael Arnold's Promise is now in full bloom next to the playground.
Finally, just today, my son found this purple hellebore poking up on Goldberry Hill.
Check out all of the bloom day posts from around the world over at May Dreams Garden.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Prune Hydrangeas and Roses

As a clarification to yesterday's post on pruning shrubs, you only want to cut back the hydrangeas that grow on new wood. If you cut back the hydrangeas that grow on old wood, you'll be cutting off this year's flowers.
For information on pruning hydrangeas that grow on old wood, check out this post:
For those of you who asked about pruning roses, check out these posts:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How and When to Prune Caryopteris, Spirea, Butterfly Bush, Pee Gee Hydrangea, Annabelle Hydrangea, Smokebush, Elderberry

After the "in like a lion" March first snow, we were blessed with "out like a lamb" seventy-degree spring weather this weekend. The whole family spent every waking minute outside and I took the opportunity to do some of my late winter shrub pruning. In my zone (6b), early March is the perfect time to prune the shrubs that are grown either for (i) flowers that bloom on new wood or (ii) foliage that is more vibrant on new wood.
Some of the shrubs that I grow for flowers that bloom on new wood include caryopteris, spirea (pictured below), butterfly bush, pee gee hydrangea (pictured below) and annabelle hydrgangea. Some of the shrubs that I grow for foliage that is more vibrant on new wood includes smokebush (pictured below) and elderberry (or sambucas). As you can see in the pictures below, you can really cut these shrubs back significantly and by doing so, you will be rewarded with a greater number of blooms on your flowering shrubs and more vibrant color for your foliage shrubs.
Does pruning these shrubs really make a difference? Yes! Last year, I cut back only some of the spirea and the difference between the pruned and unpruned was quite noticeable.

Spirea before pruning
Spirea after pruning
Pee gee hydrangea after pruning
Smokebush after pruning

Monday, March 02, 2009

The First Tree to Flower in the Garden: Witchhazel (Arnold's Promise) Blooming in Late February/Early March in New Jersey (Zone 6b)

I've wanted a witchhazel for a few years now and, after planting my first one last spring, am now enjoying my first blooms. I planted a small specimen of Arnold's promise (the name is from Harvard's Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts), a common and widely available witchhazel (my specimen is from Forestfarm Plant Nursery). The flowers are unique and have a strong fragrance. In addition, they get bonus points for blooming while the rest of the garden is still asleep. The picture was taken this weekend before today's heavy snow.

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