Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summertime is Vine Time

On the first field trip our garden club made to Hills and Dales in Lagrange, I noticed plant seedlings for sale as we exited the visitor center. Instead of something in the gift shop, I bought two vines that would remind me of our fantastic day. I put them on my kitchen window sill until I decided where I should plant them and in my search for the perfect spot, I realized how many other vines were already growing around my house and in my yard.

One of the vines I bought, seen above, was a "Cardinal Vine" or "Ipomoea Stoleri", it is an annual vine that attracts bees, butterflies and birds.  This vine likes a spot with full sun to partial shade and soil with good drainage. All parts of the Cardinal Vine are poisonous, the foliage, the flowers and the seeds. Once the seeds pods dry, you can pick them to plant next year or let them re-seed at the same spot. The flower size is medium in red color and resembles a morning glory.

The other vine I bought was a "Hyacinth Bean Vine." Their blooms are purple and white clusters that bloom all summer long and in our southern climate, through the early fall season. This legume is used in window boxes, on trellises, as a ground cover and on any available pole. Similar to a pole bean it adds nitrogen to the soil,  it also loves sun, good drainage and will grow ten to fifteen feet under the right conditions. However, like the "Cardinal Vine," it's purple pods are poisonous, but will re-seed or can be gathered to plant the next season in a different location.

The "Hummingbird Vine," pictured above is one of my favorite. The small red flowers DO attract hummingbirds. I have been re-seeding and growing this same family plant for over seventeen years.
I just hope the same families of ruby red throated hummingbirds have enjoyed the nectar every year.

The plant above may look like a weed growing in the edge or somewhere else in your yard, but if you don't recognize this native it's OK. The "Trumpet Vine" grows everywhere along our roads and
by-ways. One of the biggest vines I've ever seen grows on the Lower Fayetteville Road bridge overlooking Interstate I-85. The orange trumpet flower is an attraction for all our friends of the garden.

Not all the vines in my yard bloom, the "Virgina Creeper" or "Parthenocissus Quinquefolia" starts out a dark green in spring and summer, loves a wall or any sturdy support. In the fall it turns red to scarlet and bears small bush berries that birds love. This woody climber makes it's way up a house or tree by suckering, amazingly, without damaging the anchor and will climb thirty to fifty feet.

Periwinkle will bloom violet flowers in the spring and I use it like a mulch around several islands in my back yard. I transplanted these periwinkle plants from an old home place when I moved to my home in 1993. I can honestly say, it has survived several drought seasons and I don't remember ever applying fertilizer.

I don't know about you but I see a pattern to annual summer vines. Most love a sunny, well drained spot to grow, attract friends of the garden with their blooms and seeds, love a good place to climb, and will sustain themselves, year after year if planted in the right spot. The down side is most are poisonous if consumed, not through contact.

If, your not partial to the vines I grow, there are hundreds you can plant in your yard and garden....
so happy planting........and until next time...

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, May 28, 2012

God Bless America -- Memorial Day Tribute

Happy Memorial Day to everyone! I hope you, your family, your friends and neighbors enjoy the day with all the food, gusto and fun that can be enjoyed in our great country. And at some point during the celebration, I hope you and yours remember, as this day was meant to celebrate, remembrance of all past and present who served to make us free..........and keep us free to this day!

Today, I'm remembering my dad (and his brothers) who served in World War II. As, you can see above, he was a handsome man. Although, this picture was taken way before my time, he taught me some valuable lessons about our county, later in my life when I was born.  How to be a patriot, love America and how to respect people and their property.

Growing up, we never had eagles nesting in our trees only hawks, but to me, both always captured a sense of freedom that became a symbol for our country for hundreds of years.

During my dad's service in World War II, he brought back alot of artifacts worn by German soldiers on their uniforms, as seen above. He told some war stories, but really not to me, as I was not born until long after his service.

God Bless America......and God Bless my dad, his brothers, and all brave men and women who served in the past......and all who serve in the present.......America needed them then and America needs them now!

Happy Memorial Day and .....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friends of the Garden -- the Birds and the Bees

When I moved to my home in 1993, I planted a large strip of mixed wildflowers close to the garden plot. Little did I realize then I was doing a big favor to my yard and garden by attracting alot of birds and bees with the flowers. Over the years, some of the flowers died out but the most prevalent and aggressive still come back every year with zero maintenance. Pictured above are "Mexican Hats" and it's easy to see how they get the name, as they do resemble a large brimmed sombrero to include the pointed crown.

Pollinators like honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and butterflies are attracted to bright colors like blues, yellows, reds and violets. These "Black-Eyed Susan's" pop up everywhere in the yard even where I have to mow the grass and I cut around them when possible. Pollinators are crucial for high yield and quality fruit and vegetable crops, strawberry, squash, melons and apples to name a few.

I also planted day lilies close to the garden but I don't remember the name of this variety, I just love the color.

Fragrant herbs like this basil deter many unwanted insects in the garden. The pink flowers in the background are wild primrose. This is just a small sprinkle that appeared at this location. There is a bigger grouping on the right side of the garden. Pollinators are important to set seeds and set fruit in the initial growing stage. How do they do it? They light on the anther (male part of the flower) and collecting pollen on the mouth, body, antennae or legs then light on the stigma (female part of the flower) and deposit the pollen and so on and so forth.

So, how do you attract them? Diversify, limit pesticides and leave flowers blooming in your yard and garden when possible, unless disease or insect infestations are a problem. These bok choy above have bloomed and are now seeding, but we won't cut them back until the pods fully ripen and then turn brown because they are attracting the pollinators we need for our garden. Plus we will harvest the seeds and plant them in the fall.

Another wildflower close to the garden that comes back ever year is this white yarrow. Although it's not my favorite I do love the fern like leaves. Yarrow comes in a variety of colors and can be used live or dried for arrangements. Plus, it also attracts pollinators.

I've talked about the bees, but now I'll give the birds some credit for being friends of the garden. Birds are not only fascinating to watch and sing beautiful songs, but if you let them and attract the right kinds, they will control unwanted bug populations. For several years, I have let the blackberry bushes around our garden grow until the crop ripens then cut them back. Why? One reason is so we can make a blackberry cobbler but another reason is to give my birds a tasty treat.

Also, I have a fig bush growing within yards of the garden, another attraction for the birds. And a plus to make preserves or dried figs to use in other recipes. Just like bees, birds need staples to attract and keep them close to your yard and garden. They need fresh water, shelter, food and the absence of strong chemical pesticides. All these staples are easy to purchase at a local garden center like Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.

All in all, the birds and the bees are some of the best "Friends of the Garden" and the yard for that matter, so I hope you take steps to attract them at your house.

Monday is "Memorial Day," so, please pay some tribute to a family service member, friend or someone in the military you may not know, regardless of past or present service.

Until next time.....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stand up and garden

More and more people are trying to garden but have problems when it comes to the backbreaking part of it--like tilling, weeding, hoeing and digging. Here is a book for those of us that want to garden, but just can't because of health issues. It is also a method for those who just don't have the time or desire it takes to have a traditional garden but would love to have one if it were easier to do.

This method takes raised beds to new heights--essentially waist high and puts it on the same level as a kitchen cabinet so you don't have to bend or stoop. The method is kind of like straw bale gardening but is more permanent.

There are also suggestions to garden vertically and ideas for mulching, watering, and container gardening. I really liked the suggested idea of planting tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets--a cheap but effective idea for growing America's favorite vegetable.

This book is an easy read and could save you tons of backbreaking work. If you have a secret desire to raise your own fruits and vegetables but your head spins and back aches when you think about it, read this book. You just may be inspired to join the raised bed and vertical gardening movement.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Garden Update

After a rough start this spring with some of the craziest weather I've ever seen our garden is beginning to look like, guess what, yes, a garden! The bean poles are up, the cucumber fence has been installed and the biggest tomatoes are caged. sunshine, fresh air and beautiful rain.

Pictured above are giant Alaskan Sugar Pods. They need picking today and this will make the third crop we've picked. You can eat them off the vine while you gather them, chop them in a nice salad, saute in butter or olive oil, add them to your favorite stir fry and they keep a long time in the frig.

The yellow and zucchini squash look good now, knock on wood, as for two previous years we had problems with squash bugs and vine borers. As, seen on an earlier blog we used a row cover until the blooms appeared and the plants grew too large. Also, we've sprayed them multiple times with BT Worm Killer to proactively keep these pests from destroying the produce.

The red cabbage look good and are heading, as they should. BT has been applied to keep cabbage worms away. But growing an organic garden means using a heads up approach which means monitoring the plants daily for any trespassers.

All the hot peppers like the "Chili Red" pictured above are developing just fine. Most insects or small animals don't bother hot peppers, we just watch out for blight and similar problems. I can't wait to stuff one with cheese, batter it, then bake or fry it...yummy.

Due to the 80 degree weather in February the red and white rows of potatoes did not fare well, but as I like to tell everyone, we have one potato, two potato, three potato, four....and that's true two red plants and two white plants.

However, this year we planted a row of sweet potatoes and they are doing great. I've always understood that sweet potatoes are better for you and I love pies and fries.

Jerry's watermelons look good, too.

We use a fence to grow our cucumbers. Last year we had success, as they seem to like running on a fence. It deters small animals from nibbling and helps to prevent mold and rot.

This year instead of the usual "Kentucky Wonder" green beans, we planted "Rattlesnake." They are a Georgia local favorite, just hope the name doesn't attract snakes up the poles. They look good and so far haven't encouraged pests.

Our lettuce is crisp and ready to pick now but it won't last long in the summer heat.

The two rows of heirloom tomatoes have basil, coriander and dill mixed in the rows. Also we planted some at different time intervals so our tomato crop wouldn't produce at the same time.

Last but not least, seen above is a "Bonnie" bell pepper growing in the sweet pepper row. Bell peppers have so many uses in ethnic recipes around the world.

This is a back view of the garden and now I've got to run to do some work, pick some produce and enjoy the serenity.

Until later....and another garden update..........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Snakes, Lizards and Frogs -- Good for Yard and Garden

I grew up in a rural setting with snakes, lizards and frogs, so I've never been afraid of them and always had respect of their job in the yard, garden, woods and Georgia eco-system.

Cleaning up after the yard sale at the site, Todd (my Chiweenie) cornered this snake, who was minding his own business moving across the driveway. Since I didn't recognize the species, I decided to take it home and look it up. If it was poisonous, I would dispose of it and if it was beneficial to the yard and garden, I would let it out.

Researching the species took me back to recollections of my youth and what my dad taught me, how cold blooded reptiles like snakes and lizards and amphibians like frogs and salamanders, help humans in the yard and garden. Snakes keep the rodent population in check and poisonous snake venom is used, not only to cure snake bites, but used in lots of different kinds of disease research. Small lizards, as seen above, help to keep unwanted insects around the house, yard and garden to a minimum.

If you're interested search the web for the benefits of these amazing creatures that live at your house.

Frogs are also beneficial, eating mosquitoes, nats and other pests. It's hard to tell from this photo, but this guy is only about one fourth inch (the big one got away before the photo). They reside under the plastic pots growing our seedlings to plant in the garden. Searching the web, I learned an amazing fact. Frogs and toads are different, frogs have smooth skin and toads have rough, bumpy skin and most likely, toads are the ones living around our house and garden.

Although, I am not scared of most snakes, I don't suggest that you put one in your trunk. I'm sure this is a rat snake, but it is still in my car! I really gave my friends, family and me a good laugh with my debacle. Just hope I'm not driving when it comes out from under the dashboard.

Regardless, without these yard and garden friends, rodents and insects would be a bigger problem around our houses, yards and in our gardens.

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Orchids -- Gotta Love'em

My sister, Deberah gave everyone a great tour of the Hills and Dales Gardens in Lagrange, Georgia, the Crossroads Garden Club visited, May 5th. I knew she would share a fantastic blog and take  pictures, so anyone blogging could join our walk through the gardens. I enjoyed every step and every view into each different type of garden spot. But one section I enjoyed the most was the green house and the magnificent orchids in bloom.

One of the most prevalent orchids, I recognize, as seen above, is the "Cattleya", named after, William Cattley from Barnett, England, a collector and botany patron, who lived around 1832. Today there are sixty plus varieties ranging in colors from whites, creams, pinks, violets, purples and even in darker shades of each. This variety is a favorite of American florists and garden centers due to price, availability and color schemes. Florists use them in corsages and arrangements, retail garden centers use them for pot and hanging basket sales.

The "Cattleya" orchid originated from Central and South America, introduced to England in 1818, but other genus of orchids have wide spread origins from Spain, China, to Australia and even a cousin, the slipper orchid from Cyprus.

Although, I have tried in the past to grow this gorgeous plant, I have never had success. Maybe it was my ignorance or maybe a certain fear and belief that a green house was needed to maintain and grow an orchid. After, a little research, understanding the steps to care for this orchid doesn't seem as hard as I thought. Grow in a five to ten inch pot which has excellent drainage (one of the keys), use commercial orchid soil or use a mixture of course peat (size of a pea), ground bark and charcoal. Water regularly during the growing season (blooming), sparingly during winter. Maintain at 70-80 degrees, mist to maintain humidity at 50 percent (another key element) throughout the year and keep in a window with good non-direct sunlight. A humidifier placed close by, plus misting should solve any humidity problems. Use a weak fertilizer, once a week during the growing season and consult the internet or knowledgeable grower, if you have questions or problems.

Regardless of whether you want to take a challenge to grow orchids -- you "Gotta Love'em" because the flowers are magnificent and bring a beauty to our earth to enjoy and share with anyone in your life!

I tried to share the photos with Tia this afternoon but she wasn't interested and took a nap....she can enjoy the blog later.

Next time I'll give you an update on the two sister's garden. Until then......

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our First Annual Crossroads Garden Club Yard Sale

Over the weekend we had a Crossroads Garden Club Yard Sale. We asked our club members to donate garden (or yard sale) items for the Garden Club and invited members set up tables around the barn to set up their own yard sales, too. Above from left, Wilma Smith, Paul Boylen and Deberah Williams in front of the Crossroads Garden Club table.

 Charlotte Nelson displaying her wares. She brought garden items she had made to sell and her booth was a big hit with customers, especially her china bird feeders and her terrariums. They were perfect for Mother's Day presents. Charlotte normally sets up on Saturdays in Newnan where she sells canned goods, extra vegetables, plants and her beautiful handcrafted items. You can pick up these items on market days at the old Fairgrounds in Newnan.

Garden club member, Angela McRae also set up her table in the shade and enjoyed visiting with other members while waiting on customers.

I want to thank all the members who brought items to sell at the Yard Sale. This was a last minute endeavor but even with very little time to prepare, we made a nice sum of money and enjoyed visiting with one another--and our steady stream of customers. We even met some prospective new club members!

I sold many of my extra pot-bound tomato, pepper and lavender plants. We sold cuttings from a gardenia bush and we also had some very nice plants of various kinds grown by club members. We had old pots, annuals, perennials of various kinds and I even bought some much needed hostas to plant in my landscape.

Some of our members also made money for themselves and cleaned out old yard sale items--and that is always a good thing.

After packing up, we decided it was a very successful event and we would like to do it again next year. This time we will have plenty of time to prepare!