Moved In and Sodded!

I’ve told my dear husband that this was my last move, and they will have to take me out of this house feet first in a pine box. Moving is no fun, and I am too old for this nonsense. Now that we are settled in, my focus will be on the yard.

The Tif-Tuf Bermuda sod has arrived (Thank you, Super-Sod!) and been laid down dormant. That’s right…dormant. Don’t worry. It will be just fine. Some warm season grasses, like Tif-Tuf and Zenith Zoysia, can be laid dormant. Others cannot. If you are laying dormant sod, please check with your sod professionals to be sure you choose a variety that will be successful in your zone. Timing is everything!

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Ice and snow soon followed, along with single digit temperatures, but the sod loves the slow drip of water from the melting winter precipitation, and the temperatures are right back to southern normal after the brief cold snap.

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Dan Ryan Builders gave us some pretty decent plants. We have a Red Oak, a Crepe Myrtle, 3 Drift Roses, 3 Loropetalum and a Thuja ‘Emerald’. The Compacta Hollies will be re-homed. The others will be worked into my plan somewhere.

Brodgen 6Of course I am planning a major landscape renovation. I sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine and my knitting, and dream of terraces, stone walls, pollinator gardens, vegetable and herb gardens, Japanese Maples, Hostas, Hydrangeas, Camellias… Stay tuned – spring is coming!

1918 Brodgen

 

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Nature wins. Every time.

blowing-rockNovice gardeners are often looking for the “rule book”. If only gardening were that simple – you follow the rules and you get the perfect results! But those who want to follow the rules in gardening miss the critical catch: Nature doesn’t follow rules. But please don’t misinterpret this to mean nature is capricious. That would be an inappropriate anthropomorphizing of nature. Nature is a complex force that is ever-changing. It has no human qualities – no sense of vengeance, no motherly tendencies, no good and no evil.

Throughout history, humans have anthropomorphized natural elements (and animals) to make them more comprehensible and more relatable. We put things into human form because we are egotistical and can only see things through our own lens. The ancient Greek gods are the perfect example. Remember Poseidon? The god of the sea, controlling the tides and the sea creatures, using tidal waves to exact vengeance on disobedient humans. And when we contemplate the possibility of life in outer space, we picture humanoid alien life forms. We have difficulty imagining that extra-terrestrials are more likely to look nothing like us. In our attempt to understand nature, we humanize it. Nature is not a mother, not a Green Man, not a god. Nature does not punish or reward us. Nature is a collection of the 4 elements (earth, air, fire and water) and the carbon based life forms that can choose to either fight those elements or work with them. And that is the most fundamental decision – to fight nature, or to work with it. Just remember one thing: Nature wins. Every time.

Novice gardeners want a set of rules, a calendar, a formula. When can I plant tomatoes? April 15? When can I install a warm season lawn? May 1st? Which chemical fertilizer works best? 10-10-10? They come to the experts and expect a set answer. Often we give them one because they are lost without one. But it is never as simple as we would like it to be.

When can I plant tomatoes? When the threat of frost has passed. When will that be in Raleigh? Well, the Farmer’s Almanac predicts April 4th for 2017. But that could change… Every year it is different. So we say April 15th because that is safe…not necessarily accurate, but safe. Because we know that if we say April 4th, we could get a later frost, and that client will come back and be angry with us because their tomatoes died. Nature doesn’t read the Farmer’s Almanac. The Farmer’s Almanac attempts to read nature. They are quite good at it, historically, but their writers understand the most important rule in gardening: Nature wins. Every time.

Click here to read the Farmers’ Almanac for Raleigh, NC.  http://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates/NC/Raleigh

When will Emerald Zoysia be available? When it greens up. When will that be in Raleigh? At Super-Sod we say May 1st because, again, it is a safe bet. But we don’t know the exact date because we do not control nature, we work with it.

https://www.supersod.com/raleigh

Which chemical fertilizer is best? That depends on your soil health and the plants you are growing. We strongly recommend that you do a soil test so that you apply the correct amount of fertilizer and, more importantly, so that you don’t over fertilize. Working with the pH you have is another aspect of a soil test.

The NC Department of Agriculture performs these tests for free most months (they do charge a small fee December through March when they are inundated with farmers’ samples).

http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/sthome.htm

So how does the novice gardener become a good gardener? By spending lots of time outdoors, paying attention to the air, the soil, the lake levels. By observing the plants – really looking at them. Grass leaves react to water shortages by folding their blades in half to minimize sun exposure. When your grass blades look skinnier and grayer, they are telling you they need water. Certain plants are known as “indicator plants”. When your hydrangea leaves droop, all your plants need water.

Ask lots of questions. Don’t just ask where you should plant a hosta, ask why you should plant it there. Dig a hole and get to know your soil. Smell it, squeeze it in your hand, and look for worms and insects in it. Poor soil will support very few life forms. Good soil should be brown and smell earthy. It should hold together when squeezed in your hand, but should not just be a lump of clay. Amend poor soil with compost.

http://www.soil3.com/

Most importantly, let go of that need for control, and reconnect with nature. You will make mistakes and lots of them, and that’s OK. That’s how we learn. I’ve been a horticulture professional for over 20 years and I am still learning. It’s a process, not a destination. Learn to love the earth, because it is the only one we have. And don’t try to win because you cannot (and should not) defeat nature.  Repeat after me: Nature wins. Every time.

Mr. Feathers’ New Lakeside Condo

As November began, we noticed Mr. Feathers was getting bolder about coming inside the store. He would choose a sunny spot just near the door, and lay down. He was spending most of his day hanging out with his pal, our store manager, Judson. Not close enough to touch, still just out of reach, but closer than usual. Peacock 3We had known the day would come when he would need a house. We tossed around several ideas,  but Daniel came up with the simplest – a pad made of pallets and scrap lumber. So he got to work on the two story peacock condo. Using pallets, 2x4s, scrap T111 siding, and a plastic corrugated roof, he built a warm, dry home with a second story loft for the king of birds. When it was finished, he moved it with a forklift to the edge of the lake, warmed by the sun. We placed food nearby and waited. Two mornings later, we saw the straw bedding was matted down and sprinkled with peacock feathers. Mr. Feathers is now the proud owner of lakeside property! Lucky bird.

mister-feathers

Building Stone Walls – 3 Techniques

I am so grateful to work for Super-Sod, a company that encourages creativity and continuing education. The monthly classes offered here on Saturdays throughout the growing season are now available on YouTube. I hope you find them helpful. The class on building stone walls demonstrates 3 techniques: dry-stack, mortared, and natural stone veneer. I’d like to give a shout-out to my friend Daniel Medina, the stone mason featured in this video. I do the talking, but the talent is all his.

For more information about our videographer, Charles Register, click here: http://charlesregister.com/

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Vegetable Gardening in NC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8JhO_wN9_Y

I have been teaching a series of classes at Super-Sod in Cary this year, and we now have a video of my first class, Vegetable Gardening in NC. I hope you find it helpful. We have had great success gardening in pure Soil3 organic compost. We have a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes this year, as well as eggplant, cucumbers, peppers and herbs! Be sure to watch the section on building a potato tower!

 

 

Mr. Feathers Joins the Team at Super-Sod of Cary

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Mr. Feathers likes Soil3 compost!

A new team member has joined the crew at Super-Sod. Meet Mr. Feathers! He showed up last week and has made himself right at home – bedding down in the wheat straw, wandering through the store, and hanging out by Daniel’s pretty red Mustang. Zenith the cat, our Feral Farm Friend, must have passed the word that Super-Sod of Cary is an animal-friendly place, because when I went out to feed Zenith this morning, Mr. Feathers was hanging out by the back door looking for his breakfast too! It turns out that peacocks think cat food is a treat! Today I plan to pick him up some food more appropriate for his kind.

Peacock 3

After Breakfast, he even made a pass through the store. We have had lots of animal visitors in the past – Maggie the dog is a regular, as is Axel the Golden Retriever. We have had turtles and frogs come into the store, but Mr. Feathers is the most interesting so far! He’s still a bit shy, but he is getting used to the hustle and bustle around here.

 

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.

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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.