Archive for April, 2012

April 29, 2012

T is for Transplanting

Transplant, relocate.  Whether you’re talking people or plants, its lifting our roots and establishing them somewhere else.

Spring is one of the two best times of the year to transplant any plants, trees or shrubs to a new location.  (The other best time is fall.)

Let’s imagine for a moment we want to move a Hosta.  Right now, as the shoots are just beginning to poke up out of the ground like little spears, but before the leaves unfurl, is the best time to transplant. The same goes for most other plants as well, but I recommend looking up your specific plant or dropping me a line if you’re not sure.

The tools you will need to transplant are a pitch fork, a sharp spade and possibly a pruning shears or lopper.

Keep in mind the goal with transplanting it to cause as little stress, trauma or shock to the plant as possible.  You want to give them lots of room and be as gentle as you can.  Before you dig-up a plant, keep in mind that you are only seeing the shoots, when they leaf out they will be considerably wider.  Tree roots, for example, extend, at minimum, out to the canopy and most often much further.  So before your spade touches the soil, look up.  If you’re inside the canopy, you’re too close.  Move out.

Most perennials are similar.  Think of their leafed out size as their canopy and dig outside of that line.  It also helps to know what kind of root system your plant has before you even start this process.  In other words, it a shallow rhizome?  Deep tuber?  Tap root?  Or fibrous roots?  Knowing this is like having a road map for digging.  It gives you a rough idea as to what to expect as you go.  If the plant has a deep tuber or a tap-root, be extremely careful not to sever the top of the plant from the root.

As a side note, tap rooted plants typically don’t like to be moved (think of carrots), so make every effort to site them properly the first time they are planted.

Okay, time to start digging.  Personally, I like to use a pitch fork to do the first round of digging.  The pitch fork will allow you to test the waters a bit without severing any roots.  It allows you to feel around in the soil and help determine whether you’re out far enough or whether you’re still in the root zone.  Once you’ve determined that you are out far enough from the center of the plant, grab your sharpened spade and slice into the soil.  (Try to keep your spade upright so you don’t inadvertently slice off the roots you just worked to avoid.)  Dig all the way around the plant and gently work your way underneath until the plant feels loose.

Hopefully you get everything on the first try to the root ball comes out of the ground.  Typically what happens with me is that I think I’m set, but as I start gaining momentum and go to lift the plant out of the hole it comes to a screeching halt because one root is still be attached.  It feels much picking up an old TV, getting a grip on it and turning around to have it nearly fly out of your hands because it’s still plugged into the wall.  If this happens to you, get back in there and continue digging until you find the “cord”.  Occasionally there will be one wild root that seems to go on forever.  You’ll be digging and digging, following the root nearly to China.  If this happens, you need to make a decision, fish or cut bait?  My recommendation is to check out the whole root ball and determine how much damage you think you will cause the plant if you cut this wild root.  If it seems like it’s a major player, keep digging.  If not, grab your spade, pruning shears or lopper and give it a nice slice.

Woo, hoo!  It’s free!  So now what?  Hopefully at this point you’ve already selected a site for your plant and have the new hole pre-dug.  If not, leave the plant in its current place in order to prevent the roots from drying out by keeping them out of the sun and wind.  Ideally you won’t have to worry about the sun and heat drying it out because you’ve chosen a cool overcast day to do your transplanting, right? 🙂

Okay, so off we go to the new home for our little transplant.  Dig a hole about 6″ wider but at the same depth as the original hole.  You want to have loose soil around the sides of the plant for roots to establish in, but you do not want to have a soft bottom or the plant will sink deeper than it was previously living.  You want the bottom of the hole to be firm to provide a nice foundation for the plant to sit on so that your plant sits at “ground level” in its new hole at about the same place it sat at “ground level” in its old hole.  This is important because plant depth can effect many things including flowering, fruiting and in the case of trees, stem-girdling roots.

Once your new location is ready, go get the plant from its first location and bring it to its new home.  Gently set it in the hole and make sure the plant is sitting at the right depth.  If it’s not, adjust the hole until it is.  Then, make sure it’s evenly spaced in the hole. Water the plant thoroughly, allowing water to partially fill the hole.

Next, add some compost to the soil loose soil that will be going back into the hole, making about a 1/3 of the mixture compost.  Put the soil/compost mix into the hole around the plant, gently packing with your hands. Do not step on it!  (Plant roots need air space in the soil in order to get established, not compacted soil.)

Finally, with some of the remaining soil, create a small ridge of soil at the perimeter of your hole.  This should look like a dish, which will help direct water down to the roots and prevent it from running away from your plant.  Cover the open soil with mulch, repeating the dish with the mulch.

Note: Never mound soil or mulch at the base of a plant or tree!  This can cause rot, disease and damage.  If you have mounds on your plants or trees, simply pull the mulch away from the base/trunk and create a dish instead.

Once you’re done mulching, keep the plant well watered until its established in its new home.

Voila!  You’ve successfully transplanted a plant.

Questions?  Let me know!


April 22, 2012

R is for Rodent

Rabbits eat my lettuce

Squirrels steal my pears

Raccoons peak in my windows and freak me out when they stare

Opossum at my back door

Woodchuck under the shed

Garter snakes slither and stop my heart nearly dead

Toads in all directions hopping here and there

Neighbor’s cats adding scents for which I don’t particularly care

Japanese Beetles and June Bugs and May Flies

Might make you wonder why I garden, why I even try?

You might say I like it, or love it at the least

For why else would I put up with these less than sightly beasts?

As I venture outside to plant and weed and water

I realize there’s nothing that rhymes with rodent

I only wish my garden wasn’t their fodder


April 22, 2012

S is for Sustainable Living

Sustainable.  We all hear the word flying about, but what does it mean?

Merriam -Webster defines SUSTAINABLE as:

: capable of being sustained
a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

When I was searching for a name for this blog, I wanted it to go along with my beliefs.  Something that symbolized, growing (both physically and metaphorically) and living in a way that nurtures our soil, our environment, our planet and each other.  Living in a way that leaves a gentle footprint rather than a deep trench.

Walnuts and Pears stems from the old saying,  “Walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs.”  In other words planting trees, not for ourselves, but for the generations to come.  In addition, living, conducting our lives, in the same manner.  Or in other words, “living today for tomorrow’s generation”.  Taking care of what we have.  Using only what we need in a responsible manner.  Not depleting our resources, but figuring out ways to use less and give back. Planning and planting for the future.  Living sustainably.

I created a list of things each of us can do to live a more sustainable life.

Steps to Sustainable Living (in no particular order):

  • Use a programmable thermostat
  • Lower your thermostat in the colder months
  • Raise your thermostat in the summer months
  • Open windows and use less A/C
  • Take shorter showers
  • Shut-off the water when you’re washing hands and brushing teeth
  • Turn off and unplug what you’re not using (get rid of phantom power usage)
  • Plant a veggie garden
  • Compost
  • Raise chickens
  • Raise bees
  • Plant a tree on the South side of your house to provide shade and help cool your home
  • Plant a tree on the North or Northwest side of your house for protection from winter winds
  • Plant the right tree, shrub or plant in the right location.  Plants that like sun in sun, plants that like shade in shade, plants that like well-drained soil in well-drained soil, etc.  They’ll be happier, healthier and have less risk of insects and diseases, which means they will last longer.
  • Plant a fruit tree for you (or two – most need a buddy for pollination)
  • Plant a fruit tree or shrub (or two) for the birds
  • Learn to work with nature instead of fight her
  • Have less lawn
  • Keep your lawn no shorter than 3″
  • Train your lawn – don’t water daily for 15 minutes it creates shallow roots; instead water once a week until the soil has gotten 1″ of water, this will create deep roots, better ready for drought and ultimately consuming less water
  • Don’t bag ’em! (Leave your grass clippings on your lawn – it’s a natural nitrogen fertilizer)
  • Plant white clover in your lawn – yes, on purpose!  This too is a natural nitrogen fixer and will help keep your lawn healthy
  • Feed your soil, even your lawn with compost
  • Create a rain garden to prevent run-off
  • Mulch your plants – this keeps their roots cool and the soil moist, requiring less frequent watering
  • Compost your leaves
  • Meet your neighbors
  • Share with your neighbors
  • Start or join a community garden
  • Start a Little Free Library
  • Go to the public library
  • Buy less
  • Waste less – water, gas, electricity, packaging, food
  • Repair – repair what you have instead of buying new (Buy from companies that offer this option!)
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose – find a new use for old objects
  • Recycle
  • Buy items in bulk and reuse your own containers
  • Bring reusable shopping bags everywhere you go and use them!
  • Buy a fun water bottle, drink from it and refill it
  • Don’t buy “disposables”
  • Donate what you don’t need
  • Install a rain barrel
  • Use your rain water to water your garden
  • Don’t use pesticides, herbicides in your lawn or garden
  • Bike
  • Walk
  • Run
  • Buy real food
  • Cook from scratch, even if it’s just one day a week
  • Support local businesses and restaurants
  • Buy local as much as possible
  • Buy organic food (organic producers use sustainable methods for growing their food)
  • Eat organic food (it will sustain you)
  • Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – this provides a direct connection between you and a farmer
  • Clean without chemicals
  • Eliminate toxins from your home, start with fabric softener, bleach and toilet bowl cleaner
  • Eliminate toxins from your health & beauty supplies, start by ditching toothpaste with triclosan
  • Buy from sustainable companies.  What they do effects you.
  • Do a “gut check”.  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

These are just a starting point.  Please feel free to comment and add to the list.


April 19, 2012

Q is for Quiet

As I tried to figure out what I would write about for Q, I ran through and mentally crossed-off a number of words.

Quercus alba, the mighty White Oak.  Love that tree.  Love the shape, the branching habit, the shade, the security and protection it provides.  But what else?

What about Quaking Aspen?  Another tree.  I think of this as a fun tree.  Quaking Aspens remind me of camping.  I love how their leaves rustle in the wind because of their flat petioles.  They make me smile.  But not inspiring enough to write much about, at least not today.

Quince.  Quince starts with Q.  Don’t grow it.  Wrong climate.  Have never even eaten it.  Note to self: Need to try quince.  Move on.

What else could I write about?  What other Q is there?  I gaze out the window.  I start to drift off, daydream.  It’s overcast and in the upper 40s today, not exactly tropical, although they say those days are coming our way again next week.  There’s something about cool days, particularly in the spring, that I find calming.  There’s so much energy in the spring.  So much activity in plants and trees, animals and people.  Spring is the beginning of so many things.  There’s so much going on that I sometimes find myself getting agitated from all of the energy.  I feel like a circuit that gets overloaded.  At some point it’s just too much and a fuse blows.  But the weather today changed all of that.  Something got unplugged, everything is calm. The cool, overcast weather slowed the energy, providing calm in the midst of a surge.  This gray day is providing quiet.  And sometimes quiet is the best gift we can receive.

Quiet.  Tranquility. Peacefulness.

As I sit, at this moment, heat is blowing on my feet, my shoulders are wrapped in an afghan and a cup of tea warms my hands.  And I hear nothing.  A clock ticking, the furnace running, the house creaking.  Small comforting sounds, but mostly I hear nothing, just quiet.

Out the window the branches of the trees gently sway in the breeze.  Slow, peaceful movements.  I’m relaxed.

I meditate on quiet.  I close my eyes, and breathe.  Slow, deep breaths.  I’m warm.  I’m comfortable.  All of the tension and agitation float away.  Everything is okay.  I’m okay.  I find peace… and quiet.  And I’m blessed.  Today I’ve been given the gift of quiet.