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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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Happy 4th of July!

   We had a hot, dry and windy holiday - so windy that the city had to postpone their fireworks display. That's okay - better to be safe!

   With this heat, and with having treated my lawn to deter crabgrass, I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to save my lawn, since the beginning of summer. We finally had a nice gentle rain last night, and my lawn and plants seem visibly relieved. I still need to dig up quite a bit of dead crabgrass, but I just keep after it.  I'm not going to try to over-seed until fall, anyway, because of the heat.  Also, I need to wait because I just applied some leftover fertilizer to the bluegrass, since it seemed so dry and stressed.  Just in time for that rain, too. Believe it or not, it seems to have already "greened up."

   My zucchini plants have so many blossoms, but I had to move the planter over by the flowers, in order to access the bees for pollination.  . 

Zucchini Blossom with Bee

   I'm still waiting for some zucchinis, though, and fear that I should have thinned them out to begin with.  I added some fertilizer yesterday, though, so let's wait and see.

Trumpet Lilies

  Here's an older bed of trumpet lily bulbs.  I'll be thinning these out this year.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

More pruning and some mulch . . .

Front Shrub Needs a Haircut

   This is a deciduous evergreen shrub It stayed green all winter (although we had a mild winter, for Colorado). It seems to have grown about 15 inches this year.  I almost didn't want to trim it, but it was over-lapping the edges and corners of the sidewalk, and I couldn't see over it, which was a security issue.  Also, I had to really trim the corner branches, because I kept scratching my arms against the protruding branches. and I didn't want anyone else to hurt themselves.  I also needed to freshen up the mulch, because it has been so hot (110 -112 degrees) here, and the mulch helps keep the ground from drying out.

   Again, I kept my spritzer bottle full of water nearby to spray myself with, and this time I hydrated with a can of Orange Crush. Both were very refreshing!

This did say "112," but it changed 
before I could capture it on-camera.
(The time is incorrect.)

This got me through!

Trimmed and mulched with red mulch.

Brown mulch protects and "dresses up" this area.

   The deciduous evergreen is on the right, in the corner.  Those black panels are trombe wall enclosures.  They worked well last winter, but in the summer, I depend on the sun to migrate so far north in the sky that the house soffits shade them from direct sunlight. 

   I found the two bags (one red and one brown) of Scotts Hyponex mulch at Walmart's garden center for only $2.97 per bag. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Transplanting, Trimming and Clean up

   I transplanted a few of my flower seedlings, which is always a risk.  I thought I had planted "Envy" zinnias in both of my front entrance planters. One of them was doing fine, and the other one was being eaten by a bug (I'm not sure what kind of bug yet, though). When I realized that the successful flowers were the "Giant Lavender Gem" zinnias that had failed in my spring sprouting cubicles, instead of just plant a seed or two in the other planter and have a nice bouquet, I decided to go ahead and transplant one of the two from the successful planter.  Big mistake - now they both look kind of stressed, especially the one I transplanted.  It has been in the "100's" temperature-wise here, so that's a factor, and I should have left well-enough alone.  Also, it looks like I have several of the Giant Lavender Gem plants growing in my front flower beds. All this time, I thought I was going to get some green Envy zinnias but I think they were devoured, too.  Also, one zinnia bloomed, and instead of being "dahlia-like", it seems more like a single daisy. It might be because I planted them in containers. I'll see what the ground-grown blooms look like pretty soon. Note:  When I realized some of the flowers were susceptible to a parasite, and some not as much, I sprinkled some diatomaceous earth around them.  It does seem to have helped, but I think I'll have to treat with something a little stronger - not sure what, though.)
Zinnia-not transplanted yet

My Zinnia

Package - not exactly a match

Transplanted Zinnia

    I had better luck with this daisy transplant. I've always had good luck with daisies, so we'll see.  

Pansies and Daisies

   My only vegetable that's made it so far is the zucchini. It is growing so well, I'm afraid to thin it or transplant it.  It has lots of buds, too. I've never tried growing a bush-style zucchini before, so I'll wait to see what kind of support I'll need. It needs to be watered twice a day, though, so I'll see if I'm going to break it up. The drainage holes are working great, I'm happy to say.

Zucchini plants
Zucchini Buds (at the base).

Here Are the Zucchini Seeds I Used
I Bought them Off the Shelf at Walmart

   All of my shrubs are overgrown already, so this morning, I went ahead and trimmed the front-most one, since it had become the biggest eyesore to me because the roses at the base were all faded, and everything looked out-of-shape.  I used an old Black and Decker trimmer that I had found at Walmart about 12 years ago. Even though the temperature on my patio reached 111 degrees, I just made sure I spritzed myself with water and took frequent fluid breaks.  All I had on hand was Wild Cherry Pepsi - no, sorry, water wasn't gonna' cut it- and believe me, it hit the spot. It took me about two hours. 
Trusty Old Trimmer

More Untrimmed

Trimmed (Big Improvement)
Trimmed, plus New Daisies
Trimmed - South View

   I guess my excuse for not planting more veggies yet is because I really haven't had the time, due to trying to dig up half of my lawn that turned out to be crabgrass, so I can re-seed by fall. (Hopefully sooner if it ever cools down outside.)  I also need to wait to re-seed the grass, because I read that it is best to wait 60 days after applying the crabgrass deterrent.  Even though I applied it last February, it didn't really get "watered in" until May-June, since we had so little snow, and it didn't warm up enough to risk turning on the sprinklers until late.  My neighbors seem to be having similar issues.  

 More Dead Crabgrass
Crabgrass and Spur Patch
Pulled crabgrass and Weeds
There were so many ants, I treated the area with diatomaceous earth, and it helped a lot, but I have to keep an eye on it. I also sprinkled it on my shrubs, because I was finding little spider webs on them.  It helped, but today I finally decided to spray them with a little "MiteX, after I finished trimming.  I've used it in the past, and it works pretty well.  We'll see.

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