Sunday, May 16, 2010
Hours before the big rains, most all of our birds have been feeding on the sunflower seeds. This is rather surprising because they typically would rather eat insects and seeds from the yard in the spring.
I had once read if it's going to be a long and severe storm, birds would come to the feeders for their fill. If it was going to be a short-duration storm, they would wait it out. Apparently, the person who observed this behavior was spot on.
It's also been a hard spring on the baby birds. I've seen several, after storms, that were apparently blown or washed out of nests. And even though birds' feathers naturally shed water, they've looked pretty soaked to the skin after the rain finally stops.
When the wind gusts to 40 - 50 mph even our big old trees do a lot of whipping around. Birds who build in the top of trees must have a thrilling, or more likely scary, ride.
Birds at the feeders this month:
Blue Jays, Cardinals, Red Headed Woodpeckers, Gold Finches, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, wrens, House Finches, nuthatches, American Tree Sparrows, Dark-Eyed Juncos, White Crowned Sparrows, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and I'm sure others I've not identified. The robins, doves and Brown Thrashers feed in the seed catcher or on the ground under the feeders if it's really going to be a nasty storm.
I've seen more blackbirds and starlings stay around the yard this year. Usually they move through and out in early Spring. Fortunately, they're pretty much staying in the fields with the Killdeers and hawks.
I've always kept seed in the feeders near my computer room window year round because I enjoy watching them but the amount they eat drops considerably in the summer. It started that drop until the heavy rain storms began.
Other nesting activity:
A Brown Thrasher couple has built a nest in the honeysuckle that twines over the end of my clothesline. When they started, it was a relatively quiet area but it's a mere five feet from the edge of the screened back porch and close to the area I've been landscaping. Brown Thrashers are pretty shy birds and this has been a hard adjustment for them.
The "little in size but big in personality" wrens are not shy and often nest near porches. They seem to have a particular fancy for porch wreaths, hanging baskets, and other man-made decorations. Most often it works for me as I enjoy watching their parental skills and hearing their large vocabulary of songs.
The bats came out of hibernation only to be greeted by cool nights and storms.
I've already seen several types of moths and butterflies in the gardens. Last night we had a "June Bug" on our screen. Not only are the flowers blooming about fifteen days early but apparently all nature is on warp speed this spring.
Friends shared the prediction that once we get past this wet spring, drought will set in for the rest of the summer. If that happens, those of us who get everything planted or transplanted during the wet spell will be glad they at least are getting an easy good start. New perennials will still need regular deep watering the first year, especially trees and bushes. Potted and hanging planters may need daily watering if rain becomes scarce.
But today, the yard is lush with greenery and things are growing bigger than ever before. Even the most skimpy transplant appears to be taking hold. Today, all things look bright. Isn't it great to have the optimism of a gardener??
Friday, May 14, 2010
Recently, I did a garden presentation for the Kewanee Business and Professional Women. I had some herbs & discussed how to use them in garden pots. Potting generated quite a few questions and I thought I’d share some of the answers with you.
I focused on using pots for herbs and vegetables because of the diverse ages and time constraints of the group. Most health and time limitations still permit enjoying some basic fresh vegetables and herbs if done in pots.
Following are suggestions for those who can’t do hard labor or take a lot of time with a large garden.
· Don’t use little pots because they won’t allow root growth and will dry out too fast.
· If you don’t want to purchase a flower pot, re purpose a copper boiler, old canner, etc.
· Unglazed pottery will need more watering.
· All pots should have drainage holes.
· In large containers, fill about 1/3 with crushed aluminum cans, plastic milk jugs, or shipping peanuts. (The exception: tomatoes do better with all soil.)
· Next a thick layer of newspapers touching all sides.
· Add potting soil that contains fertilizer and some kind of moisture-retaining substance.
· It takes less work if you use vegetables that won’t get huge or need staking.
· Herbs may be planted with a few flowers.
· Leaf lettuce forms a nice border.
· USE the herbs & vegetables to keep them producing and bushy.
· Add a one inch layer of wood mulch after planting.
· As the season and roots progress, the plants will need more water.
· Water until it runs out the bottom, then stop until next time.
· Fertilize with a liquid type three months after planting and continue monthly until frost. Fish emulsion is my favorite (Don’t use if you have cats-they may dig in the pots.)
· Pick your produce as soon as it’s ripe to keep the plant producing.
· Add color to your pots by adding peppers, curly or colored leaf plants, a Wave petunia, sweet potato vine, varieties of herbs, or a geranium.
· A small glass ball, statue or other garden ornaments can brighten all green plants.
· Pots sitting in full sun produce more.
· Pots placed near a water source & where they’re seen helps you remember to tend & use.
Creatively potting your favorite food allows you to eat well even if you aren’t up to tending a large garden.
“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” Edwin Way Teale
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Although we had a little over two inches, most everyone around us had from 4 to 6 inches and upwards. Storm sewers, creeks, rivers and ditches have overflowed. Fields, again, have gullies with topsoil loss. Burlington (in purple) had serious flooding. Geneseo has businesses flooded and evacuated a trailer park. The entire town of Monmouth had serious water in basements due to storm sewer overload. The interstate and several state and county roads were closed earlier today because of water. Check out the WQAD pictures for more on mudslides, road sink holes, and especially if you're thinking of driving around. Any place low has standing water whether a parking lot, road or yard.
Not sure what this will do to crops and gardens. If the weather warms, a little wind and no rain, they might do alright. Otherwise, anything standing in water for very long will have the roots smothered and the plants will die.
Those who have organic mulch in standing water will eventually have to assess if it needs to be removed because of mold.
Plants with rhizomes and bulbs may be at the most risk of rotting.
Every area of the world has their dangerous and destructive weather events - the Midwest is no exception. Historically, these events have been happening forever. Historically, they are no worse in recent times. I tend to be of the group that believes we simply know more about these events, the access to on-site and minute-by-minute reporting and more people to talk about them is making it seem worse. Each new generation experiences these events for the first time and are usually taken by surprise and equally amazed at the power of weather forces.
Of course, knowing it is typical doesn't make it any easier to clean up the mess, ride out the storm or, at it's worst, deal with the loss of life and property.
Here's to a sunny dry weekend, folks.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Region 2 members are invited to participate in a photo contest promoting daylilies and photography. What a better twosome!
Most of us who have daylilies in our gardens or simply enjoy them wherever we see them, find it difficult to resist taking photographs. I've finally stopped making so many prints and now store my photos on an external PC hard drive.
Granted you must be "into" daylilies to belong to the AHS but the benefits are many, including this photo contest.
Contest hint: Read the directions carefully because most garden photo contests have little particulars or specifics that must be included to be considered. This one wants daylilies in the landscape with a place to sit. And although the yellow daylilies below make a pretty picture, according to the rules, they would not qualify.
If a contest, which is otherwise secure, would like to retain sole use or future ownership of your pictures, I suggest you weight the pros and cons of their stipulation carefully. Sometimes this is alright for what you're doing and at other times it is basically stealing your photographs.
Many contests only offer the photographer and gardener satisfaction that others appreciate their efforts by publishing the picture or by awarding prizes. For most, that's good enough!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 7:06 a.m.
To the east and south of those counties, a “Frost Advisory” is in effect for the Iowa counties of Des Moines, Henry, Lee, and Louisa, and the Illinois counties of Bureau, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, La Salle, McDonough, Mercer, and Warren. Temperatures under this advisory could drop to 30-35 degrees by Sunday morning.
I’ll continue to monitor the trends today and have an update later. However, it doesn’t look good. I would definitely cover whatever plants you can by sunset to help hold in some of the heat for the plants from today."
Friday, May 7, 2010
Happy Mothers' Day!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
- They do not want to sit in water or "sticky" compacted soil.
- They will not bloom in full shade.
- They must sit with part of the rhizome at ground level or exposed.
- The old middle of clumps will usually die and need to be discarded.
- They will do better if they are divided every few years. (see my articles "Divide and Conquer" (10-30-08) and "Iris Perfection" (5-23-09)
- They have a few pests that will eat the rhizomes and deer may find them yummy.
And then, they may die even when you do everything perfectly right. This seems to be directly related to how much is paid for the plant. Seriously, the pressure of buying an expensive iris only to have it disappear is more than I can stand.
I often swear I'll never buy another iris - when I realize how many have disappeared. Then comes May and the beautiful flowers start their show; I catch myself cruising the on-line Schreiner's Iris or Hornbaker Garden's catalogs.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
These photos are from an article on Dave's Gardens by Sue Taylor.
"What I need most of all are flowers, always, always."
Saturday, May 1, 2010
This is outside my living room picture window.
In the Midwest, the majority of our year isn't conducive to walking in the garden and admiring flowers up close. Most of us are so busy, we simply haven't the time to take that leisurely stroll every day to admire the blooms. That being the case, having flower beds planted so you can enjoy them from your windows makes sense.
I'll allow you must enjoy flower beds more than you enjoy turf grass to want this idea to work.
Although my beds are "random" or more English garden, the more formal design works as well.
Some of my techniques and reasoning I've used when locating beds within window views:
I'm anxious to get rid of as much turf grass as possible. Mowing takes time and turf grass takes work, chemicals, and time to maintain. Once large flower beds are mostly weed free and planted and mulched, they become much easier than turf grass.
Consideration to the four seasons is essential to a pleasing window view. Evergreens, ornamental grasses and seed pods are good for winter. Bulbs, iris, fruit bushes and trees grace the Spring garden. Summer needs plants that bloom early, mid season and late. Fall is all about phlox, mums and leaves that change color. Having focus that melds between seasons is a plus.
Walkways provide for smelling, observing and maintenance. They also add structure in the winter.
Ornamentation (bird baths for instance) can add grace and help attract birds and butterflies.
The outside venues don't need to be large or expansive to work. A simple round bed may be all you want or can manage. Placed at the right spot for viewing from inside the house, it will still bring joy. A few pots placed where you can view them outside your window or as you walk to and from the garage may be just perfect.
Another plus for city living, planted beds can also bring privacy without having to pull the shades. Add outdoor lighting (such as solar lights) and it discourages prowlers and adds another level of viewing.
One caution in developing a garden close to your home is to make sure you keep the water draining away from your home's foundation, keep biodegradable mulch away from your siding, and maintain air circulation.
“In the hope of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.”