Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Viola self seeded in cracks.
Seems as if every year the garden throws a surprise volunteer plant.  They're the plants that have self seeded from last year's pots or were dropped by a bird or was washed away by rain.   Or who knows (which is often the case.)

Having volunteer annuals is a lesson in "Don't be too eager to pull every unidentified plant."

Morning Glories.
I've also noticed volunteer annuals come up in the most unlikely places:  cracks in the walk, out of gravel, a totally shaded place and etc.

When (and IF) I deadhead my pots, I now throw the seed heads into my beds in hopes they will be one of my surprises.  
This little petunia went on to be lovely all summer.
For a couple of years, I had petunias coming up near where my pots sat.   

Another couple of years, I had violas in the cracks of the brick walk.  Although technically they are short lived perennials, they are often sold as annuals for pots.  
Nicotiana coming up from that little crack
between the porch and cement.  
This year I noticed some very large leafed plants peaking out from under my front porch in a space next to cement.  It ended up being two huge nicotiana plants; one old fashioned creamy green and the other a sweet rose.  Another plant is far away from where any pots might have shed and it's one of the "who knows" plantings.

Dill weed coming up in the brick sidewalk.
I've also had dill weed self seed and this is a big plus if you enjoy butterflies.  Since I seldom use dill for canning or cooking anymore, I plant to attract the

Annual seeds are not typically hardy enough to overwinter here in our zone 5 hardiness area.  I suppose some find that one little place where leaves or plant debris protects.  

Some other plant seeds that have made it through the winter in my yard are:  Cleome, Cosmos, Four O'Clocks,  Morning Glories, fall flowering mums, annual poppies.  Rose Moss, and Sunflowers.

The only way to have self seeded annuals is to let the seeds fall to the ground which means you can't dead head until those seeds are perfectly ready to drop.  Deadheading before the seeds mature will stop that process.  In other words, you have to reduce your tidiness level to have these surprises.  

Nature:  There are some of the surprises thrown at us that are perfectly wonderful.  

If you haven't seen the pictures and read the story of area farmers and businesses helping an ailing neighbor harvest his corn this past week, make time for a truly wonderful example of small Midwest town and a good people true story.  450 acres picked, trucked and stored in ten hours.  God Bless these good neighbors!  And God's mercies on the this family.

On Facebook:  Jason Bates.  In the Galva News this week.   

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Daylily "Nicholas"
We've been in Georgia this past week celebrating the life of our seventeen year old grandson, Nicholas.  

Nick was diagnosed with a rare childhood bone cancer when he was fourteen.  Today, it's not a curable disease but can be held inactive.  Nick fought with grace and bravery.  On September 8, he lost that battle but he believed (as we do) he would now be resting in the arms of his Savior, cancer and pain free.
Nick and his mother last year.
Nick was described as an "old soul" as children become when they must suffer too much.  He had a peace and maturity that not only carried him through so much but carried those who loved him, too.

I won't lie, it's been a tough time for everyone who cared about him.  As grandparents, we would like to thank everyone who offered inspiration, kindness, and care in an effort to hold our family up.  We have been blessed by Nick and by those of you who have shown us support.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month.  If you feel led, get involved in pushing for research and new treatments (the last new childhood cancer drug was introduced in 1980.)  Develop a better understanding to help combat a disease that takes seven children out of the arms of their family every day.    

I May Miss the Harvest

 “I may miss the harvest but I won't miss the feast - And it looks like you're gonna have to see me again - And it looks like you're gonna have to see me again - And it looks like you're gonna have to see me again - Illinois, Illinois, Illinois, Illinois.” 

The song written by Illinois’ own Dan Fogelberg sparks memories of cool autumn nights, bonfires and harvests. 

Is it me or did this autumn sneak up on us right when we thought we were still having a wild wonderful summer?

At first I saw an occasional red maple leaf or falling walnut and chalked it up to a seasonal fluke.  The soybean field by the house was getting a little gold around the edges but that must be from the sun hitting it more than the rest.  And then WHAM:  Fall rolled over the fields, trees and flowers like a wildfire out of control.

Summer flowers struggling to hang in there look more like the fluke than the mums for sale at every store in the big towns.  It’s no wonder we associate orange and gold with fall; it’s the colors of nature.

One of my favorite fall plants is the perennial aster.  I have a couple of hybrid asters in shocking pink and glowing purple.  My gardens are full of naturalized dark lavender asters.  The woods and roadsides have the beautiful wildflower aster typically called Smooth Aster or “Aster laevis”.

There are other aster varieties in wildflower patches all across Illinois.  Check out the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers” book for help in identifying these beauties.  And don’t feel bad if you can’t distinguish between varieties, the book says, “The many small-flowered asters found in our range are often difficult to distinguish from one another…” We’re in good company.

I sometimes struggle knowing the benefits or purpose of some plants and insects but the aster flaunts its purpose upon first bloom.  It’s a pollinator magnet and butterflies will cover the blooms until they seek winter habitat.

I realize it’s difficult for the gardener who must have order and symmetry to incorporate asters in their gardens.  Asters are wild and crazy looking until September.  They’re tall and tend to spread out as much as you allow.  Some gardeners may even mistake them for weeds and pull before giving them a chance to bloom.

First you need to know what the entire plant looks like or you’ll surely tag it as a weed.  The leaves are long, thin, soft and dull emerald green.  Hybrid asters will be about 24 inches tall.  Naturalized aster wildflowers may be over 40 inches.  I find it best to prune them when they reach about twelve inches back down to six.  Don’t prune too late in the season or they won’t produce flowers.

Typically the stems are sturdy and woody.  The flowers look like tiny daisies.  Most have a yellow central disk and soft dainty petals (often called rays) of white, soft lavender or pink and darker or brighter shades of the same.

Hybrid asters hold up well in a vase but the wildflower petals may curl.  They are numerous enough it’s always worth a try to cut some for a beautiful fall bouquet.

All but the hybrids self seed.  Not in an ugly kill all the neighboring plants kind of way and they can be thinned out where you don’t want them.  I would advise planting where they can spread out and enjoy the sun and air and not shade shorter plants.

Plant asters in full sun to light shade.  In deeper shade they reach for more light and flop in that direction.  They will tolerate most any kind of soil.  The wildflower varieties will state exactly where they are best suited.  Some even include marshlands.  Besides what nature provides, they don’t need any extra water once established.

Now excuse me while I go all autumn on you with a little Fogelberg. “I may miss the harvest but I won’t miss the feast” – the feast of the beauty of an Illinois fall.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fallacies You Should Not Believe

Perennial ground cover "Potentilla" as it takes
over a garden bed.

I can manage an invasive plant so it won’t take over my gardens.  

Over-the-counter medicines don’t have any side effects. 

Garden/field chemicals aren’t strong enough to hurt humans.

There’s no learning curve.

I’m going to plant a wild flower garden to eliminate work.

I’m laughing with you not at you.

Life is just a bowl of cherries.

The government will take care of me.

Chemical insect killers only target the bugs I don’t want.

Cute baby animals grow up to be cute adult animals.
I needed thick leather gloves to pull these "Horse Nettles" 

I’ll pull that weed tomorrow.

The rain doesn’t fall on the same dog’s bum every time.

Gardening is not an addiction.

If I had your money, I’d be happy, too.

I’ll water my pots tomorrow.

New cars are sporty, beautiful and will be classics.

They have all the bugs worked out.

We don’t need no Ed U kay Shun.

This is a sure-fire way to make your yard bug free.
My folks' headstone

I’ll see you as-soon-as I get some time.

This plant is guaranteed to produce more than any other plant EVER.

If it’s on the Internet, it’s true.

This plant is guaranteed to have fifty different colors all at once.

Electronics makes our life simpler.

You can eat that insect.

We will become a paperless society.
"Praying Mantis" hanging around being a good bug.
The only good bug is a dead bug.

You will not be sucker punched if you learn to tolerate evil.

We only had one mouse in the house this fall.


I’ve built up a tolerance to poison ivy.

I can’t afford to insulate my house.

This year’s weather is unique.

I have it all done.
Washing up after preserving tomatoes.

Preserving vegetables is quick and easy.

I can do it myself.

If I whisper, the kids won’t know what I’m saying.

All you have to do is teach your children to love broccoli. 

Mom will understand if I don’t visit.

It’s my body and I have the right to do whatever I want.

This hose is guaranteed not to kink.

Somebody else will do it.

Holidays are too commercial so we shouldn’t buy anything for anyone.

It’s all about the bass. 

You can’t trust anyone in authority.

It’s stress free.

My kids/grandkids would never do THAT.

Cheap garden pruners are as good as more expensive pruners.

I can’t do anything about it.

I’m only going to pull one weed.

I didn’t have time to get my spouse something for our anniversary.

Hard work never hurt anybody.

We’ll fix the roof next year.

Women don’t really like to get flowers.

If you build it, they will come.
2009 Spring floods
I’m singin’ in the rain.

They’re too old to learn.

One of these days I’m going to take cookies to my neighbors.

My business failed because of everything and everyone but me.

If I had that barn, I wouldn’t let it fall down.

I can decorate my entire house and yard from looking at Pinterest.

It’s as easy as pie.

Teachers, police, firefighters and soldiers are over paid.

Dogs and cats are more work than they’re worth.

Big boys don’t cry.

Our government only funds worthy programs.

The new hybrid plants are superior to old varieties.

I don’t gossip, I’m just concerned.

We don’t make enough to have a retirement plan.
Neighbor combining beans.
Farmers should stay off the roads.

Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

I’ll put my savings into planting walnut trees.

No one will see me in my garden clothes if I run to the store for one thing.

I’d never do that.

It’s as cheap to do organic, as it is to do it traditional.

I only hit my wife/girlfriend when she needs it.

A skunk won’t spray you if you’re quiet.

I never did that when I was a kid.

If I post a video of me doing something stupid, then it makes me cool.

Bigger is better.

That plant just needs a little water to recover.

My hands aren’t dirty.

I can nurse that plant back to healthy.

They’ll get over it.

 There’s always tomorrow.