Monday, May 28, 2012

When the LGC lets you down

My new-last-fall dwarf Pieris (Pieris japonica 'Cavatine') are looking like, well, frankly, like crap.  Their leaves have all turned brown and speckled.  It's only the dwarf Pieris that are affected, so I took a leaf to the Local Garden Center for interpretation.

"Oh, that's lacebug (Tingidae sp.).  They're a common problem on Cavatine Pieris around here.  Here's a poison you can use to kill them, your local bee population, butterflies attracted to your flowers and potentially cause long term health problems for you and your pets."

OK, so I paraphrased that a bit.  [I'm not a fan of pesticides.]

This is NOT a pesticide rant [been there, done that, will probably do it again] but a rant because the LGC that I went to for advice is the same place that sold me the plants to begin with.  If they know that this particular strain of Pieris is frequently heavily infected by a locally abundant pest species then WHY ARE THEY SELLING IT?

They're also selling Lilies.  In our area Lilies are decimated by the Red Lily Beetle (also know as the Asian Lily Beetle).  So if you buy Lilies you need to buy pesticides.  

[They should sell them in a combo pack]

And don't let me get on about Weeping Cherries and Winter Moths.  They always look bad after a year in the ground around here.

Clearly the LGC is not organically minded. But couldn't they at least let people know when they buy a plant that it is potentially a big honking waste of money?

Oh, wait.  That's one strategy to make money.  By selling pesticides and replacement plants.

But that does not make me want to go back.

Sad Plants.  Sad Gardener.

[but now I have some new spaces!  What can I use to replace these...  I'll just have to go someplace different this time!]

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feeling Blue

When I pulled the garden bench out of the basement I decided it needed to be spruced up a bit.   It's a cheap, wooden bench that was originally stained.  So I could sand and stain it or I could spray paint it.  

I'm lazy.  Spray Painting is quicker and easier.  Guess what I did?

That's right.  The Husband and I walked up to the local hardware store and picked out some spray paint.  

Guess what color we went with?

Hey, how'd you know?  Did you read the title of this post?  Cheater!

Bright, bright blue.

Now I didn't have anything else in the garden that was blue - my pots were all green.  So what to do to make this bench look like it belonged? 

Spray paint some cheap plastic pots from [CENSORED].

So now I have the color on both sides of my property.

The pots became my herb garden for the summer.  I dug up some tarragon and sage and oregano from the garden and bought some lemon balm and basil and dill and...  Make my mouth water just typing this.

Not pictured are the matching tomato cages - also found at [CENSORED - it's a Big Box Store.  The local garden center doesn't carry anything quite so tacky unusual.

Garden decorations are definitely beautiful in the eye of the beholder.  Some of my neighbors cringe at my bright colors and other neighbors...  well, let's just say I might have started a trend with the spray painted pots.  

Maybe I should patent the idea....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

People who should know better

This past week someone in Manchester, NH spotted and took a video of a bobcat in their back yard.

I looked at the video and it actually IS a bobcat [these sitings often turn out to be house cats with bobtails].

So what did officials do?  

Totally freak out and over-react!  An animal control office [target of this rant] said it's hard to tell from the video but it might be a mountain lion.

[hysterical laughter]

um, no.  The video may be out of focus but it is very, very clearly a bobcat.

Why, oh, why, does an animal control officer know NOTHING about local wild animals?  You'd think that would be an important component of the job. 

But this is a common problem. Animal control knows how to deal with dogs and cats (hopefully) but wildlife is usually a complete mystery to them.

I don't get it.

 File:Mountain lion.jpg
 photo from USDA [why does the department of agriculture take photos of mountain lions?]

The mountain lion has been extirpated from the East Coat [extirpated means the local population has been hunted to extinction but there are still mountain lions in the mid-west, the west and Florida].  There are often reports of mountain lions but they are almost always not supported by evidence or additional sighting and the ones with pictures or other evidence usually turn out to be housecats.  Yes.  Really.

[There was even an instance in California (where mountain lions DO occur regularly) where a police officer shot and killed a "mountain lion" and then got sued by the housecats owner.  Yes, it was a domestic cat.]

A mountain lion (or cougar) is about the size of a grown human.  If the first words out of your mouth are not something like "I can't believe how freaking BIG that was" then it wasn't a mountain lion.

The rare occurrence of real, honest to goodness mountain lions are often escaped or released captive animals.  On very rare occasions they find evidence of a cat moving from the West or mid-west hundreds or thousands of miles to the East (one case in Connecticut was of a cat that genetics showed had been born in South Dakota and had migrated 2000 miles!).

The best website for more information?  The Cougar Network.

And now for a gratuitous photo of my (adopted) bobcat - Reno.  She lives at Conservators' Center, a carnivore sanctuary in NC for former "pet" and "show" exotic carnivores.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learning, Edge style

I have learned a few things after my (few) years of Gardening here on The Edge.  No, I'm not talking about the typical things like what kind of fertilizer to use [fertilizer?  Only for the roses] or where to buy plants [depends on the plant].  These are...  odd things.

1.  Non-Gardeners Do Not Believe Gardening is Easy [even some people who have gardens don't believe this one] Try this one - tell a Non-Gardener that you don't fertilize, you just put down a fresh layer of compost and/or mulch every year.  They will still insist on buying fertilizer.  And putting it on plants that don't look good.  Because it has to be a nutrient problem.  See the pictures below.  Guess when they were last fertilized [hint:  I amended the soil when I constructed the beds and since then have added only mulch.  I guess that wasn't much of a hint, was it?  It was kind of the answer...]

Toomanus tolistus

2.  No one will believe you when you tell them your "secrets."  You might as well tell them that you use composted unicorn poop.  [hmmm... I may try that.]  During a single conversation they will praise your garden (or lawn) and refuse to believe you when you say you don't fertilize your lawn or rake leaves - really, you just mow the leaves in situ [that's "in place" for all you normal, non-science-geek types.  I just threw in the Latin to see if you're still awake out there.]

For example.  Wow.  Your grass grows really thick in the backyard, despite your dogs.  What's your secret?  No, really, I don't believe you.  I can recommend something to get rid of those broad leaf weeds you have, though.

 Lawnus grassus  and Trifolium repens

[I am proud to admit that I ORDERED CLOVER SEEDS since the lawn was a major chem-lawn when we moved in.]

2b.  No one wants to believe The Biologist [that's me] about Biology.  For example they want to know how to attract butterflies but not bees [can't do it] and they flap their skirts when they see the garter snakes in the garden [even the guys do this] and you try to explain that it's a BENEFICIAL snake, it's GOOD for the garden.  [Dammit, neighbors, quit killing my snakes!  Heck, dammit, formerly-feral dog, quit killing my snakes.  And while you're at it can you try to shed only when you're outside?  Thx]

Centaurea montana and friends

3.  Pay attention to what kind of underwear you put on in the morning.  Seriously.  You will bend over or squat down in the garden and your underwear will show.  So don't wear the black lace thong when you're gardening in the front yard where your Neighborhood Little Old Church Lady can see.  And don't wear the white granny panties when the Cute Single Neighbor's Brother-Cousin-Whatever is around [assuming you're single and/or interested].

[Sorry, no photos.  The Husband refused to take the pictures of me crouched in the garden, showing the undies.  He's old fashioned that way.  Plus I teach at a public college and that sort of stuff can come back to haunt a professor who doesn't have tenure yet!]

4.  The people who are most concerned about individual plants are not the best gardeners.  My neighbors' won't plant tomatoes until after there is no chance of frost.  I plant them early unless the weather is bad and figure if we get a late frost I'm only out $10 or so.  I'm the first in the neighborhood to get tomatoes.  Wonder why [sarcasm!]

Begonia x tuberhybrida

I put out these begonias two weeks ago.  The average date of last frost is early May so I was right on schedule for me.  My neighbors?  Not till after Memorial Day.  Seriously.

Real Gardeners who loose a plant discover...  a new place to plant something!  Let's try something new and different!  [this is the Boo-Hoo, Woo-Hoo Trait and it is only found in Real Gardeners]

Last up...  Well, not a surprise to me.  My Aquilegia got badly infected by sawfly larvae.  These buggers look like small caterpillars and will eat up the spring leaves of Columbines.  Mine are blooming anyway.  I picked the larvae off, left them on the deck railing near the bird feeder [snacks for breeding birds who need the extra protein!] and now my Aquilegia have new growth coming in.  They didn't bother to wait before blooming.

5.  You don't need chemicals to have a nice lawn and garden.  I promise.

Aqueligia -don't-remember-planting-that!

[Maybe I need to learn 6 - keep better notes....]

Thursday, May 3, 2012

This is why I can't have nice things.

I only ordered a few plants this year.  This is unusual for me.  I like to try new and different plants and one of the best ways to get the cutting edge plants is to order them on-line.

[I'm glad I didn't order more - you'll see why soon]

The UPS truck pulled up today.  A bit earlier than I expected but the weather looks fine so I'll be able to plant soon.

Then I realized the the UPS driver doesn't seem to know what THIS symbol means.

The boxes were sideways.  

Based on what I found once I opened them at least one had probably been upside down.

Instead of two six packs snuggled together one was upside down on top of the other.  Literally.  All of the plants [Zinnias - Raspberry Lemonade.  I know, I could have ordered seeds but I'm just not great with seeds!] were out of one six pack and I just pulled out a handful of Zinnias.

Not good for the temper.  Or the plants.

So instead of watering well and letting them rest for a day or two, till they perk back up after shipping, I gave them a good watering and rushed the handful of roots and green and what little soil was left into the garden.

Wish them luck.  They're going to need it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Women, Weeds and WHAT???!!!

Our Wednesday Weeds, Wine and Women group used a neighbor's yard as a site for our vegetable garden last year.  It worked great.  LOTS of fresh tomatoes. 

This year we expanded and added two new raised beds.

Then this happened.

That's right.  The neighbor with the sunny yard put their house up for sale.

So much for this years plans.

There was a frantic move-the-bed weekend that moved all of the purchased dirt, compost and the raised beds themselves to a different neighbors yard.  We couldn't move the original bed.

So this year there won't be enough room to share.


Maybe we can have Wednesday Wine Women and...  hmmmm....  have to think up some activity that begins with a W....