Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Landscaping with Weed Whacker...and pruning holly.

Weed Whacked area...formerly grass paths. Well, and buttercups.
Landscaping with Weed Wacker by Erin. I'm thinking of writing a book. Chapter One: Hedge pruning with Weed Wacker. I really don't prune hedges with it. Yet. If I could figure out a way to hold it up, I'm sure I could do it. When Allan, the gardener's assistant, taught me to use the WW last summer, I bet he had no idea what a Weed Wacking aficionado I would really become. And how we would burn through machines. I killed the last WW and we bought a new one last weekend. We got the same one again, which means I have four batteries!!
Victim of the technique. Blueberries accidentally topped.
 I have been trying to clear paths around the gardens. It has been arduous. I finally figured it out. You need the grass super short. I hold the WW at an angle, and let it cut down through the grass until you hit dirt. And for heavens sake...wear goggles. I take it down to ground. There will still be stubs of grass and buttercups. But then when you dose them with my all natural week killer, there is very little to fry. You need to do it on a hot sunny day. All the green will be brown in a couple hours. When you are trying to use the weed killer on long grass, you never seem to get it all and it just keeps growing. This way, by the end of the day you can have everything dead. I just keep Weed Wacking the new little grass shoots and dose them again. It has been super fast and effective.
Pumpkins and squash planted.
Yet again I forgot the before picture. It took us well over an hour and we have 4 huge bins of Variegated Holly branches. I have taken a very large holly and turned it from a huge tree/shrub about ten feet across and twelve feet high into a sculptural beauty. (That is my story and I'm sticking with it.) No really, I've done this before and this was the end result:
Holly Bonsai.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to kill grass and weeds...the natural way

There are several tried and true methods for killing grass that don't involve Roundup.
Technique number One: Using heavy black plastic landscape cloth. It can be pinned down or weighted. Today I used this cloth around my precious Rosemary. I have lifted all the other herbs out of the border as I couldn't get the buttercups out manually. I took the weed whipper and cut down the grass and buttercups as low as I could. Don't skip this step, it's very important to your overall success. I cut a square of the landscape cloth, cut a slit half way across and cut an X in the middle where the actual plant would go. I snugged the cloth tightly around the neck of the Rosemary and weighted it all with heavy rocks. You don't want to leave any gaps at the edge where the light can get it. So weight it or pin it right down. If it is a wider area, keep going with the cloth. I prefer not to use too much of this cloth as the water can't get through, and the soil can't 'breathe'. So, I decided to move to:
Technique number two: That good old standby, so very popular in the building of lasagna gardens....cardboard. With lasagna gardening the first layer in the lasagna is a nice thick layer of cardboard. It stays intact long enough to completely kill the lawn and weeds you are building over. Sometimes newspaper is recommended. In my experience it breaks down too fast, and I have personally been battling grass coming up about a foot into my lasagna garden ever since building it. Go cardboard. I have quite a large area around the herb area and lasagna garden that is full of grass and buttercups. I am putting cardboard thickly around the area and then I am going to put down a VERY thick layer of bark mulch. That will get rid of it all!
Technique number three: For spraying weeds in sidewalks, grass in raised beds and dandelions. Last year I kept a spray bottle full of Pickling Vinegar with a teaspoon of natural soap at the ready. It must be pickling vinegar, or stronger if you can find it. It is for spot spraying. It kills any greenery it hits so be careful of breezes and drift. It needs to be a sunny day. The sunnier and hotter the better. I had success with weed killing, but found that it takes several individual sprays to kill dandelions. Up to 5-6 even. They keep growing up in the centre. Be relentless. Part of my yard was thick with them and this year I am happy to report, there are very few. I wanted to kick up the recipe to make it more effective, so I have been researching for you. I am added a new ingredient. It would be very mean of me not to share, so my secret ingredient is Sweet Orange Essential Oil. Let me perfect the recipe and I will share it soon. I gave it my first test spraying today. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Twenty hours of garden work...revealed

Allan, the gardener's slave as he calls himself now, and I did so much work last weekend it is ridiculous.
-cardboard placed all over the lawn in area where new beds are going
-3 new raised beds positioned
-fallen birch trees brought out from under the deck and placed in beds Hugelkultur style
-beds filled with four yards of soil
-last years beds topped with soil as they sunk
-seeds sorted and planted
-removed cardboard from herb garden area so we could weed whip the grass and buttercups
-sprayed my vinegar weed killer on a lot of the area
-mounded up soil around fruit trees
-weed whipped right down to the soil around several beds (did you know that you can get a real achy wrist from excessive weed whipping?)
I have had stinging and itchy hands for several days and off and on for the last month. I thought it was the lime in the plant food. We had a friend over for dinner and he asked me if the tomatoes were making me itchy. I had been scratching the backs of my hands. I was puzzled by the question. He said that the oils on the backs of tomato leaves can make your hands sting or itchy, a bit like nettles. Mystery solved!!

I am sore all over and sunburned, but very content.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The new gardens look incredible. Just what I pictured a year ago. Part one.

Raised vegetable gardens may not be everyone's idea of a beautiful garden, but it is mine. I was looking across the yard this evening, and it took my breath away. It just looks so...perfect. Even though there are pots strewn about, wheelbarrow full of mulch and seed planting supplies everywhere. After we moved about two yard of soil into the three new raised beds, I got the sunflowers, nasturtiums, sugar peas, dill, beets and carrots planted. I put about half of Aunt Helen's wild strawberries under the blueberries. I am going to keep at least one in a pot, until I know they've taken.
Hugelkultur bed...Sidney style
I redid the little dirt dams around the fruit trees. And I extended the lasagna bed about four feet. It was about eight very long straight hours of work in the hot sun.
I have a sun burn on my arm. I rarely burn. Sweet!!!

Stay tuned for pictures of the finished gardens.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Greenhouse makeover and the beauty of greenhouse veggies.

New potting bench. Thank you Allan.
I think I can safely say that I have not been this exhausted since last year when it took me a couple of weeks to clean out the greenhouse.
The whole bottom shelf was piled with pots and stuff.
ps...look at the lettuce bed on right.
I began by potting up the last of the tomato plugs. I planted up a bunch of tomato plants last week into one gallon pots. In one short week they went from sad, pale looking plants to lush dark green plants about twice as big as they were a week ago. I added a handful of my fertilizer. It's great stuff!!
These are the pale tomatoes just moved into small pots today.
These tomatoes were potted one week ago. They
are about twice the size and just beautiful.

Another shot of lovely tomatoes...I can't help myself.
Then I started moving all of the junk that was piled on the lower shelf in the greenhouse. Pots, dishes, spray bottles and on and on. As the top shelf is slotted, the water poured from the top shelf onto the bottom. That made the dishes and everything very water marked and dirty. I had to wash everything. Then lay it in the sun to dry. It took all day. I can't believe how much room that created in the greenhouse. I was able to move some plants to the lower shelf. It is amazing. The shed doesn't look any fuller either. It all just fits. Really got to use my new potting bench for the first time. It was a fantastic gardening experience.
I have so much lettuce in the greenhouse I have offered picking rights to my neighbours Barb and Judy. There is lots for all of us.
This lettuce bed is 12 x 3'. The lettuce is about a foot tall. Those are two gallon
pots that the peppers are in.
I weed whipped, with my new eye protector goggles, around the raised beds and spread a lot of cardboard. About four layers deep. Then we placed the bed on top. I forgot that I wanted to do a Hugelkultur bed, so I started bringing old bamboo poles and some of the birch tree that we cut down years ago. I hope Allan can help me pull it put from under the deck and fill the lower part of the bed. It is supposed to act a bit like a sponge. You hardly need to water. I'm not sure I would be using enough wood to accomplish that, but it can only be good.
Beginning of Hugelkultur bed.
This week I am going to have to put some real effort into weeding and cutting back in the flower bed. It gets pretty ignored when anything veggie needs tending.
I was 100% committed to getting the currants in the ground today. Didn't happen. Although by putting them in the blueberry row, they at least look neat.

***Special note one day after the above post: I do everything with my bare hands. Often after gardening my hands sting. Like little slivers and the nerves feel really irritated. I chalked it up to the gloves, the peat moss in the soil mix, etc....couldn't really figure it out. Today I did some more potting up and my hands were much sorer and redder than yesterday. They were SO dry again that they hurt. I feel kind of silly. I think I figured it out. I make my own organic fertilizer. It contains lime. Lime burns skin. I'm betting that if I wear rubber gloves when handling it...
***Another special note. The lime was irritating my skin, but what was causing me the most discomfort was the little tiny soft pointy things on the tomatoes. They don't bother everyone, but to me they feel like stinging nettles. Awful. Another reason to wear gloves!