Archive for ‘Ornamental Grasses’

May 12, 2011

… showers bring May flowers…

Today is another cold and rainy day in the Twin Cities, but for some reason it didn’t get me down.  Okay, maybe a little, while I fought the urge to hang out under a blanket and read a book instead of going to my son’s baseball game tonight.  But since they didn’t cancel the game and he was so anxious to play, I went. My jeans wicked water from the bottom to mid-calf and my socks were more like damp sponges, but I got to see my son’s first hit of the season so I couldn’t be happier.  He even got the “game ball” tonight.  No blanket or book could have been better than seeing the smile on his face.  It was a great end to a wet, grey day.

There are many things about rainy days that I love.  I love hearing the cars splash through the puddles.  I love listening to birds sing while they use the rain as their own personal shower.  I love watching rain drops slide across leaves and drip down to the ground below.  I love how the filtered sunlight changes the colors of everything outside.  I love how intense the yellow is on goldfinches and orioles.  I love that rainy days slow everything down.  It takes everything back a couple of notches.  Especially in the spring. Ever since the weather has begun to warm up I’ve felt a surge of energy.  Energy in the plants, animals, water, everywhere.  It’s like everything and everyone has been running in high gear. The rain gives me a chance to pause, reflect and catch my breath.

Rain seems to have the opposite effect on plants though.  Have you ever looked out the window while it’s raining and just observed?  Rain is like an instant energy source for plants.  Give them water and I swear you can watch them grow before your very eyes.  In the past couple of days I’ve watched my raspberries leaf out, buds start to pop on the grape vines and the pear trees go into full blossom.  The asparagus is now ripe for picking, Monarda is popping up everywhere and peonies and lilies are growing taller by the minute.  Tulips, daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, hyacinths and Forsythias are all in full bloom, as are the magnolias and some of the flowering crabs.  The best part is… there are so many sweet smells to go with it!

The rain has also made my lawn bloom, literally.  Since I don’t use chemicals and haven’t focused much time on weed control, there is a nice crop of dandelions and creeping charlie in my yard.  We inherited these with the house when we bought it and I honestly haven’t devoted much time to getting rid of them. However, there’s a part of me that thinks of these “weeds” as a gift.  I know, you probably think I’m crazy but the most beautiful time of the year in my backyard is right now.  Resting within the lush green grass is a sea of purple creeping charlie blossoms combined with bright yellow dandelions and splashes of white and lavender violets. If everything is timed just right, in a few days the pink petals from the flowering crab will begin to fall and add yet another color to the mix.  It truly is beautiful.

I promise to provide pictures to prove it!

What have the spring showers brought you?


April 6, 2011

Lookin’ sharp!

It was a beautiful day today.  Sunny and hovering around 50.  Since we still had some snow on April 1 and my son was on spring break, I didn’t get around to cutting back my perennial grasses until today.

My 6-year-old son helped me cut the grasses back.  (I did the holding and he did the cutting.)  The first one was a little rough to say the least.  We were using the hedge trimmer, which is a little tough for him to maneuver but he made it work.  Then it dawned on me… I didn’t treat them too well last fall.  They were in desperate need of some sharpening!

A while back, while visiting my favorite garden center, Willowglen Nursery in Decorah, IA, I learned the ease and importance of having sharp garden tools.  It seemed obvious at first, until I realized I should check (but not necessarily sharpen them) each time I use them.  The thing is, I was thinking about things with blades: my pruning shears, my hedge trimmers, clippers, etc.  What never crossed my mind until then – sharpen your spades and shovels too!  This sounded crazy to me at first, until I realized that I’ve always struggled. So when I got home from my annual garden tour, I ran and bought a set of flat files and started sharpening.  I had my spade so sharp it glistened – and cut through the ground “like butta”.  It was amazing.

So, if you don’t already have files, add them to your list.  Then grab all of your garden tools and give them the once over.  Clean them up with a chore boy or steel wool.  Then give them some love and the attention of a file to remove chips, dents, rust, etc.  and make them look and feel as sharp as a knife.  Trust me, it will make the labor intensive parts of gardening less labor and far less intense…. just ask my son!




April 4, 2011

Mark your calendars!

If you have done a little gardening or a lot, you quickly realize that a garden journal and calendar become two of your best buddies.   If you’re like me, you think you’ll remember when you did things, but when the time comes to recall that info, you, well, you just can’t.

Calendars come in handy for a number of reasons.  For planning, for planting and for reminders.  If you have a perennial garden, live in Zone 4 (like we do in the Twin Cities) and grow ornamental grasses, mark “cut back grasses” on April 1.   If, like this year, there is still snow on the ground on April 1, wait until it’s gone, but ideally by April 15th or as soon as the snow is gone.  Then grab your gloves (dry grasses are like razor blades), some twine to tie the grasses up and out-of-the-way, and your hedge trimmer. Cut off approximately 2/3 of the previous year’s growth, or around 6 – 8″,  but if you see green shoots, don’t cut them off, cut up higher or you’ll end up giving your grasses a crew cut.

Back to veggies… I realized that I may have jumped ahead on the to-do list a little bit, or made assumptions about planning and planting gardens, so I’m going back to the list – and the calendar.  Grab a pen, and again, if you’re in Zone 4, mark “average last frost date” on May 15th.  This is basically the earliest you can safely plant your veggie garden without a significant risk of having everything wiped out by frost.  I typically try to plant around Memorial Day weekend.  By this time the soil will be warming up and plants will begin growing well.  There really isn’t much benefit to planting heat loving plants prior to this because they won’t “do” much and some even say it stunts them.  Plant too much later and you’ll end up losing valuable growing season time and risk having your plants not producing fruit before we get frost again in the fall.

Okay…. back to planning.  Grab the calendar, figure out a window of time that you want to plant (ideally between March 15th and Memorial Day).  Now, count backwards (in weeks) to today.  That will tell you how much time you have before your garden needs to be planted.  So, the next step is to check the back of your seed packets and see how far in advance they suggest “sowing seeds indoors”.  If you need more weeks to grow them than you just counted on the calendar it’s decision time.  Next check the days to maturity.  Count that out on the calendar from your estimated planting date and pray it’s before September 15th (our average 1st frost date in the Twin Cities – another one for the calendar).  If you’re cutting it really close, I would recommend buying seedlings from your local nursery right before you intend to plant.  They will typically have already been started and close to maturity when you purchase them.

If you plan on “direct sowing” into your garden – again make sure to check the “days to maturity”to make sure you have enough time between planting and maturity to enjoy your harvest!