March 28, 2010

My Best Garden Investment

Four years ago I made the best garden investment ever! I installed drip irrigation in my raised beds and all the flower beds. It has been not only a garden life saver but also a huge time saver for me. I had been spending about 6 hours a week hand watering the gardens and it was becoming a real chore. I travel quite a bit as a flight attendant and I couldn't always be home to water the garden or expect my husband or neighbor to do it either when I was out of town. I had been debating installing drip irrigation for a while and being neither handy or good with instructions I didn't think I could do it. It was a real surprise how easy installation was. Believe me that if I can do it anyone can do it! I used several starter kits from DIG Corp Drip Irrigation
and over a weekend my husband and I installed them in four different gardens and all twelve of my raised vegetable beds. We also installed water timers on the main spigots.
Each timer waters a different zone in the garden depending on what I have it set for. For the flower beds I have them automatically set to water 2-3 times a week in the morning. In the raised beds I have the timers running daily for about 20 minutes. I use micro sprinklers in the flower beds and drip soaker hose in the raised beds.
As the plants grow larger and when mulch is added the main hose is not really noticeable and the sprayers are not very obvious. The only problem I have is that there is no longer a local distributor for the DIG products and you'll have to order online. Home Depot does carry them on the West Coast but not in the Midwest. WalMart has it's own line of drip irrigation products and it's adequate but I prefer the sprayers from DIG.

I have become enamored of drip irrigation and I've installed it on all my patio pots as well as the hanging baskets on the front porch. I think once you try it you'll be a convert too. You may even find that you have time to spend relaxing in the garden. Now I just need to buy a bench!

For a quick guide to drip irrigation here's a link: DIG Corp Drip Irrigation Easy Guide

March 21, 2010

The Joy of Seeds

I've finally done some of my early seed starting and I'm having some success. I've learned the value of "fresh"aka new seeds. I started these new lettuce seeds inside in the APS growing system and 2 days later they had sprouted. I normally don't start lettuce inside but this year I'm wanting to plant them out in a pattern alternating some of the green and red lettuces in the raised beds. In one of the rows I planted Ruby lettuce seed from a few seasons ago and it has yet to sprout. Under optimum conditions lettuce seed viability could be about 5 years but since I keep mine in a cupboard in the basement and not in a fridge I'm not expecting them to last that long. Besides, when you compare the cost of buying a bag of the fancy lettuce with a few packets of seeds that will provide lettuce in the garden for 3 months it's a bargain to start with new seeds each year. Below is a list of the seeds that I have started so far.

Lettuce started inside on 3/10( all Pinetree Garden Seeds). Sprouted 3/12
New Red Fire
Tom Thumb
May Queen
Red Grendbloise
Ruby(not Pinetree Garden Seeds)

seeds started 3/10. Sprouted 3/13
Small Miracle
Early Dividend

started 3/10. Sprouted 3/13

started 3/14.
Lavender Touch-sprouted 3/20
Pingtung Long

started 3/14
Ancho Hot Pepper

started 3/14
Impatiens Accent Star Mix
Begonia Bronze Leaf Mix
Dahlia Red Skin Mix
Marigold Lemon Star
White Chrysanthemum Paludosum
Hollyhock Black
Hollyhock Queeny Purple
Rehmannia Chinese Foxglove
Aster Perser Mix
Datura Black Currant
Coleus Black Dragon
Streptocarpus Weismoor Formula

March 8, 2010

Time For A Trim

Here is my favorite Jackmanii Clematis in the garden in June/July.
It's not so lovely in March but if you want it to live up to its gorgeous potential you have to make some drastic cuts now. There are 3 different groups of clematis that are defined by when they bloom and each type needs a different approach when it comes to pruning. The Jackmanii is in Group 3(also called C) which means it blooms on new wood. Therefore it needs to be pruned to about 12-14 inches in the spring. I know it sounds drastic and the first time I pruned it this low after about 2 years I wanted to cry. I thought I had killed it. It made a spectacular return that year and grew about 8 feet. So get out your pruners and enforce some tough love on your clematis if it's the type that grows on new wood. You'll be thrilled with the results come July even if it's a bit hard to look at now.

A Fine Mess

I usually try and clean most of the garden debris up in the fall but I admit I didn't quite finish up in time before the snow started falling this year so I'm left with a fine mess.

Saturday, March 6th, the snow had finally melted enough on the south garden that I could start cleaning up. I still have the north, east and west gardens that need to be cleaned but this at least is a start. It's beginning to feel a bit like spring. Yippee!! I did notice that a few daffodils were beginning to sprout. There is also the small bits of sedum and mum that are always early in poking their green heads out of the ground. I had a good amount of snow covering the garden for most of the winter so I'm hoping that it did it's job as an insulator and I won't lose too many plants. It's always a bit of a surprise to me that as soon as the snow melts there is new growth happening in the garden. I've left some of the leaves on the garden for protection as March and April in the Chicago area can be a bit tricky and we still can see lots of snow. However, I did get the garden in a bit better shape.