Gardener’s Pride

I recently drove to the Shepard to leave a set-up map of Iris Society rhizome sale for Lisa.  (By the way, she is a wonderful person to work with.  We are lucky to have her.)  As I walked around the building to the mail slot in the front, I noticed how great a club-planted area appeared.  The landscape display created by the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society is absolutely outstanding.  They have set a really high bar.  The garden out front that the Perennial Plant Club maintains is impressive too.  But . . . the garden created by the Iris Club looked terrible.  Magnolia leaves covered the ground, weeds were growing, and the irises needed cleaning up.  You know, the money spent by the Shepard making the club signs was well worth it as there was no denying who was responsible for the mess.  Whether you call it pride or peer pressure, I was embarrassed.  So, several days later we gathered a work crew and cleaned up our assigned area and planted more irises.  Then we spread a yard of mini bark to spruce things up.  Hopefully our garden will still look good so you can appreciate it the next time you visit the Center.

Stan, The No Longer Embarrassed Man

Succulent Society Garden
Succulent Society Garden

Iris Society Garden
Iris Society spruced up garden

Propagation Blog #5 – The Last Mention of Containers

by LaVille Logan

If you have read Pot and Re-pot (Blog #4), you’ll realize that I use a lot of containers of different sizes. Keeping these organized and available for re-use can be a chore. I use and re-use the smallest sizes constantly. I do not sterilize between uses, but Stan retrieves the used cups from a plastic milk crate and while seated on an upturned 3 gal. bucket, washes them over the lawn and scrubs each out with a circular brush.  He stacks them in the crate again. I have so many he has only had to do this twice. I use the same crate to stack the used ones, and the stacks get tall but one crate seems to be just fine. (I wonder how long it has been since milk crates have been used for hauling milk).  The larger 1 and 2 gal. pots are stacked against our side fence. Since many plants are sold in the larger sizes, we need to replenish them, and many trips to the local nursery to check the recycle bin has kept our supply healthy.  Go out to your storage area to see if you have something like a milk crate in which to stack smaller useful square or round pots. Taking and planting cuttings is complicated, and it helps to keep the many necessary items in some sort of order.

 

Propagation Blog #4 – Pot and Re-Pot

by LaVille Logan

Choosing the right container for your cuttings will increase success and keeping an eye on root development is necessary.  Knock the plant out of its pot to see if the roots are filling up.

  1. Choose a pot at least 2” to 3” larger. Any larger encourages over watering.
  2. Put a bit of E.B. Stone Sure Start on the new mix so roots come in contact.
  3. For anything but a tree, 1 gal. is a large enough pot. This keeps the digging reasonable when placing in garden.

Save your used containers.  Rinse them out, use again. I have used my smallest containers over and over.

Would You Like To Drip?

I have been trying to be able to write a comprehensive article about drip systems.  I began with a list of a half dozen mistakes that I have made.  I then thought I could add to my list of suggestions by viewing a few YouTube videos.  Well, this went on for hours.  I ended up with 2 full pages of notes.  It was then that I realized that there is too much information to put into a single article.  No one is going to read an article pages long.  So, instead, if you are truly interested in creating a drip system, you need to do your own research.  The best single YouTube program I found can be reached by googling “YouTube Drip System Watters Garden Center”.  Now there are 3 videos—view the 2015 version.  This is a program put on by the owner of a nursery in Prescott, AZ.  He will give you a lot of practical information.  If you are not yet saturated with him, simply Google “YouTube Drip Irrigation” and check out more videos.

 Now I will try to add ideas that you may have missed:

If you have distance separated plants, for instance potted plants, then using drip emitters is wise.  If you have plants densely planted or areas of ground cover, then using mini sprayers would be better.  You cannot use drippers and sprayers on the same system.  If you choose sprayers, you need to see me before buying items.  I will get you started right.

Whatever system you use, try to buy parts made by the same company so they are compatible.  Rain Bird seems to be the most common drip system brand.  I just checked out at Home Depot, and that seemed to be just about all they carried—which was a lot!  I particularly suggest buying the Rain Bird ½” couplers because they will handle all the various brands of “half inch” delivering tubing that will vary a lot in size.  But order your ¼ inch delivery tubing from Amazon: “MIXC ¼ inch Blank Distribution Tubing Drip Irrigation Hose”. This is superior product.   Attach the ¼ tubing to the barbed coupling first before insertion and grab the coupling with pliers to give you more leverage when forcing the coupling into the ½ inch delivery tube.

I’m going to assume that you are going to hook to a hose bib.  If that bib is attached to your house, make sure it’s not delivering softened water—not a good thing.  If you are buying connectors that are threaded, remember that pipe thread and hose thread are different.

If you have plantings that are lined up like in a vegetable garden, your best bet would be the tubing that contains inline pressure compensating emitters.  Limit ¼ inch line runs to 25 feet. ½ inch lines can go hundreds of feet.  I recommend these inline emitters over rubber soaker hose or T-tape.  Run your inline system first before planting so you can see where the moist soil will be.

You barely need to cover delivery tubing if you choose to.  Sun exposed tubing will last for 10 to 15 years.  Then too, covered tubing won’t be tripped over.  Leave the ends of lines exposed or at least located so they can be found and opened for flushing once a year.  Also, flush out a line before using it the first time.

You can make staples to hold down tubing out of wire coat hangers.  I can do this for you.

You will have to have different systems for trees and shrubs vs. flowering plants.  One system is for infrequent deep watering and the other is for more frequent short watering.

Set your timer to water very early in the morning, but occasionally run the system briefly while you are out there to detect problems.

Plan on expanding your system as you do more planting and as plants get bigger and need more emitters surrounding them.

Don’t forget to buy a backflow preventer, timer, filter, pressure regulator and a Y splitter with valves so you can still attach a hose at the hose bib.

Good luck!  Stan (You may simply call me Dr. Drip.)

The Old Man

There was once an old man that lived down the street.  Along with other home owners in the neighborhood, he had a magnolia tree growing in the middle of his front lawn.  Every day I would see him wandering all over the lawn picking up magnolia leaves with a grabber.  I assumed he probably was too stiff to bend over, or perhaps was fearful of doing a face plant on display for the entire neighborhood.  He eventually had the tree cut down so the only time I would see him is when he would drive by.  Dr. Chambers died probably 30 years ago.

I recently spruced up my front landscape with a yard and a half of mini bark from Hasties.  I appreciate the improvement so much that I constantly am out there with a grabber picking up the magnolia leaves that my nextdoor neighbor’s tree provides.  I wonder what the neighbors think of me?

Stan, The Old Man

Where’s Bernoulli?

 This is a science lesson.  So if you have no interest in science, stop reading now.

 You know the saying, “You cannot keep an old dog from teaching old tricks.”  I taught science for 37 years, so I cannot help thinking about scientific principles while gardening.  For instance, every time I use my leaf blower to move a stubborn magnolia leaf that my neighbor’s tree has provided, I think about Bernoulli’s Principle.  Good old Bernoulli discovered that the faster a fluid moves, the lower the internal pressure.  The next time you fly (in an airplane) look at the wing.  You will see that the upper surface is curved compare to the bottom surface.  This causes the air moving over the top of the wing to travel a longer distance than air beneath it.  The air on top therefore has to move faster to get the back of the wing at the same time as the air beneath it.  Since the pressure on top is reduced, the greater pressure beneath will lift the wing (and hopefully you along with it).

 

Bernoulli’s Principle
Bernoulli’s Principle

 So why, when I blow air over the top of a magnolia leaf, doesn’t it rise?  Well, unfortunately I know the answer.  Technically it is called “angle of attack”.  (LaVille and I used to fly small planes.)  The air blown at the leaf is coming down on it rather than parallel to it.  I supposed if I laid the blower down on the ground so that the air flowed along it, the leaf might rise.  But that would look stupid, and I get ridiculed enough as it is.

So the next time you are out blowing leaves and a leaf sticks to the ground so you have to go and kick it, yell out “Where’s Bernoulli?” . . Or the next time you are flying along in a plane, say a silent (or loud) thanks to Bernouli.  He’s doing a great job of keeping you up.

Stan, The Science Man

Improved Lawn Edging

If you look at the first photo below, you can see that absolute mess I made trying to edge my otherwise beautiful lawn with a string edger.  Lawn edging is something that I have never been able to do well.  Well, I solved my problem.  I removed the guard from the edger.  Now I can actually see what I am doing, and have been able to do a good job, if I do say so myself.  If you also choose to remove the trimmer guard, you must wear eye protection.  I would also suggest that you floss your teeth when your edging is finished.

Stan, The Much Improved Man

Butchered lawn edging
Butchered lawn edging

Trimmer with guard removed
Trimmer with guard removed

 

Got Roots?

Root Slayer
Root Slayer
Here is another tool recommended by Anita Clevenger.  The Root Slayer is a shovel with a sharp V-shaped tip and blade edges with saw teeth.  It is perhaps Anita’s favorite tool because using it vastly reduces the strain on her hands and wrists.  She says it’s absolutely essential for digging around trees.  One of the drawbacks to this shovel is that it will slice right through irrigation lines as well as roots.  Then too, the tool description says not to use it for prying action.  The Root Slayer comes in 3 basic models—a straight long handle version for $47, a short heavy-duty version for $64 and a light-weight short version for $35.  In Amazon’s description the light-weight shovel is suggested “for women and mature gardeners”.  If you are not sure if you fit into these categories, give me a call and I’ll help you decide.

Stan, The Tool Man

P.S.  A further discussion with Anita revealed that there are many models of the Root Slayer.  Her model is actually the lighter version discussed above, but with a different handle than the ring handle.  She feels the lighter shovel is better because it can maneuver into smaller spaces.  She also indicated that this is a popular shovel with backpackers and users of metal detectors.  I suspect that short 29” “Mini-Digger” or the trowel would be useful here.

Got Grass?

Here is a tool via Anita Clevenger.  The Japanese grass sickle saw is an inexpensive tool that will really save you a great deal of time when it’s time to cut back your ornamental grasses.  There are many models, but the one Anita bought at Home Depot is unique in that the inner blade is a fine-toothed edge that is extremely sharp—I mean really, really sharp.  Wear a substantial glove with the hand you use to grab a bunch of grass and slice off that bunch with a careful quick pull.  The one model I found on Amazon with a finely serated edge is the “Hounenkihan Japanese Grass Sickle Saw” and runs $16.99.  Remember to count your fingers when you finish the job.  You may have left something behind.

Stan, The Tool Man

Japanese grass sickle
Japanese grass sickle

Building Raised Planter Beds

With all the pandemic caused emphasis on home improvement, this would have been a good article to write a year ago.  Better late than never.  As usual, wanting to advise others comes as a result of mistakes I have made, some of which are described below.

Size:  Length can be whatever you want.  Width, however, should be no more than 4 feet.  I have 3 beds that are 5 feet by 8 feet and it is difficult to do any work near the center of the beds.  The one 4 footer is so much easier.  The walls of my beds are made with three 2 x 6’s, so they are about 18 inches high.  Now that I think of it, 24 inches would have been much better in terms of having to bend over less.  But then, I think proportions look better at 18”—you gotta look good even if it’s painful.  The higher you raise the box, the stronger the support needed to keep boards from bowing out if they are long.  People use raised beds to make tending them easier and to create an enclosure for the new improved soil that can be brought in that, hopefully, plants will love.  Most people find that a bed 10 or 12 inches high works well for them—not so much for growing tomatoes which are best planted 18 inches down.

Materials:  Most people use wood.  Redwood is probably the best.  When you are picking out your 2-by boards, try to find those that have the most heartwood.  The reddish heartwood is far more resistant to rot than the pale sapwood.  Cedar is another good choice.  Pressure treated wood is more controversial.  No arsenic has been used in this wood since 2003-4.  Currently 2 different copper compounds are used and although no traces of these chemicals have been found in either soil or vegetables, pressure treated wood is not recommended for planter boxes in which food is grown.  You can alleviate you fears by lining the box with heavy plastic—say 6 mil.  You can also seal the box with paint or another kind of sealer.  One caution—avoid breathing the dust when cutting pressurized wood.  Wear a mask.  I know you know how to do that.  More expensive, but far more durable is construction with masonry.  There are all kinds of attractive alternatives here.  The drawback is that you have to lean over farther to work with your plants and the material is not gentle on elbows and knees

Misc.  Plan ahead and bring irrigation lines up into the box.  Cover the bottom with hardware cloth—you know, the substantial ¼” wire mesh, to keep varmints out.  A layer of weed cloth will also discourage the invasion of roots from a nearby tree.  Trust me—tree roots will love the great soil and water you have provided.  If you are using wood, consider installing flat boards on the top edges for ease of sitting.  Don’t just use screws to hold lumber together.  Use lag screws, or better yet, use bolts with washers.  If using lag screws, predrill to prevent splitting.  You can attach a band of copper mesh around the outside to keep snails and slugs out—but not earwigs.  Finally, as you can see below, if you use treated posts, you have to add preservative, sealer, or a cap to cuts that have exposed untreated interior areas.

In-box irrigation
In-box irrigation

Rotting post
Rotting post

Copper mesh prevents slugs
Copper mesh

Post cap
                        Post cap

Why does most of my learning have to come at the expense of mistakes I have made?

Stan, The Blog Man

Hosers Only

I was recently notified about writing a blog concerning a very serious matter.  You see, this person (who will remain nameless) accidentally left a hose running all night resulting in the flooding of her back yard.   She  was rather upset about this and felt that she, as well as others, need some suggestions to prevent this happening again.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Electronic and mechanical timers that attach to hose bibs. The mechanical ones may not work if the volume is low.
  2. Electronic timers. These small battery operated timers are otherwise used as kitchen timers.
  3. Alexa is always willing to set an alarm for you.
  4. Exercise tracking watches sometimes have an alarm feature.
  5. Battery operated flood detectors will issue an alarm if water reaches the sensor.
  6. Rubber wrist bands that you store on the hose bib can be worn as a reminder.
  7. The most easily used device is your phone which I know is tethered to your body.

Hopefully you will find one or more of these suggestions useful so you won’t make the same mistake that Beverly (oops) made.  Coincidentally I am using a wrist band right now.

Stan, The Blog Man

Garden Shields

I recently had a newly cultivated area that I wanted to let dry out until planting.  I used 2 political signs to ward off the spray from 2 sprinklers and they really worked well.  By cutting off all but 6 inches from the supporting wire of the sign, you can poke it into the ground and move the shield wherever you want.  The sign is made of corrugated plastic so it is impervious to water.  On the other hand, you might want to shield certain plants from harsh sun rays.  When not in use, these flat shields store efficiently.

As you know these signs are readily available when political issue are made public.  You can either wait until issues are settled, or simply pick up the signs when they don’t agree with your viewpoint. ( My editor says I can’t say that.)

Stan, The Blog Man

Repurposed political signs
Repurposed political signs as garden shields

In Search of Moderation

Here, unfortunately, is an example of “Do as I say, and not as I have done”.  Moderation is a goal to which most of us aspire—whether it is diet, sun exposure, exercise routines, or mountain climbing.  Gardening should especially fall into this category.  For instance, I was barking in the front yard today.  (“Barking” is the technical term for applying bark to your landscape.)  It was 90 degrees out.  It wasn’t too long before I was tired.  So rather than pushing it, I went into the house and relaxed on my recliner.  And, of course, fell asleep.  I was proud of myself because I quit before I became exhausted, which has been the usual outcome of my gardening activities.  (For your information the way you determine whether you are just tired, or truly exhausted is by the length of your tongue hanging out of your mouth.)  This pause was just the first of many that occurred through the day.  The motivation to overdo activities is to finish the job, and it is a very difficult goal to resist.  But I implore you to consider your physical well being over your mental wellbeing (be it as it may).  Give your body a break and take a break.  The weeds will be willing to wait until you return.  Besides, they will be easier to find.  The mess of leaves will remain—perhaps not in the same location—but they will be somewhere.  Water those potted plants and put them into the ground tomorrow.  I think you get the idea.  Be sensible in your gardening activities—save some of the fun until tomorrow . . or next week.

Stan, The Rested Man

A Neatnik’s Dilemma

Have you ever paused for a moment when removing the debris from around a plant?  That collection of organic matter that covered the ground not only helped to retain soil moisture, but eventually would decompose and release nutrients back into the soil.  So as long as the debris didn’t harbor disease, the plant would be happier if you left things be.  But would you be happier?  Probably not, unless you dress up the surroundings with mulch.  Even then I have seen examples of mulch covered gardens that I consider downright ugly.  3 to 4 inches of ugly doesn’t do a thing for me.  On the other hand, I love the effect created by a covering of mini bark.  I used to be able to buy “Pathway Bark” from Garden Time at Lowes, but now all they have available is “Pathway Groundcover” which more closely resembles sawdust than bark.  If you were at Jeannie’s pop-up sale, you might have noticed how great the landscaping appeared as it was dolled up with a covering of mini bark.  I asked her husband and he said he was able to get at Hasties.  He said it was rather expensive though.

As usual, I have strayed from my original topic—that of the dilemma of whether or not you should clean up around plants in your garden—are you making the plants happier, or making you happier?  You can do both, but more often I simply opt for me.  Just being selfish, I guess.

Stan, The Blog Man

Clippity Doo Dah

LaVille and I like to take our Hyundai into the dealership in Vacaville because we take two cars and we spend the hours shopping at the numerous stores nearby.  There’s the factory stores, Target, Lowes, and many, many more all within a couple miles.  Well today after hitting Eddy Bauer, Lowes (several geraniums and great bougainvillea), the RH (the new Restoration Hardware—very disappointing), and Target, we came across a Dollar Tree.  The one thing we found there (other than the honey roasted peanuts and the Hot Tamales) was a package of Claw Clips.  Normally these would be used in your hair (not my hair), but we have found these tiny spring-loaded clips to be really useful in the garden for supporting delicate vines—like peas, clematis, passion vine, black-eyed susan, hardenbergia, honeysuckle, and morning glory.  So if you are into vines like we are, I suggest you visit your local Dollar Tree and seek out a package of Claw Clips—12 for a dollar.  If you find a photo of a clip below, I was able to figure out how to transfer a photo from my phone to a document.  If no photo, I failed again.

Stan, The Rambling Man
P.S. Don’t forget the peanuts!

Cl;aw Clips
Dollar Store Claw Clips