Friday, November 1, 2019

My Neighbors Have Been Very Patient 

. . . about two of my trees that have been needing to be cut down.  I searched far and wide for a company, though, that owns its own bucket, because I didn't want to have any branches end up anywhere near the house, and I didn't want to have to take down a fence section.  They also needed to own their own stump grinder, because I wanted the front to look nice afterwards.

This company fit the bill, and did a very good job, I think.  Here's a short video of their work in progress (I need to tweek this quality, yet):  

Kudos to A Better Tree Service 

Here are a few pics of the finished products:  

Natural Aspen Shavings

Decorative Bark, Mums and Pansies

I'm Keeping This Tree Another Year

Two Days Later, at Dusk

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Theme Was Red, White and Blue along the front walk this last summer, with red and white striped Petunias, along with blue Petunias, and Martha Washington Geraniums.  The white Shasta Daisies volunteered early in the Spring, and then held their spot with dark green foliage.  

 Red, white and blue petunias under the Alberta Spruce tree.

 Petunias interspersed with Martha Washington Geraniums.

The containers on each side of the front door, planted in early Spring (since Pansies thrive in cool weather) started out as splashes of color.  However, by Summer's end, they had morphed into a display of Chocolate Mint, and lavender Mums.  Once the mint was planted, it was so aggressive that the Pansies, which had faded because of the heat, couldn't compete. The Mums bloomed once, and after cutting them back, will bloom again in about a week.  Although Tuesday and Wednesday will be in the 70's and 80's, Thursday's forecast is for snow, so they will each need to be covered with a 13 gallon bag on Thursday, and also over-night.  Hopefully the weather will warm up after the snow, (about an inch) so the flowers can enjoy a prolonged Autumn.  

The pansies morphed into chocolate mint and lavender mums!

The Gallardia plant did well this summer - They love the south-exposure!  I'm going to plant some of the died-out blossoms, in hopes they'll germinate next Spring.

The front bench really needed to be refinished, and it turned out well (below).: 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Happy Autumn! 

   We have had a busy and productive summer as far as gardening and maintenance is concerned. As shared on this blog last Fall, we planted some Zoysia plugs, mainly as a test to see if they might be a viable option to replace our lawn (this summer) that has been devastated by a neighborhood-wide onslaught of crabgrass!  I'm not exaggerating when I say "onslaught."  My neighbors on every side have been plagued; some of them completely replacing their soil, and re-sodding.

   However, I was looking for something that would not only replace the crabgrass, but that would also "choke out" future crabgrass germination.  Unfortunately, my Zoysia plugs didn't survive the early winter (October 10, 2018) storm.  Usually, we have a mild Fall, with some spot-freezing, but nothing major until late November.  Of course I was hoping for something like that, because Zoysia needs warm temperatures to germinate and thrive.

   That's why I decided to try planting, (and over-seeding) with Zoysia seed, in July - I needed 90-100 degree temperatures, and I wasn't taking any chances.

This is what I started with, after removing the crabgrass thatch:

Pre-Zoysia Patch - Zone-3

These are the first Zoysia seedlings: 

Zoysia Seedlings

   Here's that section today.  I have had to pull the weeds by hand, because I didn't want any poison to come into contact with the Zoysia seedlings.  The products say they're safe for Zoysia grass, but I didn't want to take any chances, or kill any earthworms!

   The Zoysia seed has been difficult to germinate because the soil absolutely can't dry out, which is a real challenge during hot summer days of 100 degrees or more. It seems to be filling in and spreading nicely, though. The worst weed has been spur-weed, but thankfully it's easy to pull by the roots.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

It's five days before Christmas, and it's really beginning to look like it!

Front of the house

Note the net-lighted tumbleweeds behind the Creche - I knew they would come in handy!

Corner display - I even managed to include my Kaleidoscope projector light onto the pine tree.

Here are some colored solar discs that I ordered online to begin my decorations. They had to charge for eight hours before use.  I used them in front before I had time to work on the rest of the display, so they were useful and decorative.

We had been barraged by more high winds the week before, so it took a lot of raking, again, to clean up the debris of leaves and pine needles before proceeding.

The tree is high-maintenance in the fall, (this is the 2nd dumpster-full) but so happy to be rid of its dead pine needles!
Happy Scotch Pine tree!

The front yard had more aspen leaves, and tumbleweeds, to clean up, again.  I ended up using the tumbleweeds to hide a really bulky bunch of lighting and adapter plugs, and as a southwestern-style backdrop for the creche.

See the rough and tumble tumbleweeds, (yes, there's more than one in there) tamed by Christmas lights, above 💪

Monday, November 12, 2018

It snowed yesterday and last night.  I think we got about 3 inches.

Here's a photo of my security camera screen - both front and back.

This morning, the temperature on the main floor of the passive solar house was was 68 degrees, and the overnight outside temperature had fallen to 17 degrees on the patio (where the temperature gauge is). So, since the forecast was light snow all day, we went ahead and brought in some firewood, from the wood we had saved from tree-pruning and mitigation around town.  

It didn't take long for the old Heat King wood stove to bring the temperature up to 75 degrees on the main floor, and 82 degrees in the family room, where the wood stove is located.  Since it was going to snow lightly all day, we covered the wood pile up with a spare tarp.


It was only 33 degrees outside today, but sunny, so the trombe walls are warm - so warm inside that we don't need to have a fire in the wood stove. I might build a small fire late tonight, but nothing big or sustained.Here's temp in the house at 10:25 P.M..

There's a good chance the inside of the house temp will be about 60 degrees.  We'll see.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There was a windstorm this morning, and I counted 31 crabgrass seed pods that must have rolled into my yard from the nearby prairie, and my neighbors' yards.
I picked them up as carefully as possible, since each one is full of fresh seeds, and put them in a pile so I could photograph them. 

Crabgrass seed pods

   These are the innocent-looking little buggers that I have been battling since last Spring.  I previously, finally, grasped the fact that half of my lawn was crabgrass.  I say, "was," because, as I mentioned in my previous blogs, I applied a crabgrass deterrent to my lawn last February, when the weather people and weather apps all predicted  an early warm-up, and one or two Spring rain or snow storms.  We got the early warm-up, but very little snow or rain.

   When I finally did water my lawn, after "last frost," it came out of dormancy fairly fast. At first I was sure that the reason only half of my lawn was "greening up," was because I hadn't watered soon enough. I continued to water, hoping to see some more greenness, when I started to study pictures of dead crabgrass in gardening books, and in online articles.  Slowly, I had to admit that my lawn was full of crabgrass, and I was in for a lot of work if I wanted to save it.

   I started to dig up the dead crabgrass, which was patches of crabgrass thatch, and decided to re-seed with some bluegrass seed that was similar to what is there, and  that was supposed to grow in both sunny and shady spots. However, by that time,  outdoor temperatures were too hot to try to keep the seedlings from drying out, so I decided to just water and mow the grass that did green up, even though some of it is admittedly crabgrass, and wait until September to start my new grass.  

   I ordered some Scott's Bluegrass seed mix at Walmart, and picked it up postage free at the store, so I'd have it on hand when the time came to add some soil (I lost some soil when I de-thatched) and plant my grass seed. I also kept my eye out for alternatives, and did some research on the keywords: 'grasses that choke out crabgrass.'  

   I have to say I was really happy when I found some information online that Zoysia grass chokes out crabgrass!  Not only that, I found an online company that would ship my Zoysia sod (that I planned to cut into 1inch by 1inch "plugs") to my home. One of the products that I also plan to try this fall, is a liquid thatch remover that claims to turn thatch into rich, organic soil, in two to three months. If it works, it will save me a lot of work replacing the two inches of soil that pulling and raking has been taking. The company also has a liquid fertilizer that I will try on my lawn, shrubs, flowers and garden in the spring, that looks promising.

My Zoysia sod and "step-on plugger tool" arrived in three days, and I bought some lawn soil to use with it in the areas where I'd had to dig up the crabgrass thatch. I only purchased enough to plant 300 plugs, to test them first. 

Zoysia sod, and plugger tool

The pieces measured correctly, but I wasn't able to get a full 300 plugs out of the two sod panels, as suggested by the company. That's okay - I think I got about 100, which was enough for my main yard, spaced 12 inches apart or so. 

Lawn Soil

One cut Zoysia plug

Planted Zoysia plugs

   The company recommends that the Zoysia grass plugs are watered for 15 minutes each day, and that has been the most challenging part, really. I have followed directions, though; the plugs seem to be "taking," and the rest of my grass is greening up nicely. The company says that after the Zoysia grass is established, it doesn't need further watering, and will spread underground via rhizomes. I guess that's why it's able to choke out crabgrass. I'll go ahead and water until first-frost, though, because the rest of the lawn isn't Zoysia grass, yet.

Grass is greening up again

    I plan to spray the Liquid Thatch Remover on the rest of my lawn this Fall, so it will be ready to replace with Zoysia plugs next spring. I'll wait until spring to treat the areas where I planted the plugs, at the advice of the company. Here's a less-watered part of my yard.  
Crabgrass thatch
   I'm just watering it enough to keep it alive, for now, since it needs so much work. I'm hoping the Liquid Thatch Remover will turn the bare patches into fertilized soil. Also, next year when I have the Zoysia plugs established, watering won't be as much of an issue, since Zoysia grass is almost self-sustaining, according to the company.

   One problem I've had with the lawn soil is that it is growing a bumper crop of spur weed.  I have to scrape it off every few days before it takes hold.  It grows really fast, especially with so much watering.

Spur weed is not a good weed. It will turn into stickers.
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Sunday, September 16, 2018

It's Been a Busy Summer

   My Zinnias have been very "showy," and I have had a few really beautiful rose blooms. However, with the hot summer weather (we met or broke a few temperatures that were set in the 50's) it has been a challenge to grow pansies like the previous two years, especially on the south side of the house.

Here are my in-ground zinnias

Daisies - in-ground

My container zinnias and daisies have been challenged, to say the least.

   My pansies faded early on, and I had to buy some 4-packs of daisies, at Walmart, to fill in.

This rose bush never disappoints - the rosebuds and blooms are always stunning.

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