Feral Cat “Zenith” Joins the Crew at Super-Sod

Cat 2

Everyone loves a friendly kitten. They are cute, fun, energetic, bouncy, cuddly…did I mention cute? And friendly adult cats are almost as adoptable as kittens. But the overlooked cats in shelters all over the country are the feral cats brought in by animal control officers. Feral cats are different from strays. Strays are domestic cats who have been lost or abandoned, but who still want to interact with humans. Feral cats were usually born wild, and have not had much if any positive interaction with humans. They are nearly impossible to place because they are so fearful.  They will likely never cuddle with a human. Giving a feral cat a second chance is not about our needs, it’s about their needs – a purely altruistic gesture.

One solution is TNR (Trap Neuter Return). If you see a feral cat with a notched ear, that is the indication that they have been neutered and vaccinated through one of these programs. But many were taken from locations where they are not welcome to return. So the sad reality is that many feral cats captured by animal control officers are euthanized. But at the Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, NC, staff have come up with a creative solution – a program they are calling Feral Farm Friends (check out their Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/Feral-Farm-Friends-1721076118136119/?hc_location=ufi ). They are reaching out to farms, garden centers and storage facilities and encouraging them to adopt feral cats.

And what does this have to do with gardening? Farms, large gardens, and garden centers are great placements for feral cats. They can keep the rodent population down without using poisons (organic pest management), they will have outbuildings for shelter, and their lives are saved! The Super-Sod team in Cary (my workplace) thought this was such a good idea, we have adopted a feral cat for our store through Wake County’s Feral Farm Friends! Daniel is cleaning out the shed and turning it into a cat house with a cat door for access. I’ve set up the transition crate with a warm nest out of a milk crate, cardboard, wheat straw and a blanket, as well as a temporary litter box and food and water dishes. Our cat will stay in the transition crate for several days, getting used to the fact that we are a good food source, before being released to the property. The crate will start out in my office, and then be moved to the shed.

ShedCrate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have named our Feral Farm Friend “Zenith”, after our best-selling Zenith Zoysia, hoping she will be as resilient as this beautiful, adaptable turf grass. www.supersod.com/sod/zoysia-sod/zenith-zoysia-sod.html So far Zenith is very shy and quiet. We are giving her space and time to learn that she can trust us, and that we are her food source. So keep checking back in to Personal Edens to follow the adventures of Zenith. Better yet, come by the store and meet her! If you would like more information on adding a couple Feral Farm Friends from your local shelter to your farm, garden or store, just ask. I’ll help in any way I can.

Groundhog Day Starts the Garden Season

If you have seen the movie Groundhog Day, you know the theme: if something really matters, keep repeating it until you get it right. As a gardener in NC, this hits home every February when it’s time to venture out into the garden and begin again, repeating the annual gardeners’ rites of Spring – cleaning, pruning, composting, mulching, re-designing – all in an attempt to get it right this year. I’ve ordered my organic vegetable seeds, and my Big Yellow Bag of Soil3 compost. It’s time to put on the gloves, pick up my tools and get to work.

Task List:

Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses

Prune shrubs that bloom on new wood – particularly my roses

Prune fruit trees and Japanese Maples

Identify hops rhizomes to share with beer brewing friends (mmmmm, beer!)

Muck out the water garden

Edge the beds to create that clean line between beds and turf

Top-dress perennial, annual and vegetable beds with compost (I love Super-Sod’s Soil3!)

Clean out containers and add more compost in preparation for new plants (mmmmm, new plants!)

Clean outdoor furniture and yard art

Check landscape lighting and add new bulbs as needed

Pruning Roses Groundhog Day 1 BYB

Have I forgotten anything? I know I have! Will my garden be perfect this year? Of course not, but is that really the point? Every gardener knows the process is more meaningful than the end result. My nails are short, my hands are calloused and scarred, I have lots of sensible shoes and I know my way around tools. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. So out I go to try to get it right…I’ll do the same next year with a smile on my face. Happy Groundhog Day!

 

 

Snow Is Good For Your Landscape! (with caveats, of course)

From South Carolina to New York and points further North, this weekend was full of winter precipitation. Rain, snow, sleet and … well, you know the saying. Monday morning, the questions came rolling in from concerned gardeners – will the snow and ice hurt my garden? my lawn? what should I do? The simple answer is “relax”, and I’ll tell you why.

Snow 2016 Sign

Nitrogen: There are two old sayings worth mentioning here, the first being, “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow.” The second calls snow “Poor man’s Fertilizer.” Precipitation captures atmospheric Nitrogen molecules, and studies show that snow does a better job of this than rain. The Nitrogen comes from many sources, but the most prevalent is industrial output. This map shows the concentration of atmospheric Nitrogen and its concentration in industrial areas of the United States. http://nadp.isws.illinois.edu/lib/brochures/nitrogen.pdf

Nitrogen Map

Another major source of atmospheric Nitrogen is lightning activity. The Nitrogen added to the soil by precipitation is not as concentrated as one would find in a chemical fertilizer, but it helps. Now I am not an advocate of pollution, but precipitation does, in fact, clean the air, and contributes Nitrogen, Carbon and trace minerals to our soil.

Insulation: A layer of snow protects the plants in much the same way as a layer of mulch. The soil temperature is stabilized, protecting tender roots from radical temperature changes like deep freezing or abrupt thawing. Deep freezing can inhibit the activities of earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms that are still active in the Winter, breaking leaf litter down into compost. Quick thawing can heave the soil, damaging roots. Plants covered by snow are protected from the drying winds of Winter. But here’s one of the aforementioned caveats – heavy accumulations of snow and ice can damage shrubs and tree branches, so, if possible, gently remove heavy snow to avoid splitting and breaking. Snow covered ground can also act as an insulation system for irrigation pipes, protecting them from cracking and bursting.

Snow 2016 Iris Snow 2016 Lawn

Nature’s Drip Irrigation: Rain soaks into the ground to the point of saturation and then runs off. Snow melts slowly, allowing the moisture to be absorbed more deeply into the soil before it starts to run off. The actual depth of moisture penetration is dependent upon the depth of the snow, the permeability of the soil, and the pace of the temperature change. Deeper moisture penetration means deeper penetration of the Nitrogen found in the precipitation as well. Caveat number two – snow treated with salt or chemical ice melt products can be harmful to gardens and lawns. Avoid piling treated snow on your landscape.

Snow as a Pesticide: Warm Winters mean buggy Summers. Snow, ice, and cold temperatures may kill off some of last year’s insects, leaving us to deal with newly hatched bugs, but not with as many over-wintering bugs – specifically Emerald Ash Borers and Japanese Beetles. Mosquitos, unfortunately, seem immune to cold Winters. This is an important part of the balance of Nature – organic pest management. Low Winter temperatures can kill off fungi and some bacterial diseases as well.

So rest assured that the recent precipitation is good for your Personal Eden! Now where did I put my seed catalogs?

 

 

Cold Day, Warm Memories of Italy

18 degrees this morning, and for North Carolina, that is stupid cold. I’ve been colder – I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Middlebury, Vermont – but after 23 years in the South, I’ve grown older and less inclined to take pride in braving the cold. So this morning I am turning my thoughts to a warmer time in a warmer clime – my trip to Italy in 2014, the most memorable of my garden travels. Of course the art and history were unparalleled; and the food! I could spend hours on the food. But today my focus is on the vibrant flora of the Amalfi Coast.

Italy 5 Italy 7 Italy 10

Bougainvillea, Lantana, Cupressus, it is no accident that the words are Latin in origin. What better language to describe the plants that thrive in the Mediterranean climate? On the Amalfi Coast, the village of Positano is vertical, with every road winding and climbing. The lush plantings do the same, with cascades of plants tumbling down the hillside in a riot of pinks, yellows and oranges – hot colors in a hot climate. Lemon trees are ubiquitous, with their fruit hanging temptingly over the heads of astonished tourists. Scent is everywhere, stopping me in my tracks to locate the source.

Italy 3 Italy 9 Italy 4

Cats roam free, oblivious to the foot traffic, wild but mellow, they allow you to pet them but remain aloof at the same time. This is their town, their region, their Personal Eden. They are proud, as they should be. Color is everywhere – in the buildings, the clothing, the food, and above all, the flora.

I took this trip with dear friends from my college days – a promise we made to each other at the naive age of 18 to meet in Italy to celebrate our 50th birthdays. So many promises like that are broken. I thank my friends Amy, Leily, Barbara and Ginny for keeping that promise. On a cold day like today, when my own soil is frozen and I am too cold to venture out into my own garden, I have my memories to keep me warm. Ciao, bellas!

Capri

Nothing Tastes Better Than Home Grown

           Collards 1 Collards 2 Collards 3

Edible Landscaping is near and dear to my heart because I love to garden, and I love to eat fresh fruits and vegetables – who doesn’t? This year I got a very late start on my Winter vegetable planting. But here in NC,nature provided an unexpected warm-up in December, and 8″ of rain, resulting in a bumper crop of greens. It helps that they were planted in pure Soil3 from Super-Sod. Soil3 is my favorite compost http://www.soil3.com and I use it in my vegetable gardens, as a top-dressing for all my perennial gardens, and on my Emerald Zoysia lawn. As a disclaimer, I work for Super-Sod, but if I lost my job tomorrow, I would still use this compost.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to the raised vegetable beds and cut Cabbage Collards and Curly Kale. I added them to some organic bok choi, onions, homemade ham stock, bacon fat (yum), turmeric, salt and pepper. This mix simmered for about an hour and a half. I served the greens with back beans and a perfectly cooked steak (thanks to Gary the Grill Master). If you grow your own food, you know it always tastes better because it doesn’t get any fresher than picked that day; and the personal satisfaction of saying “I grew that” is pretty tasty too!

What grows in your Winter Garden? If you don’t have one, start one in your Personal Eden! Need advice? Just ask! I will be offering a Vegetable Gardening class in March so stay tuned…

 

Winter Warm-up – The New Normal?

Like most folks I know, I have been enjoying this taste of Spring in December. Long walks in the woods, evenings around the fire pit, games on the lawn with my grandson, cut flowers in Winter… But at the back of my mind there has been a nagging worry. What does this mean for gardens and gardeners? Is this the new normal?

First let’s focus on what it means for our plants this year. These unseasonable temperatures will have consequences this Spring. The plants themselves are not at greater risk, but blooms now mean fewer blooms in Spring. Fewer blooms mean less fruit, seed and nut production. Less food for us, less food for foraging animals, and less nectar to feed our pollinators.

I’ve seen a few bees out foraging this week.  Foraging now means they return to the hive hungry, and feed on their precious store of honey – honey that they will need to get them through the Winter. If you keep bees, make sure to supplement their food this Winter. Come Spring, they will venture out and find fewer blooms, less nectar. The life cycles of pollinators may not coincide with flowering this year, and that will have a negative effect on both pollinators and plants. We will see reduced pollination and thus less fruit production. This is sad for home gardeners, and financially troubling for commercial growers.

Whatever you do, don’t prune yet! It is tempting to get out in the warm weather and do some cleanup, but pruning now will encourage new growth that will be susceptible to winter kill when the temperatures drop again. Fruiting plants need more cooling hours before they are ready for production, so leave them be until February.

So is this the “new normal”? Climate science says we can expect continued gradual warming, and Winter warm-ups like this will become more common. http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=353 While an individual cannot change the weather, we can do our part to reduce our personal carbon footprint, and put pressure on corporations to do the same. And we can keep on gardening, organically whenever possible. Please reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides to give our bees a fighting chance. Our Personal Edens have a net positive effect on our local air quality, soil health, wildlife health, and our own health. So keep up the good work, fellow gardeners! Keep Calm Garden On. Magnolia in December

 

Personal Edens Returns

A few years ago, I started blogging about my garden and other gardens designed, tended and loved by avid gardeners. It was one of very many things to which I had over-committed. As often happens, the things you enjoy doing get pushed aside for the things you must do. That path has been trodden by many before me and will be trodden again by many to follow. If you see yourself falling into this pattern, take heed. Take care of what really matters – there is only one unique and special you. Take stock, decide what matters most, what you love to do, and free yourself from the energy vampires. And welcome back to Personal Edens!

I have loved the term “Personal Eden” for as long as I can remember. To me, it means your paradise, and your own garden can be just that. It doesn’t have to be magazine-worthy, it doesn’t have to follow current design trends, it just has to be a place you love to be. The plants, the outbuildings, the paths, the hardscaping, the yard art…all express your style. You walk outside and your blood pressure drops. you breath deep and relax. You want to be outside. You built this. That’s your Personal Eden. So welcome! Check back in soon for garden tours, tips, advice and lore. Follow me down the garden path…