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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cannas Get Old

Canna bulbs can be lifted every fall just after frost and planted again in spring after proper storage.

Unfortunately, after many seasons and repeated tuber reduction back to the core plant to decrease the size, they do get old and cease blooming.  That was the state of affairs this year in the garden, where I planted 7 canna tubers and 3 have grown.  The ones that grew, grew poorly.

I've changed my habits a little bit and replaced them with three types of dahlia.  That bed now features Blue Boy, Sun Lady, and Color Spectacle dahlia, all of which grow 3 to 4 feet tall and feature flowers from 4" across to 10" across for the Color Spectacle.

Finding information on Sun Lady is difficult, but it's a decorative dahlia that grows 3 to 4 feet tall under normal circumstances, and features sunny golden blossoms that are around 4" wide.  Blue Boy is identical, except that the blossoms are purple-blue.

Color Spectacle features large, coral-orange blossoms with white tips in a semi-cactus style.  While blossoms can be ten inches across, I don't intend on removing the side blossoms so mine will be smaller (but also far more numerous).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Milorganite's Potassium and Operation

I've received two more Dear Reader questions!

Question:  does Milorganite really work?

Answer:  yes.  However, if you're used to the mode of operation of synthetic fertilizers, you may not think so at first.  It takes two to three weeks (in normal weather) to decay into the soil and begin to feed the plants, and the level of feeding it supplies is never as extreme as a synthetic.  Any growth spurt you get will be very minor, and mostly fueled by the small amount of free nitrogen in Milorganite.  Other fertilizers, like soybean meal, have no free nitrogen and won't set off any spurt of growth at all.

Most organic fertilizers have a slowly building positive effect over time as you use them.  The first year, the grass and gardens just look better.  That improves the second year.  And so on.  Eventually, growth is always at the optimal level for the time of year because food is always available when the plant wants it.  That takes some time, however.

Question:  Milorganite has no potassium, correct?

Answer:  incorrect, actually, but you can think of it as 0 if you want.  Milorganite is 5-2-0, which means that the potassium (the third number) doesn't consistently measure at 1% or greater. That doesn't mean zero potassium, merely that it's less than 1% of the mass.  If I remember correctly, Milorganite is just under 1%.

Whether you need potassium or not is something only a good soil test can tell you.  In my case, my soils have entirely sufficient levels and no more is required at the present moment.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Watering in Organics

Yet another Dear Reader question in a banner year for such things.  Keep them coming--I can get them from comments on articles, search terms used to find this blog, and direct e-mail for those of you who know me personally.

Question:  how much water does it take to water in organics?

Answer:  none.  Organics don't need watering in, but when using them in the gardens you may want to do so just to wash the bits and pieces off the flowers and leaves.

And yes, I know what you really mean.  Most organics will begin to activate when they're touching the soil and damp, so not much rain is required.  If they dry out, decay will stop (for the most part).

Continuously dampened organic material will decay into the soil the fastest.  Fortunately, a damp soil will dampen the material nightly and allow decay to continue.  Rainfall will wet it and accelerate decay.  Any watering you do will help, just like rainfall will.

Some of the best conditions I've seen for activating organic feedings are when the weather is overcast with occasional drizzle for several days.  Remaining constantly damp, the organics decay in very quickly.

Extended dry periods will stop organic decay, but the lawn and gardens won't be feeding heavily during a drought--if they're feeding at all.  Hold any additions until the weather changes as organic feedings could build up on the soil, leading to a rather aromatic decay when it finally does rain.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ironite on Dogwoods

Another Dear Reader question!  Can I use Ironite on dogwoods?

Answer:  A technical yes, but...

If your dogwood is showing signs of iron deficiency like widespread yellow leaves in spring and summer, iron deficiency is one possible problem (magnesium shortages, nitrogen shortages, too much or too little water, or half a thousand other things are also possibilities).

First, get a soil test (I say that a lot).  Pay attention to two things:  soil pH and iron levels.  If iron is OK but pH is high, iron might help temporarily but you're likely to return to the original conditions pretty quickly.  If iron is low and pH is under 7.0, iron deficiency is more likely.

In the latter case, Ironite might help.  However, it's a rather expensive way of adding limited iron without otherwise doing much for your tree.  In this case, and given the small area that trees tend to encompass, I'd recommend using Milorganite at bag rate under the drip line of the tree.  It contains slightly more iron, plus helps feed the tree.

In the former case where your pH is over 7.0, Milorganite will help by adding some organic material to the soil.  Iron likes to bind to organic matter, and releases from it more easily than from the soil, so over several years of monthly use you should notice a steady improvement in your tree.

In most cases, I don't recommend trying to reduce your pH if it's very high (7.8 or above).  This is more common in lower rainfall areas of the nation, and quite rare where I live.  While adding sulfur might help a bit, sulfur is much more effective if dug into the soil and in soils that don't have free lime. Very high pH with very high calcium levels is an indication of free lime.

Overused Flowers

Several times now, I've heard a few flower choices (including some of my own) criticized as "overused," or a plant that everybody has and that everybody is tired of.

Well, not everybody!  There are excellent reasons for some common choices.  Not everybody has sufficient time to maintain difficult plants, or the appropriate conditions for them.  Some of us (like me) have enormous gardens and can't specifically pay attention to 800 plants--we rely on easy, attractive flowers to fill out the majority while a few specimens function as highlights in our gardens.

Probably the most-frequently criticized flower in my garden is the French marigold.  They're available, and inexpensive, by the flat at any garden center.  They're durable, tolerant of most conditions except for extremely acidic, extremely alkaline, or full shade, and bloom like troopers even in the hottest weather.  They'll even tolerate a very light frost, although generally not without damage. The flowers are long-lasting, the plants are reasonably drought-tolerant, and although they benefit from dead-heading, it's not absolutely required.  They bloom from shortly after planting to the time they die.

What's not to love about that?  If you look around, there are dozens of varieties of marigold, both French and African, in many hues of mahogany, burgundy, yellow, gold, orange, and bi-colors. Most recently, some almost-red varieties have been developed, although they're still noticeably mahogany if compared to a more perfectly red flower like a zinnia.

That's merely one example of a flower whose popularity has been earned.  My philosophy is that if you like the flower color and the plant looks good in your garden, ignore the critics.  Learn to love some of the common choices for their easy care and rewarding performance.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Black Pepper to Repel Rabbits

It's been several days since the Milorganite application, which nicely kept the rabbits at bay.  As of this point, we're receiving heavy rain, which will wash most of the scent away and the gardens will again be in danger.

Black pepper (I use Malabar pepper as I can get it for less than $1 per ounce, but they're really all the same), finely ground and scattered very thinly around the plants will also keep them at bay until the next rainfall.  Just a small pinch evenly distributed on and directly around the plant will work.  You can use pre-ground or peppercorns and grind it yourself, whichever you prefer.

Cayenne pepper will also work, but since it tends to be more expensive and no more effective than common black pepper I tend to avoid it.

Capsicum pepper would be the best of the three, but the expense is prohibitive for other than a very small garden.  Additionally, capsicum must not get into your eyes or sinus passages, which is an experience I have had and do not want to repeat.

If you wish to spray the gardens beforehand with soapy water to encourage the pepper to stick to the plants, please feel free.  I rarely bother.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Milorganite to Repel Rabbits

I applied 18 pounds per thousand square feet of Milorganite to the flower gardens today, an entire bag over the whole garden, which is 2,000 square feet.

This serves two purposes.  It's a great feeding and iron application, which will feed the plants gently through August.

Plus it will help deter the rabbits, who seem particularly numerous and rapacious this year.  During application, I startled four rabbits in the garden, none of whom seem to have returned at this point. The scent of Milorganite, which is rather pungent, tends to keep them away through several rainfalls.

I have a partial bag of Milorganite remaining for re-application.  Three to four pounds per thousand square feet seems to be adequate to deter rabbits.

Application won't work if the rabbits are extremely hungry or if the plants you use are particularly favored.  Given the winter we had, I'm not certain what to expect.

If this fails, fine-ground pepper, one pinch scattered around each plant, will form a better barrier. However, this is time-consuming and requires application after each rainfall or every few days, whichever comes first.

Chainsaws and Double Feeding

I borrowed my mother's chainsaw and took down the main trunks of the butterfly bush and crepe myrtle today.  Perhaps the most amazing thing was I actually needed a chainsaw to take down the butterfly bush; the wood was four inches in diameter.

Those are neatly cut up and the garden waste will be picked up Monday.  Wood that thick is far too large for me to compost in a reasonable amount of time, so I'm happy to let the Township compost it for me.

This was also the week the gardens are double fed.  I did a full strength feeding last Saturday, Wednesday, and today again.  By this point, the roots have spread and are just about ready to begin producing copious greenery (and eventually blossoms).

Tomorrow, the first of the month, I'll apply 18 pounds per thousand square feet of Milorganite to the gardens to give them another, longer-lasting feeding.  While that would theoretically carry me through to August 15th or so, I feed monthly with Milorganite.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Is Milorganite Better Than Fertilizer?

Another Dear Reader question:  Is Milorganite better than fertilizer?

Answer:  No...because Milorganite IS a fertilizer.  It's an organic fertilizer, created...well, you probably don't want to know.  Feel free to research that if you like.

Milorganite is a 5-2-0 fertilizer, which means it contains 5% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 0% potassium.  The last doesn't mean potassium-free, merely that it's under 1%.

The other major advantages of Milorganite are high iron levels (4%) and the fact that it's organic--so it requires bacterial action to work, which increases the bacteria in the soil and encourages other life to come and eat the bacteria, releasing their resources for your plants.  And so on.  Rather than simply chemically feed the lawn and gardens, it encourages a cycle to start that will continue to feed them long after the Milorganite is gone.

Over time, most synthetic fertilizers will cause a reduction in soil organic matter (assuming that you aren't returning the clippings to the lawn, using mulch or compost, and so on).  Organic fertilizers increase soil organic matter, which increases water retention, fertilizer efficiency, soil life (which helps aerate the soil for you), and makes shortfalls of some resources matter less by binding them when available.

Overall, the organic method wins hands-down for lawn and garden care, but it can take some time to build enough soil organisms to process what you've added and to start the cycle of positive effects. Generally, I recommend applying in May, August, September, and October--and if this is your first time, you should notice a difference by October with the most casual inspection.  Closer inspection will show positive changes much earlier.

Which do I use?  A little of both in the gardens, pure organic on the lawn.  Even in the gardens, the organic feedings are the heavy-hitters.  My June garden application is due shortly, which will be around 18 pounds of Milorganite per thousand square feet.