Category Archives: garden blogging

Rain

It finally rained last night. This was the first rain to fall on my garden in at least a month. Let me tell you, hearing that rainfall on my roof was some sweet, sweet music. And this morning I awoke to the most wonderful present: four full rainbarrels!

This drought has been something else. Last week while driving around town I rounded a turn and for a fleeting moment thought I was on a canyon road in Los Angeles. Something about the brown scrubby vegetation and the smell of the air made me think I was back in my hometown. And I thought: damn. I’ve been talking about moving back to L.A. for so long, I conjured it up in Nashville! Just give of us a beach and take the Baptists and it’s done.

We broke more heat records this week — seven heat records broken since June 28. Anyone who is still pretending this is “cyclical” needs to reacquaint themselves with the definition of a circle. When you’re breaking a new heat record every day — some over 100 years old — you don’t get a circle. You get a line pointing straight up. Just sayin’, people.

Middle Tennessee had a severe drought two years ago, and another one three years before that. I remember reading that the farmers outside of Nashville were forced to truck hay in for their livestock from places like Iowa. But with 75% of the country now in drought, I don’t know where they’d go for that hay these days.

Most deniers I know are now saying, “well, maybe it is climate change, but it’s too late to do anything about it, anyway.” Oh, well now you tell us. Thanks a lot, assholes. They are probably correct on this front but still: thanks for reminding us how y’all have been wrong about everything important and why we shouldn’t listen to you in the future. Also, we all know as soon as there’s a snowfall they’re all gonna be like, “Al Gore is fat, nyah nyah,” so I just don’t waste my time with these idiots. Crawl back under your holes with your friends the Birthers.

Last night’s rain probably saved my garden. We were in triage mode, trying to save big stuff like trees and giving up on the rest. Most of the hostas got scorched weeks ago and just need to be cut back. As I said in an earlier post, I long ago gave up on annuals like impatiens and have planted drought-tolerant species like lantana and yarrow, which offer a nice pop of color and have brought the hummingbirds to the yard. Speaking of hummingbirds, I’m guessing the drought has killed off a big portion of their nectar supply so I’m going to be extra diligent about keeping the feeders fresh.

We’re supposed to get more rain this week, which is a blessing. The temperatures have dropped, too. It’s a small dose of normalcy in a summer which has been anything but.

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The New Normal

The calendar says June. The map says Nashville, Tennessee. The thermometer says Phoenix, Arizona.

Yesterday it was 109 degrees in Nashville. I shit you not.

Did I mention it’s still June? Hottest day ever on record. Today is not much better. In fact, for the foreseeable future Nashville is expected to be 100+ degrees. If this is June, then August is going to be positively brutal.

When I was a kid, we used to visit my grandmother in Palm Desert, California every summer. I remember more than one July Fourth in the California desert that was as hot as Nashville is this weekend. In fact, Nashville’s temp this weekend is the same as Phoenix, Arizona.

So here we are. We’re becoming a desert. Get used to it. Sure, the record we’re breaking was set in 1952, but we’ve been breaking daily records for decades. Hey remember that awful August of 2007? When people died from the heat? And that was August.

And 2010 was so bad, I was blogging about record-breaking August heat and the strange critters it had drawn out into the land of the living.

So, welcome to the new normal. I’m trying to make peace with it. For one thing, the super hot and dry temperatures have wrecked havoc on our nastier pests: chiggers and mosquitoes. The little fuckers don’t stand a chance in this climate. Winning! Also, for the past few years I’ve nixed stuff like impatiens and opted for hardier Lantana, which can handle extreme heat and drought. Last winter, believe it or not, my Lantana wintered over. First time that’s ever happened.

Some Like It Hot

On the other hand, I’m desperately trying to save my Viburnum, which have just the sweetest smelling blooms in spring. I’m losing. I’m afraid the koi are going to boil alive in the pond. And what was I thinking when I cut down some trees shading the garden? I know: I was thinking my plants needed more sunshine. Damn, I’d give anything for that shade now.

So, folks, you can pretend climate change isn’t real all you want. Pass all the bills you want allowing you to teach that the dinosaurs just missed Noah’s boatlift and climate change is a liberal plot. That doesn’t change the facts and that doesn’t mean it ain’t happening. It just means you’re stupid.

Personally, I’ve been with the “it’s too late, anyway” camp for a while. We can’t reverse this. We could have if we took action a few decades ago, but not anymore. I’m sure when things become too obvious for even wingnuts to ignore they’ll blame Democrats — that’s what they always do. Might I suggest they cool off at a nice, air conditioned movie theater — perhaps one showing Phil Valentine’s climate change denial movie?

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Filed under climate change, garden blogging, Nashville weather

Manic Spring

I’m going to be pretty busy this week with some work projects so blogging will be irregular.

It occurs to me I haven’t done any garden blogging in a while. It feels like spring has gone forever this year, but that’s just because we never really had a winter. In March we had some near-90 degree days, but then April turned cold: last night it was down into the 30s!

This means my garden has been very confused. When it turned hot in March, everything bloomed all at once: the lilacs, the irises, the tulips, all of the flowering shrubs and trees. And then all the blooms dried up and went away. So my usual showy spring display — a pop of spring colors and aromas staggered over two months — was pretty much kaput in three weeks. Damn you, climate change!

Right now everything looks a little overgrown:

My Garden Runneth Over

Pest control is always a huge problem for me. Usually I just douse everything in insecticidal soap and hope for the best, but this year I decided to experiment with some beneficial insects (I find Arbico Organics is an excellent source, though I’m sure there are plenty of others as well). I’ve already dumped a few thousands ladybugs on my roses, and sprayed some green lacewing eggs around. The lacewings hatched and went to town on the aphids after the ladybugs went off to parts unknown. I’ve also got some praying mantis larvae pods strategically attached to problem areas. Those haven’t hatched yet.

So far, so good. The aphids that were destroying my roses have vanished, and some other problem pests haven’t made an appearance yet. Hard to tell what’s the work of the beneficials and what’s the work of the squirrely weather.

Herbs Glorious Herbs

Even The Pond Is Overgrown Already

So, how does your garden grow?

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It’s A Jungle Out There

I’m crazy, insanely busy the next couple of weeks, after which Mr. Beale and I head out to Parts Unknown for a much-needed vacation. As usual, titanium-fanged dogs and elite Army Rangers will be housesitting while we’re gone. Love those guys.

So, blogging will be light for a while. In the meantime, it occurred to me I haven’t done any garden blogging in a while. The reason, actually, is because our garden is a bit of a mess. It’s been too hot and I’ve been too busy to do more than turn on the hose every now and then. Plus, the koi pond has been a bitch: the pump went out back in the winter and now after 10 years pieces of the plumbing and tubing are starting to go kaput and need to be replaced, so that’s taken what little time and attention I have for the garden.

So yeah, we’re rocking the Amazon jungle look these days. Without further ado:

A View To A Waterfall

Bless this mess we call a garden!

My office is through there somewhere. However, I do think I have the prettiest commute in town.

My Garden Angel. Yeah, I know. I like her, though.

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Baby Birds

Last night I saw this baby bird on the edge of my wheelbarrow. I thought it might be sick because it let me get close enough to take this picture, but we brought the cat inside and left it alone. A couple hours later it was gone.

Then this morning I saw a different bird doing the same thing on a hedge. I guess it’s the time of year when baby birds are learning to fly.

Anyway, since it’s been too hot for me to tackle the weeds in my garden, this will have to suffice for some garden blogging. Any birders know what this is? I’m thinking it’s a juvenile bluebird, but I know squat about birds.

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Isn’t She Lovely

This lovely black & yellow Argiope aurantia spider has taken up residence in my garden, no doubt a granddaughter or great-granddaughter of the argiopes who used to build webs right across the walkway. Every year save last year we had argiope spiders in this area of the garden. I don’t know what happened last year, but I missed them.

I’ve read that the Argiope aurantia is also called a “writing spider” because of the zig-zag writing on their webs. As a writer I find that just, well, perfect! This one built her web with a camouflage backdrop of black-eyed susans. Very smart, methinks.

As my readers no doubt know, organic gardening and organic/healthy cooking are my two great passions. One reason I love organic gardening is so I can watch creatures like this one. Soon a tiny spider resembling a wisp of dead grass will make a home on the outer edges of her web. This will be the male. He will make her big and fat, she will eat him, and then she will lay eggs. Ain’t love grand.

Anyway, my interest in organic gardening has led me to find less toxic solutions to the usual problems which plague us here in Tennessee, notably mosquitoes, chiggers, poison ivy, etc. etc. I love an argiope spider but I really hate getting covered in chigger bites just walking around my garden in the morning. Plus we have pets, and a koi pond, and I don’t want to freak out about what I’m spraying on my herbs and vegetables that end up on the dinner table. So here are my two favorite products (and no, I’m not receiving one penny to endorse this stuff. They really work):

• Garlic Barrier — This stuff works great on mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas and just general garden pests. It’s made of garlic so your garden smells like an Italian restaurant for about three hours but the smell does dissipate. The only problem is that you need to spray everything about once a month or so, but I guess that’s true of any product. However, it seems to repel the stuff you don’t want and not bother the stuff you DO want.

Nature’s Avenger Organic Weed Killer Herbicide — The irony of an “organic herbicide” notwithstanding, let me tell you: this stuff rocks! It smells like oranges and when they say it works fast, trust me, they mean it. Shake it up, spray it, and in a few hours your weeds are shriveling.

It’s the perfect organic alternative to RoundUp, which is made by Monsanto, which everyone knows is evil. But even if Monsanto weren’t evil and RoundUp wasn’t an endocrine disruptor in mice and a cause of genetic damage in small critters (and who knows, maybe big ones too), I’d still recommend Avenger because, to repeat: it rocks. So, that’s today’s organic gardening tip.

• Bat Guano — I don’t buy a lot of fertilizer because when you have a koi pond your filter gives you a lot of lovely nutrient-rich pond sludge which is the best fertilizer I know. But I decided to give the bat guano a try on my shrubs and, well, holy smokes! My shrubs have taken off like a rocket ship. Also, I didn’t have enough for my entire hedgerow, and you can really see which shrubs got the bat guano and which ones didn’t.

Anyway, I’m not getting anything for recommending this stuff or linking to Arbico Organics which is the online catalog I use. I’m sure you can find this stuff in a lot of places online.

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>Morning Commute

>Look what I saw on my way to the office this morning:

I’m lucky enough to have a morning “commute” that is basically a stroll through my garden…

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>Things I Can’t Do Well

>Mr. Beale and I are getting ready to go out of town for some vay-kay. Can’t wait to post pics from our trip and see if you guys can figure out where we are!

Needless to say, posting will be light over the next few days (though I truly don’t know how to quit you, so don’t hold me to that).

In the meantime, if you know the secret to any of these things, please let me know:

• Cook brown rice: it’s freaking rice for crying out loud! And I’m a pretty good cook! But for some reason my brown rice always comes out either too wet or too dry or not cooked enough or overcooked or just plain yuck.

My Pitiful Cilantro

• Grow cilantro: This is my second attempt at growing cilantro. It goes like gangbusters for the first month or two and then wilts. Last time I planted it in the ground in a shadier area. This time it’s in a pot in the sun. Same results.

Maybe it’s too hot here in Tennessee? I find that hard to believe, since cilantro is a staple of Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes. But for whatever reason I can’t grow it.

• Grow dill: see, Grow Cilantro. I think snails got it last time.

My Rockin’ Patchouli

• Figure out what to do with patchouli: I’m growing patchouli in my garden, mostly because I saw it at the Herb Society sale back in the spring and thought it was funny. What Dirty Fucking Hippy doesn’t grow patchouli when presented the opportunity? It’s doing pretty well, the leaves have that distinctive patchouli stink, but I don’t know what the hell to do with it. Clip the leaves and dry it for potpourri? (We are not potpourri people.) Put some leaves in oil? Eat it? Anyone? Bueller?

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>Springtime

>It’s been a while since I’ve done any garden blogging, for obvious reasons. However, two weeks ago I got my first sunburn of the season, cleaning detritus out of the koi pond.

Everything is busting out — my wisteria just popped open yesterday, my lilacs have unfurled their heavy, heady blossoms, and this shrub, whose name I always forget, is in full bloom. It’s so fragrant that it perfumes our entire porch. I keep meaning to plant more because I love any plant with fragrance, but damn if I can remember what the thing is.

Day before yesterday, in advance of last night’s rain, I set up our rain barrels. I love, love, love rain barrels. I wish I could have hundreds of them; it’s free water, every time it rains. I just love how when I use them I’m not paying Metro Water (Yes, I am that cheap). Another neat thing is that I can water the garden while Mr. Beale is in the shower and he won’t get mad at me for messing with his water pressure.

We have four of them. Ours are old pickle shipping containers, they are big and round and green and hold about 65 gallons. Let me say if I had to do it all over again I’d get one of these with the flat back, though I also think $150 is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a rain barrel. You can get one from Metro Water right here in Nashville for 50 bucks, and they even tell you how to make your own.

Here’s a great idea: a flexible rain barrel from TuffTech Bags. I think this is an especially great idea if you can position it on some kind of cart. That way you can transport it around your garden when you need to water. One of the problems with rain barrels is that they are gravity-fed, so you’re pretty much stuck watering only those garden beds downhill from your barrel.

If I were smart and a real do-it-yourselfer, which I”m not, I’d devise a rigging system that both held the rain barrel aloft and allowed me to tilt it, so I can empty it completely. Where’s an MIT student when you need one?

Hell, if I really had my way I’d design a complex cistern system like the one I read about a few years ago. This guy in Michigan designed an underground cistern and filter system to use rainwater to flush all of his home toilets. There was a backup system to use city water in case of dry months, but dang what a good idea that is. I hate to think of all the fresh, clean water we’re wasting just flushing the commode.

Last night’s rain did not fill up my rain barrels; we had more wind than rain, so the barrels filled up only about halfway. Still, that’s about 100 gallons of water I can use.

Here are some more signs of spring:

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>You Don’t Know Elaeagnus Like I Know Elaeagnus!

>It’s almost fall and one of the things I love most about this time of year is that my Elaeagnus is in bloom.

Eleaegnus is one of my most favorite shrubs (it’s also known as Russian olive), because it’s evergreen, so it’s great for screening. It also has beautiful silvery-green leaves. But the best thing about it is its fragrant blossoms, and now is when it’s in bloom. Starting in late September the shrubs fill the air with the most wonderful aroma. Few things bloom in fall so this is quite a treat. Plus, unlike privet or some other flowering shrubs which lean toward the noxious, Elaeagnus is a little spicy. I just love it.

So imagine my shock when I learned that landscapers can no longer sell Elaeagnus. Apparently the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture has listed Elaeagnus as an “invasive” species and retail sale has been banned; landscapers must sell off all their existing stock, and wholesalers will be banned from selling it after next year. So excuse me while I run out and buy a big shrub to fill the giant hole in front of my house.

{pause}

Okay, I’m back. Apparently the TN Dept. of Agriculture issued this list of banned non-native plants: privet is on the list, as are varieties of honeysuckle and mimosa.

I have no problem trying to control invasive, exotic plant species: look how kudzu has decimated the landscape down in Alabama. I just object to Elaeagnus being lumped into the “invasive” category.

I’ve had Elaeagnus for close to 10 years. The stuff is the antithesis of invasive. It grows tall, sure. But it doesn’t send out shoots like bamboo. It doesn’t propagate like some plants do. It stays put. You don’t need a freaking blow torch to keep it from taking over the yard as you do with honeysuckle or privet.

So I can’t imagine what the TDA was thinking by lumping my beloved Elaeagnus in with aggressive colonizers like privet or honeysuckle. I mean come on already!

In the meantime, my internet is down so I’m taking advantage of the free WiFi offered by our wonderful Nashville Public Library system. Don’t know when I’ll be back to regular blogging.

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