Thursday, October 25, 2012

BIRDS, BEES AND BUTTERFLIES… OH MY!! Attracting These Beautiful Creatures to Your Yard by Janet Merriweather

Photo by Tina Ligon

BIRDS: Be careful what you wish for when it comes to calling all birds to your yard! The type of seed you supply can somewhat determine what kind of birds you will attract to your feeders. Just remember, you cannot discriminate against your little feathered friends! When you call them, they will come, all of them! So, when you see all of the black birds and sparrows eating up your seed don’t cringe, rejoice in the fact that you are one with the bird world! Don’t hit the bargain table when buying your seed. You want the best food for the health of your little feathered friends. Things to consider: Suet can go rancid in the high heat, sunflower seeds and peanuts in the shell leave a mess, cracked and whole corn attract unpopular birds and squirrels. Just remember, the more natural the better. Try planting flowers and vines in your yard with birds in mind. Some good resources on the web are: National Audubon Society; and Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program;

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Case for Cover Crops and Green Manuring by Sally Berriman

Crimson Clover and Annual Rye Photo by Peg Tillery
A cover crop is simply a high number of plants, not grown for food but as plant material which is used to improve the soil.   When the cover crop is tilled into the soil, it is referred to as a green manure crop or green manuring.  The terms are often used interchangeably.  While cover crops have been used extensively in commercial agriculture, recently more home and community gardeners are starting to use cover crops on a smaller scale.

Cover crops are beneficial because they build soil structure, add organic materials, replenish soil nutrients, fix atmospheric nitrogen, protect the soil from wind and water erosion, suppress weeds and reduce insect pests.  Additionally, cover crops can provide a green and much more attractive alternative to an expanse of dry dirt during the off-season.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fantastic Foliage Plants by Gardener Dave

If you are considering reducing maintenance in your annual garden next year, consider having fewer flowers and adding more foliage plants. When you find a “happy spot” for them, they will increase in size and become even more colorful throughout the summer. Most like more shade than sun, but many will enjoy several hours of morning sunlight if they are watered adequately. They require no deadheading and most take trimming and shaping well. They are available in many contrasting colors, all the way from greens to browns, maroons and reds - many are variegated interestingly and can make striking color combinations with other annuals or even some perennials. 

Consider mixing them in with other plants that like partial sun or shade, such as hostas, caladium, or begonias. Or, plant them in pots as “specimens”. They will grow and reward you with evolving, sun-dappled colors from spring up until frost with minimal care. They are colorful without being overbearingly bright or “in your face” and have the best effect where you can see them up close as you pass by.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Cut Above the Rest; Choosing An Arborist by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros

Liontailing Photo by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros

My neighbor to the North of us has two 30+ year old willow trees.  Recently, I watched helplessly as a local tree service butchered them with inappropriate pruning cuts.  This company must not have been aware of ANSI pruning standards (American National Standards Institute), as the tree was riddled with heading cuts – a big ‘no, no’ when pruning mature shade trees and ‘lion-tailing’ which shifts the weight to the outer making the tree more susceptible to wind damage.  And NO care was taken to safely lower the branches to the ground.  Instead, my husband said it was literally “raining branches.”  In the process, my upright juniper sustained four broken branches, leaving a gaping hole on one side.  This will not grow back.  Save yourself this experience and read this article!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dual-Purposing Your Satellite Dish By Amy Norwood

Photo by Amy Norwood

Though you can’t see them too well in this picture, there are about twenty pieces of twine tethering my Chadwick Cherry tomato plant to my satellite dish.  And we still get TV reception!  So get satellite tv and throw out your tomato cages!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Harvesting your Pumpkins By Joyce D’Agostino

Rouge Vif D'Etampes (Cucurbita maxima) photo by Joyce D'Agostino

This growing season was a challenge for most of us due to the heat and lack of rain. Many pumpkin growers this year reported their crops maturing weeks earlier than the normal schedule due to the extreme drought conditions.

If you grew pumpkins this year, now is the time to prepare them for harvest and storage. Knowing when to cut and store your pumpkins is important.  Pumpkins are not only suitable for eating but are great for fall decorating and carving. Like winter squash, pumpkins take most of our growing season to produce the pumpkin. Choosing the right variety for your climate helps you achieve a successful fall pumpkin harvest.