Monthly Archives: August 2011

Going Au Naturel…

Don’t worry…I haven’t become a nudist.  But I did fertilize with all those wonderful organic fertilizers that my garden loves:  alfalfa pellets, bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, and milorganite.  That along with the horse poopy I put down a couple of weeks ago and the rain we’ve been getting lately means the garden should start looking much healthier and happier soon.  I cut way, way back on the fertilizing earlier in the season cause of the drought and high temps cause I didn’t want to force new growth that was just gonna get fried and stress the plants out.  So my fertilizing schedule is totally off this year.  But having to deal with what Mother Nature sends us is just a part of gardening.

So, you ask, what exactly does all that organic fertilizer stuff do?  Good question!  Organics provide nutrients to the plants along with improving the viability of the soil as they break down.  Most of the organics I use are slow release except for blood meal which is considered a fast release organic.  Here’s what I use and what they do:

  • Alfalfa Pellets:  Gives the plants slow-release nitrogen and trace minerals.  It also contains a naturally occurring plant hormone called triaconatol that stimulates growth by improving photosynthesis and cell division.You can use either alfalfa meal or alfalfa pellets.  If you use pellets be sure to get the pellets used for horse food and not for rabbit food.  The rabbit food pellets have salt added to it and salt build-up in the soil is not a good thing.  I use 1 – 2 cups per bush depending on the size of the bush.  3-0-2
  • Blood Meal:  Gives quick-release of nitrogen.  Yes, it is exactly what the name says:  made from blood, usually from cows.  It’s awesome in its ability to green plants up quickly that need a nitrogen fix.  This stuff is very potent so be sure to use it as recommended on the bag!  Mine’s from Hi-Yield and 1/4 of a cup (yes, only 1/4) is enough for a 3’x3′ area.  That’s a big area for only 1/4 of a cup.  Lessen the amount for smaller bushes and plants in containers.  For large climbing roses or trees the amount can be increased.  It’s water soluble so it can be mixed in a water can and used that way.  I’ve never used it in a sprayer so I don’t know if that’ll work.  12-0-0
  • Bone Meal:   This is basically ground up bones.  It proves a very slow-release of phosphorous and calcium.   It doesn’t travel easily through the soil so be sure to either work it into the soil or add it to the hole when planting.  I use 1/4 – 1 cup per bush.  4-12-0
  • Cottonseed Meal:  Provides a slow-release of nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, and minor elements.  It also loosens heavy soils and helps sandy soils hold water and nutrients.  1 – 4 cups per bush depending on the size.  6.5-2.5-1.5
  • Milorganite:  Slow-release of nitrogen and phosphorus and iron.  1 – 2 cups per bush depending on size.  5-2-0

Organics are awesome cause they increase the biological activity of the soil structure as they break down.  Simply put, all the little microscopic and not so microscopic critters that make your soil healthier like to hang around where organics are.  The microorganisms break the organics down and release the nutrients for the plants to use.  As the breaking down happens other critters, such as earthworms, show up to either munch on the organic goodies or use them in building their tunnels.  And we all know how incredibly cool and helpful earthworms are to our gardens!  So by using organics you not only fertilize your plants you also increase your soil which in turn helps your garden to be healthier and happier.

The three numbers at the end of each organic description, i.e., 5-2-0 for Milorganite,  represent the macronutrient analysis of Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium of each fertilizer.  All of my organics are from Hi-Yield except for the Milorganite.  The numbers can be different if your organics are from a different distributor.

There are differing opinions of whether organics should be worked into the soil of existing beds or just used as top dressing (meaning just thrown on top of the soil).  I personally agree with the opines that as organics decompose (or “cure”) they generate heat.  And that heat has the possibility of damaging the tender feeder roots of plants if the organics are worked into the soil.  So I pull back the mulch, toss the organics around the drip line, and put the mulch back in place over the organics.  (The “drip line” is the area below the canopy of the plant’s leaves.  Keep in mind that roots rarely grow past the plant’s drip line.)  Please, please, please do not pile the organics up against the trunk or stems or base of the plant!  That same curing heat that damages the feeder roots means the organics are too hot to be placed up against the plant.

I’ve got the perfect example of an organic that was too hot and damaged the plants it was on.  Remember my post on getting two loads of horse poopy?  Well, one load was aged and one load was fresh.  Usually I unload stuff like that onto the driveway by the double gates but I knew the heat from the horse poop along with the heat from the driveway along with the fact that it was August in Florida would probably kill me if I put it on the driveway.  So I put both loads in separate piles on the grass.  In the pic below, the pile in front is the aged one and I was just starting to unload the fresh one.  The aged pile actually sat on the grass for about twelve hours longer than the fresh one did.   

Poopy and Crazy Dog

The next two pics were taken about a week after I’d put the poop into the beds.  This is the grass that had the aged poop on it.  You can see that some of the grass was killed, but definitely not all of it.

Aged Pile Area

And this is the area where the fresh pile was.  Pretty much all the grass and weeds were killed cause the heat coming from the pile as it decomposed was extremely high.

Fresh Pile Area

 
See the difference?  Today the aged pile area is all filled in and looks great.  The fresh pile area is just barely starting to show new growth.  The grass will eventually fill in, but in the meantime it doesn’t look real pretty.  So keep that in mind before piling any type of fertilizer right next to the plant.
 
I like mixing my own organics so I buy 50-pound bags of each type mentioned above from a local feed store.  If you’re not into doing that, there are some great pre-mixed organic fertilizers out there:  Rose Tone and Plant Tone (any of “Tone” fertilizers actually) and Mills Magic Mix are just a couple I can think of off the top of my head.  Check with your local nursery for more recommendations.  If you grow roses your local rose society is your best bet for info.
 
Oh, please don’t forget to water well after putting those organics down!  Watering helps to start the curing process.  Even better is try to time it where you put the organics down before just before a good rainstorm comes.  That’s definitely what I try to do.
 
My next post I’m gonna introduce you to my East Fire Pit Bed and East Pool Bed.  Here’s a teaser of that post for you:
 

Baronne Henriette de Snoy 07-30-2011

 
 

Baronne Henriette de Snoy 07-30-2011

 
 This week I’m hanging out with these very cool blogs.  Be sure to check them out!
 
Well, that’s all for now.  Cheers to an awesome rest of the day!
 
Jeanni
 
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Garden Journal

 Yo.  Whatzup with you? Glad you’re hangin with me today!

Hey, do you keep a garden journal?  Is it handwritten or ‘puterized?  I’ve kept one off and on for the past twenty-some-odd years.  Handwritten on notebook paper and kept in 3-ring binders.  But it’s time to put down the pen and pick up the keyboard so this blog is gonna take the place of my notebook paper and binders (am I the only one that thinks that’s kinda sad?).  A downside to that is I’ve got a desktop pc so I can’t sit outside and work on journal updates like I could with pen and paper.  bummer.  The plan though is to buy myself a laptop Christmas present (I’ll try to act surprised…) so that problem will be solved in a few short months.

Well.  Let’s see.  Since this is now my garden journal, it needs to be updated with all the info I kept in the binders:

  • Plant descriptions and pics.  Already started on this…got so many more to add it’s almost overwhelming.  Gotta keep reminding myself that one at a time is all I can do.
  • Garden layouts.  I design my gardens by hand on graph paper so it’ll be easy to scan and add a “Garden Layout” page.  That way when I post about adding plants to the East Fence Bed you’ll know what I”m talking about!  I don’t label my plants in the garden so the layouts remind me who got planted where.  Don’t wanna be calling anyone by the wrong name.  It hurts their feeling and they pout by not blooming as well…
  • Before and after pics.  Yep…wait till you see what the garden looked like in the beginning.
  • Fertilizing and pruning info.
  • Good bug / bad bug info.
  • Gardening definitions.

I want this to be not just my journal but also someplace you can come to and enjoy garden pics and maybe learn something you didn’t know about gardening.  After all, sharing information with other gardeners is one of the many aspects of gardening that I love.

Ok.  Kinda got my thoughts going in the right direction now.  So now I’m gonna introduce you to my garden beds so you can see what I’ve got in each one.  Today you get to meet the West Fence Bed!  This is the bed I recently added the concrete border to so you’ve already seen a couple of pics of it.

Shed side of west fence bed

Driveway Side of West Fence Bed

Middle of West Fence Bed

Looking at West Fence Bed from Shade Area

WFB is a pretty big bed – 61′ long x 14′ at its widest point and 6′ at its narrowest point.  The plants in it were planted either in 2010 or 2011, so they’re pretty much babies.

I chose Society Garlic as the border. Luv, luv, luv Society Garlic.

Society Garlic

 
 

Society Garlic Bloom

 
 

Society Garlic Border (before concrete border)

 
 
On the fence line I’m alternating Fire Bush with climbing roses.  The only climber in the bed now is Alister Stella Gray.  I’ve got spaces for two more…just haven’t decided which ones to get yet.
 

Alister Stella Gray (Full Shrub)

 

Alister Stella Gray

 

Alister Stella Gray

 

Alister Stella Gray 07-23-2011

 
Two of the Fire Bush came back nicely from last winter’s freeze.  The third was a bit slooowwer to start growing again.  But since the rains finally came all three have put on a ton of growth. 
 

Fire Bush

 
Hey – look!  There’s weeds in that bed!  ha.
 

Fire Bush Bloom

 
Around the sitting area are three white lantana.  White lantana seems to be less hardy than some of the other lantana colors…maybe that’s why it isn’t seen used as much.  Personally…I think it’s gorgeous.
 

Lantana - White

 
I’ve got a bird feeder in this bed and as usual for having a bird feeder all kinds of weeds and corn and stuff start growing around it.  99% of that stuff gets pulled out but seeing this pop up just made me smile:
 

Sunflower

 
It’s so cute!
 

Sunflower behind Society Garlic

 
I’ve got a few other roses in this bed.  They are:
 
Sheila’s Perfume
 

Sheila's Perfume

 

Sheila's Perfume

 

Sheila's Perfume

 
Mutabilis
 

Mutabilis

 
Mutabilis is a China rose and one of the cool things about it is its flowers change colors!  They vary from peach to pink to red.  A bush in full bloom is so pretty cause it looks like it’s got a bunch of different colored butterflies resting on it.  Can’t wait till mine gets bigger and starts blooming more.
 

Pink-Peach

 
 

Red

 
 

Sheila's Perfume in front and Mutabilis in the back

 
 Madame Isaac Perriere
 

Madam Isaac Perriere

 
 

Madam Isaac Perriere

 
 And last but not least of the roses is Jacqueline du Pre.  However Ms Jacqui hasn’t been behaving very nicely this year…she got blackspot and went nekkid for awhile.  Lately though she’s decided she looks much prettier with clothes on so she’s starting to leaf out.  I was gonna post a pic of her but she told me she would be horribly embarrassed if I did that.  So I promised her I’d wait till she got all glamed up before showing her off.  Yeah, I talk to my flowers…don’t you??
 
And that is my West Fence Bed.  It’s nowhere as full up with flowers as I plan it to be, and the ones that are planted are nowhere near how big and beautiful they’re gonna get.  I’m usually out in the garden taking pics every week so I’ll be sure to post them so you can see the changes too.
 
Hope you’ve enjoyed my West Fence Bed tour!  Next week we’ll do a tour of another bed.
 
This week I’m hanging out with these very cool blogs…be sure to check them out!
 
Well, that’s all for now.  Cheers to an awesome rest of the day!
 
Jeanni