Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Last Soybean Feeding

I forgot to mention it before--the final feeding of soybean meal on the lawn went on September 28th. Since it didn't rain until early October, I'm entirely comfortable calling this the October feeding of the lawn.

As always, I used 15 pounds per thousand square feet, or approximately 7 pounds of protein. That's right around 1 pound of nitrogen equivalent per thousand square feet, or more than sufficient to carry the lawn through the end of the season.

This doesn't quite finalize the lawn feeding.  Winterization with a good synthetic (I chose Vigoro 29-0-5 again this year as it's cheap and effective) will happen when top growth stops.  Normally, that's around Thanksgiving, give or take a few weeks.

Once I winterize, I'll post the charts of all additions to the lawn and garden for the year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mid-October Lawn Photos

Plus the gardens, of course.  First frost is most likely tonight as the temperature is 39° and dropping at just before 7 PM.  Today was the last chance to take garden photos for the year, even though a few plants will survive this evening and continue to blossom into November.

First, the lawn photo.  This one isn't quite the typical shot as the sun was lower than usual.  To avoid catching my own shadow in the image, I turned a bit further south than I usually do.  As always, click to embiggen and see how badly the lawn needs mowing (very badly).

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Here are the Color Spectacle dahlia, plus red salvia and a few rather sad-looking late zinnia.  The dahlia will be making an encore appearance next year.

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A more southern face of the garden, featuring yellow Sun Lady dahlia, a few remaining marigolds, and more Color Spectacle.

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The red salvia certainly do hang on well.  So, it seems, do yellow Janie marigolds, which are also planned to appear again next year.  Very few marigolds output flowers like this in October.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Early October Photos

Last night wasn't quite first frost, although some of the zinnia in the lower parts of the back beds had their flowers blasted.  Still, it looks like identical weather tonight and Monday, and then we warm up again.

As always, click on a photo to embiggen it.

This is the standard lawn shot, now with extra dogs (which were out at the time the photo was taken). Riley is clearly concerned that the more-distant Casey might be having fun he's being left out of.

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The back gardens are doing well, although the cleome seems to be reacting to the colder weather as well.  That can be removed when I have time and ground up for the compost bin.  The dead grass at the garden edge is where I re-imposed the edging that walked inward over the course of the season, and I generally spray it twice a year in July and September.

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The front gardens are doing fairly well, too, although you can see the places where some plants have been removed for the season as they gave up.

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More extensive use of dahlia is new for me this year.  This is a Color Spectacle dahlia, quite cheap at Home Depot in very late spring.  My apologies for the poor photo.  The flowers are huge, so I have to back off enough for you to see the entire thing, but doing so required me to move into a bad spot.

Blossoms are more rare than other dahlia, with both of these plants hosting around 12 blooms at a time.

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This is another dahlia, the much more standard Sun Lady.  Flowers are around 4" across, and erupt copiously on a 40" plant.  This particular dahlia has around 25 blooms on it currently--as do the other four Sun Lady in the garden.  That's after cutting at least twenty for vases and for gifts this week.

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Yet another dahlia, the Blue Boy.  It's a semi-cactus in a fairly pure purple (the color is somewhat darker than pictured here).  Flowers are close to 6" across on 24-30" plants, and the plant blooms copiously (as you can see by the other blooms in the shot).

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Seed Collection Continuing

There hasn't been terribly much to write about for the last few weeks.  The gardens are looking great, and I discontinued feeding two weeks ago.  They can glide through the remainder of the season on what remains.  So far, the season is certain to continue into early October and there's no frost in the forecast.  It's actually been exceptionally warm and dry for September.

Most of the seed collection is complete for the year.  A few plants won't be collected as they reseed themselves so easily they don't need to be (Cleome are almost in this range), or the seeds don't breed true (hybrid zinnia and dahlia).  I order those every year, although I do remove and store dahlia tubers for plants that have performed particularly well.

The varieties I collected are listed below.

Ageratum:  Many people report that this plant doesn't work well for them, but it volunteers easily in my gardens and gets absolutely huge (for a dwarf plant).  This is the first year I tried to save seed for sprouting, so we'll see how that goes.

Celosia:  Descendants of China Red that crossed with my off the shelf red, orange, and gold varieties. I tend to choose the ones that show the characteristics closest to the original China Red, but yellow, orange, and red still volunteer in the garden so the mix stays variable.

Cleome:  While the parents were Sparkler Rose, the granddaughters are firmly split into pink, a pink-purple, and purple, or the normal cleome colors.  I've collected seeds from the darkest of the purple plants to try to bias the selection in that direction a bit.

Easter Eggplant:  So far this one isn't quite done, but I tend not to finish until October here anyway to give the eggplants time to mature on the vine.

Marigold, orange:  Amazingly, these breed very true even with yellow marigolds very close to them. A rare surprise in the color mix certainly isn't a problem.

Marigold, variegated:  These have single to semi-double blossoms, streaked with color.  The daughters are usually a surprise and can show primarily reds, yellows, or even bands of color.

Marigold, yellow:  While these cross with the orange and sometimes produce a surprise, it's amazing how often they breed true (probably 95%).  I always have spares, so a few orange ones in the mix with the yellow flat isn't a problem, and they're always blooming by the time they're ready to go out in spring.

Melampodium:  Also called star daisy (they aren't daisies), these plants reseed themselves freely in most Pennsylvania gardens.  Two or three of the plants in the gardens were volunteers, the rest were grown.  One hundred percent of my mother's plants are volunteers.  Over the years, these seem to be getting a bit larger and a touch more gold than yellow, but I don't mind.  The great-granddaughters of these plants are prettier than the originals.

Salvia splendens:  A nice red saliva, the great-granddaughters of the set I used to have.  They're tending taller over time, with a larger blossom and better, truer reds.  As the generations move on, more are volunteering in the gardens than used to.

Salvia farinacea, Rhea:  Still small and purplish-blue, these have become a staple in the garden. They're petite and very pretty, all season bloomers, and even volunteer fairly freely in the garden.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rain, Finally. Maybe.

Typical for summer, we just had a two week dry period.  Lawns around me are going into dormancy and those that are avoiding it are either being irrigated or are more fescue.

My back neighbor has responded by watering twice a day--exactly the wrong response as this encourages lawn diseases, intensifies any diseases you have, and results in very short roots on your lawn.  Additionally, it costs a fortune in terms of water.

I irrigated once during this period, just a few days ago.  Even so, the lawn is dry and we do need rain. There's a 75% chance of it tomorrow, and 90% on Wednesday, and we may get up to two inches.

So from drought to deluge.  I'll take it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Early August Images

The lawn is probably at its low point for the year, while the gardens are at their high point.  So far, the gardening season has been a little touch and go due to the weather and the rabbit invasion in May and June, but it recovered nicely from both.

First, the standard lawn shot.  You can see some shock on the grass if you look close, and rain isn't expected until Wednesday (and then not terribly much).  This week marks the third time this year I've watered.

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The general garden shot, taken from the side this time.  Yes, it's busy.  I like it that way, as do the bees and hummingbirds.

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This is an orange zinnia that happens to have lots of friends.  Out of focus in the background you can just barely see the yellow carpet (Profusion) zinnia, and some blue salvia.

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There's a ton of very happy Harlequin dahlia in the garden this year.  Harlequin grow 12 to 16 inches tall (mine tend toward 16 inches or a bit taller as I feed well), flower heavily from early summer to frost, and like any dahlia can be lifted and saved for the following year if you wish to do so.  Second year tubers tend to outperform first year plants.

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Cutting dahlia are always nice!  This is a Sky Angel dahlia that grows about four feet tall, and produces copious lavender blossoms on very long stems.  Cutting these dahlia results in even more blooms produced.  I picked this up very cheaply at Home Depot some years ago, and store the tuber over the winter in a paper bag.

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Since the cannas gave up, I planted Blue Boy, Sun Lady, and Color Spectacle dahlia.  The Blue Boy are starting to blossom, and this first flower is just opening.  The color is inaccurate, however, as in person it's almost a perfect violet, but a bit less saturated than the full color.  The open bloom (which I'll photograph), will be about four to five inches across.

Like the Sky Angel, this is an excellent cutting dahlia that can be purchased at Home Depot in late spring.

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Last but sure not least are the Easter Eggplant this year!  The first image is of the plants in pots, the second is of the developing eggs close up.  You'll note I do need to de-shag the plants a little bit and remove the yellowing older leaves.  As the season rolls on, more leaves will yellow, exposing the eggs when I remove them.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Happy Solar Autumn!

Technically, August 5th marked the first day of solar fall (or solar autumn), but I missed that.

Solar Autumn is the twelve week period of the year when the day length (in the northern hemisphere) decreases the fastest.  Between now and November 5th, the Sun's declination (a measure of how far north or south it is of the celestial equator) will change from +16° to -16°, or moving roughly 32 degrees (I rounded the numbers).  Since between June 21st and December 21st, the total change is only 47°, you can see why this period is the fastest change.

Your day length will vary by where you are on the globe.  Mine changes from today's 14 hours (and a bit) to 8 hours and 20 minutes on November 5th.

Depressing as it might be, the upside is that summer certainly isn't over yet!  We still have more than two months of gardening time left, although the last few weeks of that are touch and go.  Lawn season continues for another three months.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rabbit Protection Working

The Tabasco sauce recipe I started using at the end of June is working perfectly.  I have no additional rabbit damage a month later, and the damaged plants have regrown beautifully.

Rabbit populations seem to have fallen a bit, possibly as they spread out for food sources now that my garden is no longer palatable.

I did observe one rabbit this morning try to nibble on the zinnia.  He or she spit out the leaf immediately and left for the neighbor's clover!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Late July Photos

The general lawn photo first.  This part of the lawn isn't particularly dry, although we could certainly use some rain at this point.  Fortunately, it's supposed to rain tomorrow and Monday.

As always, click on the image to embiggen.

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I photographed the front garden in perfect morning sun last time.  This time, it's later in the afternoon so the light is glaring off the leaves and flowers a bit.  Still, you can see the development it's gone through in a few weeks.

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The back gardens are finally improving now that I've successfully repelled the rabbits from the zinnia. This is taken from near the walkway, which is being slightly overgrown by a rather happy Harlequin dahlia.

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From further around the back of the garden you do start to see where the rabbits were feeding. These plants have essentially only had decent growth for the last three weeks, but they're quickly catching up to where they should be.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

July Photos

July Fourth is traditional for lawn and garden photos, but I was at a picnic that ran until well after dark.  The fifth of July will simply have to do this year.

Here's the standard lawn photo.  You can see some slight burning where the late June dry spell took a slight toll on it.  Color and quality are fair this year. As always, click to embiggen.


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This is a wide shot of the back garden, showing off the lawn as much as the gardens.

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Here's the general garden shot across the back gardens.  Garden development has been so-so overall, but now that the rabbits have been repelled things should improve very quickly.

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I have extremely happy dahlia this year as they don't mind (and in fact like) hot and humid weather with little rain. This is a Harlequin dahlia that I grew from seed, technically a dwarf decorative dahlia but it looks like a collarette dahlia to me.

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Two more dahlia for your viewing pleasure. These are also Harlequin.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How To Repel Rabbits

Yes, I finally have a series of things that works to repel rabbits even under extremely high population pressure!  I've used this successfully on my zinnia, gladioli, and sunflower.

First, I found that just the tiniest sprinkle of blood meal around the plants helped considerably. Damage from that alone was reduced by a solid 90%.  I spread it slightly wide into the surrounding areas to make sure the rabbits scented the blood before they entered the garden.  The three pound bag I purchased for $7.50 should last around 3-4 years when used to protect 150 plants.

The second part of the solution was a slight modification of a recipe I found online:

In a 1 gallon sprayer, mix:

0.5 Tbsp Tabasco sauce, any brand but the hotter the better
0.5 tsp dish soap, any brand
0.25 tsp Elmer's glue (optional, to help the Tabasco stick)

You may scale the recipe any way you like; I make this 16 ounces at a time to fit into my small spray bottle.

Spray the plants moderately the first time, a gallon should be good for around 1,000 small plants, 16 ounces covers 150 small plants.  Respray moderately if it rains, as soon as possible after the rainfall.

Even if it doesn't rain, spray lightly each successive day for a week to keep the scent and flavor fresh and very hot.  16 ounces will lightly spray about 300 small plants.

After that, the rabbits have probably learned to leave your garden alone, but if you notice further damage respray the plants as necessary.

Do not spray vegetables that will be harvested shortly.  Although harmless, the flavor of the Tabasco sauce will be apparent on your veggies.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tabasco Sauce to Repel Rabbits

I tried the Tabasco sauce recipe from 2 posts below and so far...so good!

I gave the plants a fairly heavy application (a quart over all the zinnia that remain) yesterday.  As of this morning, there's no additional damage.  I then sprayed lightly today, and will continue to do so for at least a week (spraying heavily if we get rain or I water).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June Lawn and Garden Photos

It's been way too long since I've posted photos, although so far the year has been poor to fair at best. The weather has been hot and flips randomly between soaking wet and very dry and, if you've kept up with my blog so far, the rabbits this year are voracious and very numerous.

I was up working very early this morning, so I managed to get photos of the front lawn and gardens fairly early and with the sun at a good angle.

First, the front lawn photo.  There's a slightly burned area where I'm standing that doesn't appear in the shot.  As always, click to embiggen.

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This is the front garden, which is suffering less from the rabbit damage since I cut back the rhododendron. You can see a damaged section of lawn to the middle left, and this is post-mowing so the dry lawn shows more.  Again, click on the image to make it larger.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blood Meal to Repel Rabbits

My zinnia are under so much pressure from the rabbit population that some of them are down to sticks.  Those are probably going to die, but there's hope for those that still have leaves.

Most years, just black pepper works.  This year, very little seems to be working.

I just applied 20 pounds per thousand of Milorganite as it does, temporarily, help.  I also applied about 1 ounce per square yard of blood meal, which supposedly helps repel rabbits as well.

One other thing I've seen suggested is spray with diluted Tabasco sauce.  One ounce per gallon should be sufficient, spray lightly, and repeat after rainfall.  I'll pick up some generic Tabasco today and try it out.

I'll take photos later today, but I plan on skipping the denuded areas of the garden.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rose Pride on Zinnia

I sprayed the maturing zinnia with Rose Pride fungicide today.  This serves two purposes.

Rose Pride (Triforine) is both a contact and systemic fungicide that helps control powdery mildew. PM can be a major issue on Magellan zinnia, and this will keep it at bay through early August at least. As a general rule, PM becomes an issue on zinnia later in the season when they've grown into each other and when they're nearing the end of their growth periods, but Rose Pride can be reapplied every 7 to 10 days if needed.

The smell and taste of Triforine are unpleasant, which will tend to repel the rabbits that are still making a terrible mess of my southwestern face.  This year, the number of rabbits is particularly high, and I frequently see four or five simultaneously in the yard.  I've found that Rose Pride helps deter rabbits for periods of three weeks or so, by which time they've either moved on to better food sources or the plants have matured enough that the rabbits are considerably less interested.