Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Care for your Perennials

There are some little extras you can do to make your perennials flourish and grow into beautiful lush plants that provide lots of foliage and flowers for years to come.
1.  Water.  During the first season water as needed.  Established are more
 drought-tolerant but still need water.

2.  Fertilize-Feed perennials once a year.  I like a granular fertilizer such
as Miracle-Gro Shake and Feed.  If you do compost that will work as well.

3.  Divide.  Most perennials get larger over time, and sooner or later you'll need to divide them.  In spring or in the fall, dig the clump    up and divide with  in halves, thirds, and fourths.

4.  Dead Head.  If you remove the dead flower  heads during the growing season, then so many varieties of perennials will continue to bloom and re-bloom with lots of flowers in the fall.

5.  Mulch.  Bark, compost, and other mulches gradually decompose and add lots of nutrients to the soil.  Plus, mulch reduces lots of weeds and helps your plants conserve water.  I rebark each winter with about 3 inches of hardwood mulch.

6.  Replace and Replant.  Like us, we don't last forever so even perennials eventually decrease in size and die.  So each year replace your dead plants.  The great thing is that there are so many new varieties of perennials that come out each spring.  Have fun and try something new.

Jars of Memories

Contain memories of each vacation in jars.  Make a collection of glass jars each full of special keep sakes to remind you of a special vacation, trip or event.  Each day when you see this collection of jars,  it will give you hope and something to look forward too on your next trip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stressed and Damaged Plants

With the intense heat and even worse the lack of rain, so many of your plants may be looking rather sad.  Fret not...but act quickly.  Even with the little rain we have had lately some plants may not come out of it.  Trees such as the oak will drop lots of leaves to conserve water, but for the most part, they will survive.  If you water deeply now, then you may prevent further defoliation and your trees just may flush back out with new leaves.  But for some trees that have been weak for years, their fate may not be so good.  Also, certain shrubs like azaleas, once they turn all brown, well, that's it.  They will never come back. So water, water and water and make sure your plants get a deep soaking watering.
Now, if you have gotten storm damage on your trees, then go ahead and remove broken limbs ASAP.  I believe if a tree has lost its natural beautiful shape then remove the entire tree and start over.  A half Bradford Pear tree is honestly just so ugly.  Cut it down and grind the stump and replant with a stronger tree.  Remember,  most fast growing trees have weak wood so pruning is always necessary to ensure your trees are compact and strong enough to with stand future storms.  For example, every 3 to 5 years I prune my Bradford Pears in half.  I also trim up all my big hardwoods to ensure strong and healthy trees and to provide more light for my smaller trees.  The end result is a strong stance of trees that hopefully will last for years to come.

Chris's Delicious Orange Iced Tea

Refresh yourself with a glass of Chris's Orange Iced Tea.  This drink not only tastes great but it's antioxidants can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and diabetes, plus help you have healthier teeth and gums and for that matter stronger bones. 
1/4 cup tea or about 12 tea bags.
Peel of 1 orange plus orange wedges for garnish
4 cups boiling water
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar or substitute
4 cups cold water

1.  In boiling water steep loose tea bags and orange peel for about 3 to 5 minutes.

2.  Strain the tea and remove the tea bags and pour into a large pitcher.  Stir in orange juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Add cold water.  Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.  Serve over ice with orange wedges, if so desired.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Butterfly Refreshments for a Hot Summer!

Most of us love butterflies in the garden, but with the hot summer and lack of flowers, they may not visit your garden.  Butterflies feed on nectar and get their nutrients from soil, rotting manure and fruit.  They also feed from hummingbird feeders but usually that nectar is too thick for them plus they have trouble inserting their feeding tube, or proboscis, into it for a drink.  I like to make my own 'Buttlerfly Snack" and pour it onto a sponge or paper towels in a saucer.  Or you can sprinkle some over a dish or sand or soil.  Butterflies will land on the surface and can easily sip the nutrient-rich liquid.

All you need to do is the following:

Stir a 20 oz. sports drink (I like Vitamin water) and 2 cups of sugar together in a pan.  Bring the mix to a boil and remove it from the heat.

After it cools, add 2 Tbsp. of regular soy sauce. 

Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three months in a covered jar or container.

You Very Own Floating Island

Whether you have a fish pond, birdbath, or even a pool for that matter, add life and color with your very own floating island. Easy, unique, and totally different, you can now own your very own island for little cash. The size and variety of plants is up to you. Just remember to use low maintenance plants that require minimum care. If you have a skimmer as part of your water feature, then you may want to anchor your living island to something heavy to prevent it from blocking the skimmer’s opening.

Supplies needed for building your island:
Sheets of Styrofoam - we used several
1/2” thick sheets about 10” x 12” that
we collected from packing materials
Straight edge, pruners, scissors
Twine, greening pins, assorted rocks
Assorted Moss and moss clumps

Step 1
We are going for a rounded rectangular shape for
our island. You can make yours any size and shape
you want... what is important is the layering. On the
underside you want to start with a large piece of foam
and 2 smaller pieces. Center the smaller pieces in the
center and pin with greening pins. This will allow the
larger base piece to float above the water.

Step 2
Now flip your foam over and break off the corners.
Pin the corners to the top. This will create levels for
us to build on.

Step 3
Add a few more small pieces to create additional
levels, pinning as you go.

Step 4
Once you have everything pinned in place,
tie some twine around the center. This will insure
that everything stays in place. Leave an extra long
tail that can be used to weight your island down.

Step 5
Now lay your island, face down in the
middle of a piece burlap. The burlap will
hold everything in place and keep the dirt
from getting into your pond filter. You are going
to wrap the burlap around to the back
leaving the top layers uncovered , and
pinning in place. We curled up our twine
and pinned it down so we don’t accidentally
cut it off.
Cut off the excess burlap as you go. We are
Not worried about neatness folks, no one
is going to see this part!

Step 6
When you are done your island will
look something like this. This is the top.
Notice the crevices which will be perfect
for planting.

Step 7
Choose your plants carefully. Make sure they
can handle the shade or sun and alot of water.
We used mini mondo grass, ferns, begonias,
and mazus.

Step 8
Begin planting your plants, adding dirt
as needed. Use pins to pin plants roots
to Styrofoam so they stay in place.
Continue adding plants, adding dirt.

Step 9
Once you have all your plants in place,
cover the entire island with moss and pin
in place.

Step 10
Add a few assorted mosses, rocks, and
other natural items and you are done!
Now remember that string you tied up
underneath your island? You can unpin
it and tie a chard of pottery or a small
rock to the end. When placing your island
in your pond this weight will help keep
it where you want it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Red, White and Blue Summer Delight

This July 4th create your own summer dessert treat using all of the colors of Old Glory! 

Here is all you will need to create your VERY OWN delectable treat:

1 box                            Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 Container                   Creamy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 Pint                            Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
1 Pint                            Fresh Red Raspberries
Sprigs                            Fresh Mint

Bake the cake in a rectangle pan and let it cool.  Then take clear glass cups and layer the food as follows:  On the bottom add 2 scoops of baked red velvet cake, then a layer of 2 scoops of ice cream and then a layer of 2 scoops of cake and then top with a scoop or two of more ice cream and garish with the berries and a sprig of mint.
This one is fun because the whole family can join in if you don't want to do all the work!  Enjoy!

Happy July 4th...

Fresh Zesty Corn Salad

Add zing and flavor to your July 4th menu.  Make a fresh and exciting salad using just these few ingredients!

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
4 ears of corn
1/2 cup finely diced red onions
1/2 cup cucumber-peeled and diced
1/2 cup red sweet pepper diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes quartered
3 Tbsp. parsley, finely torn
1 Tbsp. basil leaves or buds, pulled apart
1 Tbsp. fresh jalapeno diced with seeds removed
**1 to 2 cups small arugula leaves
**1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1. For the dressing whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper.  Let this rest while you build the salad.

2.  For salad, cut the corn kernels from cobs.  In a large bowl toss the freshly cut corn kernels with the remaining ingredients, **except for the 1/2 tsp. of salt and arugula leaves.

3.  When it is time to serve, transfer corn mixture to serving bowl.  Season with the 1/2 tsp. salt.  Add the dressing, then the arugula leaves.  Serve immediately or the cucumbers and even the tomatoes could start to soften.  This recipe will serve 8 hungry guests!