The Crabgrass Chronicles

Confessions of a Garden Geek

So I have a confession to make.

By this time of the summer, I am ready for fall.  Once the cicadas start buzzing I can’t help but get anxious for those cooler, crisp days, the vibrant reds and golds and yellows (and purples of my asters!), and the apples.  Oh my the apples.

This year is no different, except the early spring brought out early buds on my apple trees which were subsequently nipped off by the inevitable late spring frost.  That, and the dog (not my dog, he’s my husband’s pain) has killed half of my old Haralson tree from repeated use as a potty spot.  Have I mentioned before that I hate that dog?

But this year I am not quite ready to quit the planning and planting just yet.  After the power company removed all the trees on the south side of the house and finished with the stump removal and grading and seeding, I now have a blank canvas on which to plant all kinds of new things.  I’m not lying when I say it has been a struggle to come up with a design though…for some reason, I can look at any other house except my own and get all kinds of ideas of what I’d plant here or there.  But with my house?  I wonder if Gardener’s Block is a valid term?  Because if any gardener ever suffered from a lack of inspiration or ideas, it is me and this old house.  Maybe it’s because I’ve lived here all my life and it’s hard to see changes being made?  I don’t know.  But, such is life.

My main concern with that part of the house is for a little bit of privacy.  It borders on a gravel road (with a stop sign at the corner, so people are generally driving by fairly slowly) and to somewhat block the view of the neighbors.  Not that I don’t like my neighbors, but I don’t want to look at their house every time I look out the window!  The only problem is, since this area is near the overhead power lines, I can’t plant anything that will get taller than 25 to 30 feet. What to do, what to do.  Here’s the current state of affairs (I’m standing on that gravel road to take the picture, to give you an idea of how close it is):


The distance between that satellite dish on the left and that little stand of peonies on the right is about 25 feet.  So, this is the area I have to work with.

I’ve always loved redbud trees and I know I want to put in one or two.  I also am determined to grow hydrangeas if it’s the last thing I do so I’m incorporating some of them in, also.  I want something with color – I’m not a huge fan of roses but those red knockout roses look pretty and are supposed to give a nice, long season of bloom, so, what the heck. (Did I mention I’m not paying for any of this? This is the best part!  The power company is giving me a small “settlement” that I can use to replace the trees.  Yay!)  And of course to add some texture and interest, maybe some nice tall maiden grass.  Through the magic of GIMP and some copied plant pictures from around the web, I came up with the following plan.  Though probably not exactly to scale, it does give a pretty good idea of what I might end up with if I’m lucky.🙂


Obviously the redbuds won’t be blooming at the same time as the hydrangeas and roses, and I’ll fill in with some perennials and maybe some tulips and other spring bulbs.  But yeah, I think this will offer some privacy and color while staying well out of the power lines and bringing down the wrath of the power company.  What do you think?

July 13, 2012, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Well, there hasn’t been much going on the gardens in a while with all this heat and drought.  Not even the weeds are growing (which is a good thing!) and everything looks so shriveled and sad.  So, I set about making these cute little planters, borrowed from similar ones I saw in somebody else’s little garden!


I also noticed the strangest little spiderweb I have ever seen.  Anyone ever see a web like this?  Spidey must have really been focused on his home building that day!


Nature is so amazing.

My next garden project that I want to install is some sort of a hobbit garden.  I already have some ideas swimming inside my head as to how I’m going to create that round door, but once we get the wood pile cleared in the back of the garage and get rid of all those tree trunks (leftovers from the wonderful power company stripping my back yard clear of trees), I have the perfect spot for a little piece of fantasy fun.  No matter if the rest of the family thinks I’m nuts, I like it!

Which reminds me, I should go pop in my LOTR movies right now to get a little more inspiration.

Happy gardening!

All About Chickens
July 7, 2012, 11:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I haven’t updated the blog for a while~ wow.  Time flies when you’re having fun!

After our abnormally warm March, it cooled off in April and the wind blew nonstop.  I swear, for two months straight it was just wind, wind, wind.  I am one of those people who hate the wind, I can’t function on windy days.  I just want to hide out in the house.

Well anyway, in early June I got my very first little flock of chickens. I wanted to raise my own meat birds, and my daughter wanted some egg layers so I ended up with 16 Red Rangers and 7 Gold Star chicks.  Can we say cute!!

I learned rather quickly that a day old baby chick can easily squeeze right through the holes in chicken wire. :/  So, the nice little coop I had set up in the back corner of the barn wasn’t going to work out so well!  I ended up getting one of those little plastic kiddie pools and that worked great.  Some pine hamster bedding worked perfectly and the little darlings were nice and snug in their little brooder.  I also learned that placing them directly under the warming lamp caused them to fall over, asleep, instantly.  Oh the fun we had.

But now they are 4 weeks old and have become, for lack of a better description, gangly teenagers.  No more yellow fuzz!

Earlier this week my son and I decided it was time to let them out of the coop and do what the Rangers do best, free range!  They love it, although they haven’t strayed far from the barn.  Probably because our pesky cat Oreo loves to pester them.

He hangs out near or even in the coop, but he doesn’t really do much but watch them and practice his stalking.  He’s a cat who just loves being a cat, but I have a feeling that one or two good pecks on the head and he’ll be staying far away from chickenland.

So, by the beginning of September my Rangers should be ready for processing.  And hopefully soon after that I’ll be getting my first eggs from my little pullets!

I wish I would have done this years ago.  Who knew chickens could be so fun?  Their antics are hilarious.  And they definitely have their own personalities.  Where one goes, the rest follow and they love to hang out in my daylilies & scratch around in my raised garden beds.  Just, watch out at feeding time, it’s a chicken eat chicken ordeal and you’d best get outta their way!

March 23, 2012, 1:15 pm
Filed under: gardening | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have a bunch of Johnson’s Blue hardy geraniums in my gardens that I absolutely adore – except for the way they get floppy and leggy and tend to flatten out in the wind. I’ve considered purchasing plant supports for them, but thought, why not wattle?

Wattling is the technique of using sturdy sticks and branches to support the weaving of softer and more pliable branches between them. It’s really easy – and the effect is nothing short of adorable. I did this last year to make a nice little border around my chives; now, I think I will see if I can do this to make a support that will keep my geraniums upright.

Now is the perfect time to do it. The plants are just beginning to grow and haven’t gotten very tall yet.

The first thing you need to do is gather up your materials.  This is pretty basic – a bunch of thicker, sturdy and straight as possible sticks that are the adequate length (and this would depend on how tall you want your finished support to be), and a bunch of pliable branches.  Willow branches are perfect for this.

Now you want to begin your base structure.  Take your sturdy, straight sticks and jam them into the ground around the plant you want supported.  Make sure they are in there a good couple of inches so that they won’t come out or move a lot once you start weaving:

Now comes the fun part – grab your nice soft branches, the longer the better, and start weaving them around your base.  In, out.  In, out.  Make sure that every layer is woven around opposite sides of the support sticks.

When you get to the end, just tuck the tips of the branch into the other branches.  I’ve never wired mine, but I suppose you could for added support.  Since this is going to actually support a floppy plant, I decided to try to add cross sections for added control.  These I just laid in a grid pattern over the top of my half-complete circle.  Now to top those with a few more layers of wattle, and voila!  The finished product:

A word of caution though: if you are using freshly trimmed willow branches, DO NOT poke them directly into the ground.  They WILL root and they WILL continue to grow – so unless you want little willow trees taking up residence in your garden, make sure the sticks you use for the base support are not alive and are not willows!  (I learned that the hard way…)

This entire process took me less than 30 minutes.  And the majority of that time was spent wandering around the yard looking for sticks, and giving my weeping willow a haircut.  I had to make a few trips to the willow because you really do need more than you think you might.

Now, 3 more left to go!

Noticed this little oddity too, as I was finishing up.  Seems my tulip grew right up underneath this little cog.  I love finding these little surprises.🙂

So if you’re looking for something to support a plant, or maybe just use as an edge or border, give wattling a try!  It’s so easy, and a great way to recycle all those sticks and branches that fall off the trees.  And the best part is – it’s free!

Happy gardening.🙂

What a difference a day makes!
March 23, 2012, 7:38 am
Filed under: gardening

So, I was struck down by a migraine the last couple of days.  Not one of my major ones, but bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor for a shot if Imitrex.  I’ve suffered from these things since I was a teenager, so I’m no stranger to the pain, as they say!

But I guess if there is anything good that can come from one of these things, it’s how incredibly great I feel when it finally lifts.  Yesterday I could barely lift my head from my desk…today, I have a renewed sense that I can take on the world, or at least some more projects in the garden!  It’s that proverbial weight being lifted – quite literally, I feel lighter, and happier, and just…alive.

Another change in a day that never ceases to amaze me is the greening up that those first spring rain showers cause.  I was out in my backyard last weekend taking these pictures of my newly-bare landscape (this will have to be a whole ‘nother post, the dang power company and their war on trees) and overnight from Monday to Tuesday, after a nice rain and bit of thunder, the grass has risen and the trees are ready to pop out their leaves.  Every year, it gives me pause.

Backyard, "Before"

Backyard, "After"

So, this weekend I am planning to plant the potatoes and the snap peas. I’m going to try growing the taters inside some old tires that The Hub has lying around. I also need to finish those fancy season extenders to cover my square foot garden beds. Lots to do! Happy gardening everyone!

Pruning a Clematis – Making Sense of those Pruning Groups!
March 19, 2012, 4:40 pm
Filed under: clematis, gardening | Tags: , , ,

Pruning a clematis can be a tricky thing, but it doesn’t have to be!

Anyone who has done a little research on clematis for their gardens has probably come across those three pruning groups and wondered, what does all this mean?  How do I keep this straight?  Some people might even pass on these remarkable beauties because the upkeep can seem so daunting!  To avert this tragedy, I thought I’d try to simplify the process.

Clematis come in three pruning groups: 1, 2, and 3.  When you prune can have a significant effect on the number of flowers you’ll get during the growing season.  Keep in mind that pruning any clematis at the “wrong” time likely won’t kill your plant; if anything, you might lose out on its flowers for a season, but not to worry, it will be back and blooming again the next!

For me, it’s easiest to think of the groups this way: Group 1 is First to Flower.  Clematis in this group are the early spring bloomers, such as montanas and alpinas.  They bloom on old wood (last year’s growth) so you don’t want to cut them back too much in early spring; other than cleaning up dead branches, they should only be pruned just after they flower.  Waiting until later in the season will cut off the flower buds forming for next spring.

Group 2  are Second to Flower (and flower twice).  These generally have an initial flush of flowers in late spring/early summer, then a second bloom later in summer.  These are pretty much the large flowered hybrids.  These also bloom on old wood, however to complicate things even more, this group is further divided into group 2a and 2b, of which the 2b’s will also flower on new wood.  The 2b’s tend to flower more intermittently after the first initial bloom and the 2a’s have two distinct blooming periods.  Not sure which is which?  Don’t get too worried.  Pruning of these should only be limited to the removal of dead material and deadheading the spent flowers, which can lengthen the blooming period and promote a second flush of blooms.

Group 3 are Third to Bloom.  These are the mid to late summer bloomers, like viticellas, and other smaller flowered varieties.  These all bloom on new wood and do well with a good, severe pruning in early spring.  Leaving them unpruned is ok, but be mindful that they can develop thick woody stems over time that look all bare and, well, blah.  So a good buzz cut in the spring will keep them looking fine!

To be honest, though, I don’t even pay much attention to the pruning groups.  I just go by this: if the vines die back to the ground every winter, I cut the new shoots back a bit to encourage more branching.  By mid June I leave them alone so that they can flower.  If the vines survive the winter and buds form on the vines that are still clinging to the trellis, I just clean out the dead stuff.  I have a viticella “Polish Spirit” that can get to be a real beast, so every 2-3 years I cut that baby down to the ground and other years I “layer” the pruning so that I get a longer period of bloom – earlier flowers on the longer vines and later flowers on the ones I trimmed back.  This works nicely and keeps the thing from looking like Cousin It.

Really, it’s just about paying attention to what your plants are doing and pruning accordingly.  I do keep a notebook with all my different varieties and I note whether or not they die back to the ground – but other than that, I pretty much leave them alone.  Some people like to selectively prune to delay the flowering period, or to adjust the height of the vine, or for any other number of reasons; my best advice is to just pay attention from year to year and get to know the growth and bloom habits of your clematis.  You can prune or not prune depending on your own particular desires and how you want your plant to grow.  Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; it’s how we learn and grow as gardeners!  And our plants will forgive us.🙂

On the move
March 18, 2012, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Today I finally got around to bringing my nifty little grow light stand in the house.  Well, okay, I didn’t do it all by myself, it took a little convincing to get the DH to lend a hand!  I love my little stand – DH made it for me about 10 or so years ago out of an old display rack from the carpet store he worked at.  I outfitted it with 4 cheapo shop light fixtures from Home Depot with some aquarium bulbs.  At that time, the fixtures were about 5-6 bucks apiece and the aquarium bulbs were around 8.  I finally have to replace a bulb this year, so these have given me a lot of use!  Er, um, pay no attention to my dirty floor. :p


The bottom portion has an adjustable shelf so I can keep my little planties right up next to the lights.


Here they are, settling in to their new digs.  They’ve been in the window all day and are leaning *just* a little.  Hopefully now Mr. Mario, the naughtiest of all naughty kitties, will not be able to LAY ON THEM like I’ve caught him doing a time or two!  Sheesh.  Of all the places a cat could take a nap (like the nice sunny window sills) he has to choose my little babies!

Looks like the little seedlings aren’t the only ones moving in!


I didn’t accomplish much else today, sadly, and they’re talking rain for the next few days.  But we need it desperately, with the lack of any snow over the winter, the ground is dry dry dry.  After that the temperatures are going to go back down to something more normal…boooo.  It was a great run of warm weather while we had it!

Have a happy Sunday everyone. 🙂


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.