From commentor NewDealFarmGrrl:
I didn’t have much of a veggie garden this year between my jobs and the cool rainy spring, but i have been working on converting much of my yard to native species. The more native prairie wildflowers i have around my vegetables, the fewer problems i have with garden pests.
My first summer here was 2010 (above). That year I saw one male goldfinch, once. This year, with many more native plants (below), i had at least three nesting pairs around the yard. Various species of birds visit the garden and sit on rabbit fencing, peering in, then swooping down on a bug for their nestlings.
I’ve become a fan of tucking vegetable plants amongst perennials and natives, very few bugs or problems, other than getting things into the ground sooner rather than later! This year my big success was green bell peppers and eggplants. Minnesota is on the cool side for both; my strategy is to put black landscape cloth around the plants. It absorbs heat while suppressing weeds, seems to keep the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants happy! I got my tomatoes in too late, the squirrels got most of them. For other garden areas, I mulch with chopped hay. My soil is very sandy, so it dries out quickly. The hay breaks down fairly quick, and adds humus to the soil along with compost from my compost bins.
My cats lurv lurv lurv the bird feeders in my backyard because of all the interesting fluttery things that show up…
(Next week: More wildlife!)
I need to get a couple more potted roses dug into the ground, before it’s too late. But today, we’re going to the Topsfield Fair, because TRADITION.
What’s going on in your gardens, this week?
Getting the beets, cabbage and turnips into the root cellar – the carrots, potatoes, garlic and onions are already there – and planting next year’s garlic. The weather here in southern Quebec has been unusually warm but these last few days have been cooler and it’s feeling much more like winter isn’t too far away.
Oh my heavens, that is gorgeous! I’m going to have to rethink my whole yard strategy now, I was doing natives around the perimeter but the yard mowers tend to lose track of where I want them not to mow. Maybe multiple beds…. beautiful yard, NeeDealFarmGrrl!
Fall colors are about at peak here in SW MI after 3 nights of light frost. The temps are going to be nice the next few days so today is leaf peeping day.
Well, I’m closing in on the end of a 14 hour shift. I was ok until about 30 minutes ago. This last hour is gonna be killer.
I love the native plantings and gardens around here (Kalamazoo) – they are literally abuzz with birds, bees, butterflies and other activity. It soothes my heart to see even these tiny bits of how-things-are-supposed-to-be.
I was thinking of starting some milkweed indoors to transplant outside in the spring, and also maybe to try raising some monarchs on (in terrariums) in the spring. Does anyone know how early I should start it? I’ve been reading up on Monarchwatch and similar sites but don’t see this question answered.
Also trying oyster mushrooms again – this time in used coffee grounds. Will report back.
Very nice. Much nicer than the standard suburban green postage stamp. And very much what I am hoping to do around here.
I was at Starbucks a few weeks ago. They now have a flyer up saying they’ll give you coffee grounds – you just have to ask for them. I got a big trash bag of coffee grounds a while back from Starbucks and saved a couple of shrubs which were not doing well.
@rikyrah: Heh, just started my 16 hour work day, which includes phonebanking this afternoon. Since 12 hours of that is manning a security post, I’m ok with getting little pity :-)
My neighborhood cineplex is projecting The Walking Dead premiere for free, which I will be definitely missing, but I intend to take in subsequent viewings of this season’s episodes in the coming weeks…whoever thot up this idea is my new favorite person!
White People Are Unironically Talking About the White Experience in New PBS Documentary
By Tom McKay 17 hours ago
The news: This week, PBS and documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow launched the first installment of the “Whiteness Project,” a thorough and well-intentioned interview series that aims to make white Americans open up about their racial identities.
Dow has started his goal to interview 1,000 white Americans across the country to obtain their unfiltered views on race. The first 24 of those one-minute interviews from Buffalo, New York are now available to watch on the PBS website.
And so far, Dow has delivered. The interviews are sharp, engaging and relevant, precisely because they don’t aspire to show a saccharine view of racial problems in America. Instead, they’re revealing just how tense racial relations in the U.S. remain right now and how many white people simply don’t know how to talk about it. Many of them are contributing to it.
@rikyrah: Do you think any of those white people will watch and say “Boy, am I an idiot.”
@rikyrah: I read that name as Whitey D’oh!
@rikyrah: And here’s an interview with Whitney Dow and his co-director, Marco Williams, discussing a documentary they made a decade ago, Two Towns of Jasper.
There’s a second Ebola! patient in Dallas. A health worker who worked on Duncan. Hopefully it’s an insured white American person since Texas Presbyterian only likes treating those kind of people. Also per patient request , they’re no disclosing the person identity? How long before TMZ discloses the identity?
Beautiful yard — quite a transformation! It’s like what the Chicago Park District and Lincoln Park Zoo have done around two of the ponds in the Park — they’ve replanted with native species, which are very nice to look at, and we have a lot more varieties of birds in those areas — including ducks, geese, herons and cormorants as well as all sorts of little brown birds that are not sparrows.
So, I really don’t like yard work or gardening, but I always think I’m going to be better at it every spring. Bought 3 rhododendrons for the front of my house in May-they are still in the pots-but healthy (I did at least water them.) I’m in west central IL and it’s getting close to freezing at night. I’m going to plant then today. Any special things I should do to give them an extra chance?
@mai naem: John McCain on CNN says we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in this country. Listening to those voices in your head again, John? Of course he gets no pushback from Crowley.
Funny you should say that. When asked some years ago what “the solution to racism” might be, Dow replied thus: “Fornication, because you can’t hate your own kids. The browner we get as a society, the better off we’ll be.”
And yes, his name more than hints at his trust-fund-prep-school-Ivy-League background. Fresh out of college in the ’80s, he co-founded the Manhattan Yacht Club.
Take a look at his documentaries.
@beth: Eventually responded to you about that Bush-Kilmeade interview. Sorry for the delay (If you were waiting).
Husband tells me that his Tea Party, rw-co-worker who listened to Fox News fearmongering and took all of his 401(k) money out of the stock market when Obama was elected has been whining about how people who joined the program long after that have more money now than he does because the stock market rebounded so strongly. And NOW he’s saying he wishes they just had an old-fashioned pension instead of a 401(k) where he has to actually think about where to invest his retirement money.
Your modern Tea Party. Ha ha ha ha ha.
My current-favorite illustration of arch humor: Random House inviting John McCain to write a foreword for a new edition of Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest.
My current-favorite illustration of zero self-awareness (or awareness of any kind, really): John McCain accepting the invitation.
@Cervantes: We’ll just have to disagree about that because like I said I think GWB is a miserable little shit of a human being. I will always think the worst of him and will never be disappointed.
@beth: No sweat. Just wanted you know I appreciated the link, etc.
They are the party of personal responsibility, so everything you said makes perfect sense.
Yeah, that’s the new meme I’ve been seeing.
@Cervantes: I’m a big docu fan, and parody/auteur efforts have to be pretty egregious to put me off. I’ll give it a look.
A few recent documentaries that I especially enjoyed were Man On Wire (the denouement was a bit gratuitous, tho) NYC ’77: A Cool Year In Hell (a true End Times parable if there ever was one) and, yes, The Roosevelts (sue me!).
@Baud: They are the party of somebody else’s personal responsibility,…
FTFY, happy to be of service, this time free of charge.
Topsfield Fair? Sigh. I used to go there regularly. There was a booth near the entrance run by a synagogue that had the best kugel…
Wow, NewDealFarmGrrl! Your garden is gorgeous! I love adding native plants and tucking vegetables in between them. I kind of do it the other way–I put my vegetables in raised beds and add a few natives or other beneficial insect attractors in the beds with them. I’ve been busy and haven’t been in the garden as much as I’d like. Maybe now that the weather is going to cool off I’ll have some energy for it again.
@Raven: How are you doing? Did I read something about you having a dizzy spell or something after getting the new hearing aids? Hope you’re okay.
@NewDealFarmGirl: your yard is gorgeous!
Today, I will be trying something different, namely mulching leaves instead of raking them. I have a mulching mower, and I never collect grass clippings, so if I keep up the leaf mulching once a week as my source article noted, I should be able to chop everything up to dime-size and not overwhelm the mower. Or myself.
I’ve stuck to organic fertilizer and weed suppressant for the last few years, and this year had to deal with baby leopard frogs in the grass. Half a dozen times or more as I mowed, I would have to stop and collect an inch-long critter and carry it to safety. Felt like a murderer when I hit a couple of big ‘uns. I keep the lawn on the tall side–3 inches or more–and couldn’t see them until it was too late. It’s been cold the last few nights–40s–so I wonder if I will see them anymore this year.
@zippity: I do that type of thing all too often … As long as you’ve watered them all along, they should be fine. According to various gardening articles I’ve read over the years, roots will still keep growing slowly until the ground freezes, so keep watering deeply once a week until ground is frozen.
I planted an Eastern Wahoo (love that name) two weeks ago, got a chokecherry tree planted last week, and still have to plant an American hazelnut and a pincherry tree. All native species and bird magnets!
It took me five years to decide on trees/shrubs, while I was dithering, I kept planting regular perennial flowers, and more and more native prairie plants.
Two years ago my vegetable garden was a neatly laid out rectangle, but that fall I rescued many plants from a friend’s lot; he had sold his house and they were going to scrape and put in a McMansion, yuck. So the only free spots were in the veggie area … in short I liked the look and feel of interplanting so that’s the method going forward.
I grew roses organically using these same principles. Every rosebush got a clove of garlic growing at its base, I used self-seeding alyssum as a groundcover, I grew lots of lavender, cosmos, daisies and chrysanthemums, and marigolds as borders.
It made for a very pretty cottage garden effect, and there were plenty of volunteers for insect control.
@satby: thank you! The neighbor kid who mows my yard is pretty good about noticing edges – it probably helps that his mom is a passionate gardener, he was well trained! I don’t know what I will do next year when he graduates from college and moves away.
I take photos all the time, thinking I will send them in to Anne Laurie. I read the garden chats and I think “maybe I’ll send those next week”.
@munira: the biggest success I had this year was parsnips. My grandson claimed to love them, though I think he was mixing them up with jicama, so two years ago I planted parsnips. Not many came up, and they didn’t get even as thick as a pencil so I left them. Last year they came up (biennials) and sent up flower stalks, pollinators loved them so I let them be. They reseeded and I have a huge, thriving parsnip patch. I will harvest them after a freeze or two.
Speaking of gardens, I just went outside to see how much rain we got last night and something in one of my vegetable beds caught my eye. It was feathers. A massive amount of feathers in one bed and sort of behind that on the ground between it and another bed was another carpet of feathers and some entrails. Cat got a bird. Can’t have been too long since the entrails look really fresh.
Not my cat. We have cats in the neighborhood that people allow out to roam around, plus feral cats. They’re in our yard frequently and like to use it as a litter box. Fucking cats. If people want to let their cats outside I wish they’d keep them in their own damn yard and clean up the poop and dead birds themselves.
It was a mockingbird from the looks of the feathers. Ugh. Not sure what to do now. Do not want to deal with bird entrails. Maybe I’ll skip gardening for the day and hope that something eats the rest of the guts plus it rains and washes what’s left away.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Find out what his mom is going to do for lawn mowing maybe you guys can find someone good and both use that person. Or train them.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: I’ve had a similar sort of thing happen. I tend to leave every vegetable alone once it bolts and the bees just love them. Their favorites seem to be broccoli flowers and lettuce flowers and currently they’re loving the basil flowers.
@Hillary Rettig: I have seeds for three species of milkweed in my fridge, along with a big packet of “pollinatorpalooza seed mix,” all from Prairie Moon Nursery, a wonderful native plant resource in Minnesota. I will be stratifying them in January/February, then starting them under lights in March/April. Two months of cold stratify is the rule of thumb, they have instructions on their website.
My family & I have raised monarchs inside; the ants will devour the chrysalises when they find them … So we bring the caterpillars inside and let them have a safe place to pupate.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Thank you! Your yard is gorgeous-and I’m sure took quite a bit of effort, at least to get it started.
@Violet: thank you! I was thinking of doing a raised bed for native blueberries (ie, not commercial cultivars) so I could amend the soil easier.
@Kristine: no trees in my yard (yet) so I usually beg leaves from my neighbors. I use them to mulch my flower beds, and dig them into the veggie areas. Sounds like you have a good plan with the mulching mower.
I sympathize about the frogs, I have the same problem with toads. I feel so bad when I’ve possibly injured one.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Where I live the soil is clay and if you don’t do vegetables in a raised bed they’ll drown in a heavy rain. I understand blueberries are pickier about their soil but if they’re natives you may not need to worry. Sounds like your soil is sandy, which is what blueberries supposedly like anyway, so that may work out well.
I love seeing how folks tend to their gardens in different parts of the country. We are in Montana, on the dry side of the divide, where we get a lot of sunshine and this year had almost 60 days of temperatures in the 90’s. However, our growing season is abysmally short so we start our tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, herbs, eggplant and whatever else takes my fancy under lights in our house (we basically live in a greenhouse December through April lol). Then April 1st come what may they go out into the greenhouses and we supplement the retained heat with propane heaters. Farmers Market here in Helena starts at the beginning of May and that’s when we also start shipping plants to folks in Zone 4 – this way everyone is assured of a bumper crop of fruit.
Check it out – http://www.bodefarm.com – we take preorders too!
Having grown up in England where EVERYONE grows a garden I am thrilled to see people here getting excited about growing their own food. We are all heirloom organic and sustainable and not a GMO in sight! Maybe we may all be a little bit healthier the more this movement takes off. Thanks to Ron Finley in LA the Gangsta Gardener, and to all the seed companies fending off Monsanto.
@WaterGirl: heh, same here! Didn’t get to it last year, have been dawdling with pics for months! One plus re being a laggard – the New England asters recently came into bloom, which is the image Anne Laurie chose to lead. Love love love fall asters.
@Kristine: That works well but does depend on the size and type of your leaves. Some leaves are so big that they don’t mulch down well even with a mulching mower and thus you end up with a kind of tarp on your lawn. Keep that in mind if you find the technique isn’t working as well as you expected.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Speaking of frogs and toads, part of us going organic has meant going through the “plagues”–where you end up with an overabundance of something followed by the arrival of its predator. Up the food chain we go! Not sure why, but this summer we’ve had a bunch of frogs or toads (I really don’t know the difference, especially when I see them at night only when they hop after I’ve almost stepped on them). This is a new thing this summer. We’ve also had an overabundance of lizards. I’m thinking snakes have to be next on the food chain. Hope that brings in owls. They’re around but we haven’t had too many in the yard.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: wow, thanks! that’s great information and exactly what I needed.
can you tell me what you mean by stratify? I thought it meant to put some sand or gravel in the bag and shaking it so the seeds are scarred a bit and germinate more easily.
Off to check out Prairie Moon…
@Violet: I have neighborhood cats around too, luckily they tend not to be interested in the birds. And that is because I have three wire bin composters behind the garage, cats prefer to lurk there and nab mice, shrews, and voles that have made nests in the compost. Neighborhood small hawks like to lurk there too, the cats disappear when hawks appear, win win.
The neighbor relies on her husband when son is off at college, he’s so busy I’d hate to impose on him. But I think I can lure my grandson over to mow for me. I know he’s willing, but at almost eleven, he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet so we’ll have to rely in parents to get him here.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Is he too far away to ride his bike? I used to mow our lawn starting at about that age, so I’m sure he’s capable. Maybe the neighbor could hire him to mow her lawn and he could make a few bucks. Win win for everyone.
@satby: I second Satby. I’ve been working at eliminating grass generally (who NEEDS that extra work in the summer?) with creeping perennial beds (and thyme), but I really like the idea of vegs in with other perennials. Since I will be planning and re-thinking my hugelkultur beds and permaculture areas this winter, this is excellent timing for me–thank you!
@Violet: Yea, I woke up with one yesterday and I’m keeping close watch.
@raven: Hope all is well. The hearing aids might be a contributor–changes in input into your brain can throw you off for a bit until you adjust. Think what it’s like with new glasses or if you pick up someone else’s glasses and you can’t see out of them. Makes you dizzy. Hope today is better.
@Hillary Rettig: that, plus a small amount of moisture, then seal the bag and leave in fridge for two months or so. The cold & moisture is supposed to simulate natural conditions that the seeds need to germinate.
I’ve got some common milkweed (asclepias syriaca) getting established in my yard, from seeds I scattered several years ago from pods collected at my brother’s place. I have more pods this year, given to me by friends a mile or two away. I have two bug swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata) plants that the monarchs seem to prefer for egg-laying, I’m happy that those plants have reseeded and babies are sporting up nearby.
I will probably plant the three new types of milkweed seed in little trays, seal them in ziplocks, then stick them in the freezer. I’ve done both fridge & freezer methods, they both work. I’m anxious to get the new milkweeds established in my yard.
@Violet: alas, too far. A twenty minute freeway drive; more than an hour by car going through town because of contending with lakes and the Mississippi River. He’s my great little buddy, stays with me a week or so at a time in the summer. My daughter is all about instilling responsibility so I think she’d be open to bringing him over. Plus, she likes to “shop” in my veggie garden, so that’s an additional lure. Next year the asparagus bed will be old enough to start harvesting, wheeee!
@Violet: One of the reasons I held off on mulching leaves up till now is because most of them are oak, which I read somewhere will acidify the soil and need to be countered with higher pH treatments to protect the grass. As for the leaves themselves, I will find out how things work out in a few minutes, because I am headed outside now.
@currants: I hear ya! Death to grass! Except for native clump-forming grasses, I am so in love with big bluestem! And little bluestem, Indian grass, prairie dropseed, and Sideoats Grama.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Grasses are the best! So pretty this time of year too.
@Violet: If today is anything like beating Mizzou 34-0 I’ll be one happy camper!!
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: wow, I just googled “parsnip recipes” and it was a yummy bounty. These fries sound awesome!
@Tenar Darell: oooo! Thank you, I bookmarked that recipe. I may have to harvest some parsnips early for this so I can use up my fresh rosemary before frost gets it.
@Tenar Darell: I love parsnips. They’re so sweet when roasted. Delicious.
@Violet: Oh lawdy me too – we (for me read my wonderful husband Mike) dug up all the parsnips and beets (we grow crapudine, a very old French variety, google it) so we had roast snips roast beets baked purple viking pots scarlet runner beans and the last lamb shoulder roast from our this year’s lamb. A feast to die for!
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: We bring in a big rosemary plant in the fall and put it in the front window so we always have fresh. And its lovely to walk past and brush your hand across the plant – makes the house smell wonderful. I have had a version of the same rosemary plant for over ten years – just have to slice it in half every spring so it doesn’t become a forest!
It might get to freezing tonight, so I need to cover my veggies, but the wind is screaming and until it dies down, the covers won’t stick around. I can only do veggies in self-watering pots in the front yard because the backyard backs to open space and the deer and elk eat anything you try to grow out there that isn’t native or stinky (stuff in the sage family, mums, and lavenders). It’s been an even more gorgeous than usual Indian Summer here on the windy west side of Denver.
I removed all our grass when we moved in, and went entirely with natives and xeric plants. I should put together a “before and after” set of photos for the blog, including the recent visit of a juvenile bobcat who enjoyed laying in my most recently constructed bed. I’ll get after that at some point.
@BodeFarm: alas, I have a good window, but haven’t developed an effective strategy for keeping the cats out of the pot. They don’t use potting soil as a litter box, but they have oh so much fun digging up the plants!
If I find a small wire dog kennel on sale I may put rosemary inside and be able to once again overwinter rosemary and cherished geraniums.
@StringOnAStick: I would LOVE to see before and after pics!
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: Try putting pinecones in the pot. They’re sort of decorative and cats don’t like the prickly feel. That worked for a friend of mine. Bigger pinecones worked best.
@Violet: good idea! Bet I can collect some from friends and family. Although I wouldn’t put it past my little mischief-makers to decide pinecones are fun to bat around.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: They might but generally the prickliness is uncomfortable for them. A lot of people seem to have success using them as cat deterrents. And they’re decorative in your pots and won’t hurt the plants. If you can collect them for free they’re cheap too!
Tree With Water
Here in Sonoma this week, I finally sat down with a landscaper who presented me her choices per my wish list- drought resistant plants, bird & bee friendly, bright colors, nice scents. Jasmine plants along my wire fence border, a slope of gingko trees, and birdbaths. It’ll look beautiful.
@Newdealfarmgrrrlll: ….and thanks again for naming the types you like! Better for planning, even in New England.
@StringOnAStick: Yes please! Would LOVE to see before/after photos from you (and especially anyone else who’s gone grass free).
We bought our current house in a near-DC MD more urban than suburban area 12 years ago. The large backyard at the time was a classic lawn desert though surrounded by huge oak and tulip poplar trees some of which were more than a century old. We immediately instituted a complex of no chemical, indigenous MD/PA/VA plants and trees (exception vegetable garden since tomatoes, chili peppers, strawberries, etc. are obviously non-native). Within 4 years, we had a wide collection of bird life. Of course, we also had our region’s perennial pest – the white tailed deer, which are practically domesticated animals around here. However, we also have lots of red foxes, whose frolics we enjoy observing. (And who are keeping the bunny and vermin population down hopefully.)
Do you have any tricks for acidification of the soil for blueberries? My soil is slightly alkaline, and the only thing that has worked well is garden sulfur.
@Bill Arnold: I’m going to go with the University of Minnesota Extension suggestions for growing blueberries … I’ll have to get my soil tested first, but I might be able to get by with digging a lot of peat into the bed. If you’re not in Minnesota/Wisconsin, I’d check with your state university’s extension services.