Voting is like gardening.
You need a plan.
Know which seeds to sow.
Boldly remove weeds that are invasive.
Remember that too much fertilizer (BS) does more harm than good.
Voting is like gardening.
You need a plan.
Know which seeds to sow.
Boldly remove weeds that are invasive.
Remember that too much fertilizer (BS) does more harm than good.
When news of a hard frost came as an alert on my mobile phone yesterday, I went to the garden to pick the last of the zinnias to bring indoors and to say good-bye to the perennial flowers that were still blooming late into the autumn.
The temperature was a chilly 45 degrees with a blustery wind, but I had the urge to do a quick last minute garden tour – with this one under my belt, I promise to capture more garden tour videos throughout the season in 2019. But for now, here’s my farewell to the 2018 garden.
Click here for a Garden Tour in under 7 minutes.
PS….Amazingly, the day before this video was taken, I found this gorgeous ruffled daylily in bloom. Just as everything was winding down for the 2018 gardening season, this beauty made a guest appearance. (Making this morning’s freeze even more sad.)
Good-Bye 2017 Gardening Season!
It’s been three weeks since our first hard freeze in southern New Hampshire. Work in the garden has been winding down. It’s time to rake leaves to create more mulch/compost, clean and store delicate statuary and birdbaths, bring in hoses, etc. Planting spring bulbs should be fun, but after a long season, even that project feels like just another chore. (I’ll think differently about that when I have 50 new tulips blooming come spring, though!)
I’ll be honest. I think every gardener needs a winter break – especially following a successful gardening season.
Overall, 2017 was an excellent season. The zinnias were spectacular! We had a decent harvest of fresh herbs and greens, tomatoes, and peppers. The wine cork mulch project far exceeded expectations! And the hummingbirds arrived and departed exactly as expected – delighting us every single day during their nearly 6 month visit.
The were only two disappointments. 1) The lack of peony flowers in June and 2) the ever constant ‘sad, sod situation’ of the lawn. (Planting white clover seemed like a genius idea this spring. I was even bragging about how great the yard looked in May and June. Then ‘Beatrix Potter’ arrived! Our new resident wild cottontail bunny enjoyed the clover in July — eating all the lush green back to the roots. Oh well, I guess everyone needs to eat and that was the only havoc wreaked our new garden visitor.)
And here it is, late November and I’m just sharing some of the 2017 stories now. My original intent with my ‘Garden with Grace’ blog was to document each growing season – in detail. That said, while I’ve had the best of intentions, as well as at least a dozen gardening stories (constantly!) in my head, I’m not as consistent with sitting down to write during the summer months.
Thankfully, I can look back to my photos – especially those on Instagram – to remember annual gardening highlights. I invite you to FOLLOW ME via: https://www.instagram.com/gardenwithgrace/
I’ve been using #BloominginMyGardenNow for a few years now and never realized that it’s pretty much MY hashtag until a friend in the media called it out for me. (By the way, as a marketing and communications professional, I think that’s pretty cool, and admit that I’d tried to create a hashtag to be my own, it would’ve been a lot more difficult!)
It’s amazing how a basic mobile phone camera can create such detailed photos of flowers and in some cases, insects. I don’t use any filters on my Instagram photos, so what you see, is what I see. On the days I’m searching for inspiration, I scroll through my Instagram feed to either write, plan for next year’s garden, or just remember past moments in the garden.
So my documentation of each gardening season is, indeed, getting done. Not in the way initially intended or planned, but it works nonetheless….very much like the actual act of gardening, itself.
One of the first signs of spring in my world is always the fragrance of newly opened bags of potting soil for seed starting and transplanting. Fellow gardeners know — fresh dirt just smells incredible! It’s a heavenly spring fragrance, especially after a long New England winter.
I have about a dozen large pots for annuals, including flowers, herbs, and vegetables around my garden that I fill with fresh potting soil late each spring – it’s about a $100 investment………….for dirt!
This year, I used different soil mixes in different pots for different plantings. I didn’t intend to conduct an experiment. There was some left over Doctor Earth soil in my potting shed that I used in some of my tomato planters. Then I found some Organic Miracle Grow Moisture Control with coir potting soil at Costco (huge bags – I think 15 qts for $9.99 each.) I used this in my five coleus planters and one of my herb planters. And finally, I got some Coast of Maine potting soil from the Nashua Farmer’s Exchange for my other large herb planter. Coast of Maine products have long been a favorite product in my garden – especially their awesome Lobster Compost.
It’s important that no matter how experienced we are, good gardeners always seek experts to help us to grow our skills and knowledge. Gene and Judy, the owners of the Nashua Farmer’s Exchange, are the experts I count on for good advice. They have been ‘trusted advisors’ to both my mom and me for many years when it comes to trying new things and finding solutions to garden challenges.
This year, Judy recommended the Stonington Blend potting soil from Coast of Maine when I stopped in to get the dirt on the best dirt for my large herb containers. Knowing the great quality of the Coast of Maine products, I took Judy’s advice. While the product is a little more expensive than I typically purchase, it was on sale and worth a try. As I paid for my purchase, Judy whispered to me that the Stonington Blend has a great reputation among medicinal marijuana growers. I found that interesting and kind of funny since I was purchasing POTting soil.
Not realizing that I’d need A LOT of soil for my herb planters, I bought only enough Stonington Blend for one container (which wasn’t an issue – or so I thought! – since I bought those huge bags of the organic Miracle Grow mix from Costco). So, each herb planter used different soil – which set up my unintended gardening experiment this summer.
Seeing is believing!
First, I will share that both planters had the exact same conditions and were set about 10 feet away from each other, with the same amount of sun. The only difference is that one had the Miracle Grow Soil and the other had the Stonington Blend. The Sweet Basil in both containers is the true testament to the difference – both came from the same batch of seedlings, started at the same time.
Both of these containers were planted during Memorial Day Weekend of 2017. And clippings from both containers were taken all summer – however, the quality of the herbs in the Miracle Grow was just terrible this year. I actually took more cuttings from the Stonington Blend container (#2) because it was so much further ahead all summer. Initially, I started the Thai Basil – on the far left of container #2 – in the Miracle Grow container. It didn’t do well, so, I transplanted it to the Stonington Blend container in early August – within three weeks, it quadrupled in size – that was my confirmation that the soil was the big difference between the two containers. (I harvested the Thai Basil last week to make Spicy Tofu Basil for dinner last week. It was so good, I ended up making it twice! That herb is now top of the list to plant again in 2018!)
Here’s the comparison on the day that I harvested Sweet Basil on September 9, 2017.
I visited the Nashua Farmer’s Exchange in mid September to share the results of my unintended experiment with Gene. He gave me a lot of background on the movement of soil producers around the country to create top quality potting mixes for the medicinal marijuana market. From what I gather, the product I used from Coast of Maine is one of, if not the top, potting soil available for this purpose today. For my own use, I’m just awestruck with the results we saw for my herb containers.
Container #2 with the Stonington Blend is still on my back patio – and is absolutely flourishing! The flat-leaf parsley and mints that looked terrible just one month ago in the Miracle Grow container were transplanted to the Stonington Blend – that I mixed up well – on September 2. Here’s how that planter looked one month later on October 1, 2017 (Before I harvested the Thai Basil):In the past, this was a week when remaining herbs would be removed and containers cleaned and put away until spring. However, with absolutely no frost or freezes expected in southern New Hampshire for at least two more weeks, these are staying put so I can enjoy the parsley and mint through October. Halloween Mojitos, anyone?
“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.” ~Janet Kilburn Phillips
The Garden Hack Series continues!
The first two Hack’s led to so many wonderful conversations among friends. Especially popular is the Wine Cork Mulch hack! Now, whenever friends open a bottle of wine, they tell me they are ‘making mulch’ for my garden! I still need a few more corks for one project, but with the help of so many ‘mulch makers’ in my life, it should be finished soon!
With summer on our doorstep (we’re actually on day 2 of a 3-day heatwave in New England right now), I look around the garden and still see some fading foliage of the daffodils from early spring. In order to ‘charge’ the bulb for next year’s blooms, it’s necessary to keep the daffodil foliage after cutting the spent flowers. As the foliage starts to brown and wither away, it’s not the most attractive sight — but I’ve been using a solution that I read about a few years ago, and it works quite well!
Garden Hack #3: Hosta Hides Fading Daffodil Foliage
In the fall, as the hosta falls apart after the first heavy freeze in New Hampshire, I’m usually preparing all the garden beds for their winter rest. By this time, gardening feels tiring – almost exhausting. But there’s always the final big push to plant spring bulbs. I just keep reminding myself that the extra effort to plant some tulips and daffodils will be rewarding come spring.
I can’t remember where I first read about this idea, but it’s one of my favorite Garden Hacks (after the Wine Cork Mulch!) When daffodils are planted among the hosta in late fall, you’ll save some time cutting back the withering foliage come June. The newly emerged hosta grows at a rate to completely camouflage the brown daffodil foliage, but doesn’t detract from the spring blooms. If anything, it enhances them, but bringing more color and depth to the the bare ground. I liken this to the work that florists do when they ‘green the vase’ before creating a flower arrangement.
This photo is from mid April of this year, just as the daffodils started to bloom. I love how the newly emerged hosta gives a bright green look of life to that entire garden bed.
The wonderful thing about this hack is the daffodils bloom for several weeks and just as they start to fade, the hosta really takes off to hide the fading flowers.
By early June, the hosta reaches it’s full size for the season, completely covering the daffodil foliage that is working hard to charge the bulbs for next year’s flowers.
Here’s a broader view of the garden from last week. You can see on the right, the arrows point to the section of the garden where the hosta is doing its magic trick of making the daffodils disappear!
“Gardening is learning, learning, learning.
That’s the fun … You’re always learning.”
Patchouli reminds me of Brussels Sprouts or Cilantro. You either love it – or hate it. There’s really no in-between.
Personally, I’ve always been fond of Patchouli, enjoying its fragrance in candles and essential oils. I knew Patchouli came from some exotic plant, but never in my wildest dreams thought about growing it in New Hampshire – until early spring of 2015.
While shopping for container annuals and herbs at Salem’s Lake Street Nursery during the early days of spring, there it was….a tiny 4 inch pot of Patchouli for under $5!
This trip to the nursery was after the record breaking winter of 2015, so there was so much hope for the months ahead – coming across the small Patchouli plant was an unplanned bonus. I had no idea what to do with it – nevertheless, it made its way back to Nashua to be added as a whimsical item for the 2015 garden.
The young leaves had the fragrance of….well…Patchouli!
It was amazing to touch the leaves, releasing their oils to scent my hands and the air nearby. It was also fun to show it to garden visitors, by breaking off a piece and asking them to guess what it is. Most people remarked it smelled familiar, but they can’t come up with the plant. Once I tell them, there’s always great discussion on the memories that the Patchouli fragrance evokes. One garden guest immediately shared that it smelled just like our friend, Karen. (She was absolutely right – I never think of Karen without thinking of her signature fragrance!)
By the end of the 2015 growing season, the Patchouli plant was about a foot and a half tall and wide and it seemed a shame to let the October frost claim it. So, an experiment ensued.
I cut the stems off and dried the leaves to create a small dish of Patchouli Potpourri. Within a few weeks, the fragrance from the dried leaves disappeared. After cutting back the plant to the soil level, it was watered well and over-wintered in the basement. By spring of 2016, the Patchouli plant came back to life and was ready for another growing season in our New Hampshire garden.
The perfect place in the 2016 garden was under a 30 year old Weeping Cherry tree in the backyard. By the end of the summer, it turned into a huge shrub – reaching its maximum size of 3′ x 3′. Unfortunately, the growing season was not long enough to allow it to reveal the white flowers I’ve read about when researching Patchouli.
By late September, as the cooler nights started to set in, it was time to do something with the Patchouli. I really wanted to create some essential oil…..so I did.
It was a several week process — I used instructions found online. Since I don’t have the equipment to steam distill the oil, I used the method of infusing the dried leaves in the oil. Basically, you dry the leaves and infused them in a carrier oil. I used organic Sweet Almond Oil.
The jury is still out on the final result. Personally, the fragrance is light and smells fresh or green – not deep and musky as I expected. Apparently Patchouli Oil improves with time. As it ages, it turns darker and the fragrance grows more potent.
Interestingly, many people are anxious to receive gifts made with plants from my garden. Not true with the Patchouli Oil. More people than not have kindly said, “Thanks but no thanks.” So my few Patchouli loving friends are part of a longer term experiment to determine if the end product actually improves as it ages – like a fine wine!
In the meantime, I’ve been researching the various uses for the oil beyond it’s powerful fragrance. Among other things, I learned Patchouli Oil has been used for thousands of years and was once considered very valuable, being used as an exchange for gold by early European traders. One pound of Patchouli for one pound of gold. King Tut even arranged to have 10 gallons of it buried in his tomb!
The history also includes use to scent fabric in the 19th century, to keep moths away, as well as to treat skin maladies and sexual dysfunction. Today, it’s being used primarily as I expected, as a fragrance. The aromatherapy benefits of Patchouli Oil include anxiety, stress, and depression relief. You can learn more about the history and uses of Patchouli Oil at Mercola’s website.
In the end, my production of Patchouli Oil resulted in 12 ounces of medium-yellow colored oil – to perfectly fill the 12 bottles I ordered for the project. The label designed for the bottles includes one of the sunflowers from my garden grown during the 2016 season. It will be interesting to save a bottle or two for a few years to see if the fragrance and color deepen to what I was initially expecting. Only time will tell.
There is always so much hope when seeds are planted in late spring.
Especially sunflower seeds.
We look forward to their golden petals all summer, while at the same time, know that their arrival signals the transition to shorter days and the autumn season.
The New England weather challenged backyard gardeners all summer long as severe to extreme drought conditions gripped the region. (We lost our little bit of lawn — again — yes, that ‘Sad Sod Situation’ continues to be a challenge – but we’ll discuss that in another post someday.)
Beginning in June, we watched the sunflowers struggle. The dozen or so inch-high seedlings were a much sought after ‘garden buffet’ delicacy for this year’s over abundance of chipmunks and squirrels. In the end, we were able to grow a TWO eight foot tall sunflowers that became a stunning, late early autumn focal point, adding much-needed color to the garden. (Even the hydrangea failed to bloom due to the challenge of changing climate conditions.)
It was amazing to watch the single large flower on each stem slowly open and come to life over the course of four days.
Once each flower opened, the bees quickly began their pollination process. It was amazing to watch the bumble bees AND honey bees over the course of about 10 days navigate around and around the flowers’ centers to pollinate and bring the sunflower seeds to life.
As the seed head grew bigger and heavier each day, I was looking forward to harvesting some of the seeds to save for the 2017 garden. The plan was to leave the majority of the seeds for the songbirds to enjoy.
A squirrel used a nearby trellis as a ladder to reach the seeds. Fresh sunflower seeds became another menu item in the backyard garden buffet. Delicious!
The seed head continued to swell for a few more days and approximately three weeks after the flower first began to show its sunny face, its head bowed deeply toward the earth as autumn set in. By day 30, the squirrel came back, hungry and in full force, to strip the seeds row by row – creating an interesting pattern.
Second to peonies, sunflowers have always been one of my favorite flowers (lavender would round out the top three.) After enjoying hundreds of sunflowers from self-sown seeds in the Greeley Park Community Gardens a few years ago, it was gratifying to grow sunflowers in our own backyard garden this summer. Perhaps in 2017, we’ll double our crop …. and raise four of them!
This feeling of optimism that sunflowers bring must be part of the story behind the Helen Keller quote that inspired me to share the story of our 2016 sunflower success: