Thursday, April 30, 2009

Painting Wicker.....Should or Shouldn't You?

Have you ever painted any wicker item? It can be a devil, getting into all the little grooves and crannies. Spray paint makes the job much easier, but then you don't have the selection of color and if you want to use more than one color there is alot of taping off to do. I personally don't care for painted wicker, I mean isn't that why you buy wicker in the first get that natural color of the branch or grass? Guess I just like the natural look of wicker or even rattan, so I steer clear of using paint on it. And another thing is if you do paint wicker and then change your mind about the color, your in for a real treat when trying to remove the paint. It's a very long and tedious job to get paint off of wicker, in fact it's almost impossible to get it all from those nicks and crannies.

I perfer to use stain on my wicker when it gets faded from the sun. Using stain is much easier than paint, I just use a throw-away brush and the stain of my choice. It does take a 1.5 hr or so to do a chair, but the results are worth it. The wicker takes stain really well and will make your wicker furniture look like new.

I also have a pair of wicker chairs that don't need stain every year but do need some TLC. Wicker will dry out and almost appear lifeless, so I give them a good dusting and then wipe them down with a lubricating oil. Pledge has a new product that does just that and it makes the wicker shine and will keep the wood from becoming dry and bridle. For getting into all the groves of wicker, use a throw-away brush.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Cover for Plants at Night

As a fellow gardener, I'm sure you've seen cloches, the glass domes that you sit over top of plants to keep them warm.These are beautiful, a whole row of them out in the garden, protecting young seedlings. But have you ever lifted one of these? They are quite heavy, and not easy to move around. I use a cheaper, more lightweight version of the glass cloches, gallon pickle jars. I have some that are glass as well as some that are made of plastic. They work just as well and are readily available.
If you don't have any of the pickle jars, try using a gallon milk jug with the spout cut off.....leave the handle to move easily. You can also use paper bags, although they will blow over if a wind picks up. You can fold over the edge and weight down with a few rocks. Plastic bags also work, although you must be diligent about removing it before the sun heats it up inside and your plant cooks.
Whatever you use, a little extra warmth at night when the temps are still dropping below freezing is enough to keep the plant from dying.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Little Cleaning Hint.....

One of the best parts about spring is being able to open the windows and let some fresh air into our homes. After awhile the very air in our houses begins to smell stale. Last week I finally was able to get outside to wash my windows, and boy did they need it. After all winter the glass was covered with dust, bug stuff (use your imagination here!) and water spots that were magnified by months of winter weather. Time to clean these guys.....

I love clean windows, I think the house just looks cleaner when the window glass is sparkling. Here's how I clean my windows, cheap and easy. First I take the screens off and wipe them down with an old piece of towel. Then I mix up a bucket of warm water with a 1/2 cup of ammonia. To really get the grime off the glass I wet the window and then wipe it with a piece of 0000 steel wool. This will remove water spots as well as all those other bits of grime. I wash the glass again and then dry with an old piece of tee shirt. Replace the screen and on to the next one. After you do both sides you'll be amazed at how nice the glass looks, a good start to your spring cleaning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Plan Your Gourd Garden Now

Gourds are one of those plants that just keep on giving. First you have this wonderful vine that can grow up to 10 feet long, making it perfect for twining around a free-standing trellis or obelisk. This fast growing vine also has a beautiful white flower, giving the plant a decorative look as well. I like this vine just because I think it's very pretty and could be trained around anything in a sunny location, but the best is yet to come.
There are many varieties of gourds, I'm sure you've seen them used as birdhouses or painted and used in the house. They are great for fall decorating all piled in a basket and displayed on your front porch.
For complete info on how to get started planning a gourd garden, please read an article I wrote on the subject.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Bowl Of Bulbs

You know spring is here when you see the first bulbs pop thru the soil and begin to set the flower buds. A big pot of bulbs can really give your garden or porch a touch of color plus give you a pretty specimen to set in a prominent spot.

This low bowl of Muscari (grape hyacinth) will really give that wow factor anywhere you place it, and the best part is that the plants will increase in size, so one pot can become two in no time.

When planning a pot such as this, use lots of bulbs, the plants are small and you really want to create a lush group of plants. The smaller bulbs like the Muscari do very well massed together, or go for any of the other bulbs that stay under 8" or so. There is a bulb in just about any color so you could match the current color scheme in your garden or on the porch. Sweet.....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Changing Direction

This is the eve of our front porch, and my husband is giving the siding a new coat of stain. We needed to do this as you can see that the wood has really been weathered. I bought a new star to hang in place of the wreath, but the colors were so similar that you couldn't even see it. Once the stain was all on we decided that the color was just too dark, from the street this area looked like a black hole!

So we went to the hardware store and had some oil based paint mixed to match the color of the house, which is latex. I think this lighter color makes the area look bigger and much brighter, I'm sorry we didn't do it sooner. What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Step Up In The Garden

Remember those old wooden ladders from long ago? Many of us still have these old ladders, although most of them are not safe to actually climb on. But they do make a terrific prop in the garden and can be used to display pots of plants or any other items you like to have in your garden.
One of my favorite uses for a wooden ladder is to train a climbing vine up the steps, like use it as a trellis of sorts. I think it's also good for plants like gourds, you could slip the fruit in a net or stocking and allow it to hang from a step. Maybe a display of all your favorite rocks or small rusty iron pieces. I have a collection of ceramic frogs and snails that look pretty cute sitting on all the steps, any collection would look good.
So drag out that old ladder and find a home in your garden for it, it just may give you a "boot" up on all your gardening buddies!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thinking about a Very Large Pond? Read this first.....

I have never met anyone who wouldn't want a pond somewhere on their property. The appeal isn't only aesthetic either, the sound the water makes is soothing to everyone. I have had a pond in every house I've owned, but they were small ones, usually only holding around 50 gallons of water or so. So when my husband and I bought our current home, I was very enthusiastic about having a very large pond. This one holds 27,000 gallons of water and is 4' at it's deepest level. There is a well made waterfall with a complete filtering system. The liner is heavy duty with a soft liner underneath it; the walls are made of shale and the area next to the patio is a 2' deep planting bed. This photo was taken late last fall when the cold had mostly killed all the plant material, but it looks wonderful in the summer when all is in bloom. We have several dozen feeder goldfish in the pond which have grown huge. I love to see them all on the top of the water, their color glinting in the sun. I have been able to incorporate water plants which do very well in this sunny location.
Now for the down side: If you think about it, 27,000 gallons of water is huge, if we didn't have our own well I would hate to think of what it would cost to fill a pond this size. Since this pond sits in a location that gets sun all day, algae is a big problem. The filtering system works well, but algae still grows even keeping the PH of the water at it's correct level. Every spring we must drain the pond and give it a deep cleaning, this is an all day project since it takes about 4 hours to drain the water. We then must catch the fish and keep them in a large bucket. Then on to the cleaning: we take our pressure washer and clean the liner of all the algae and whatever else has blown into the water and settled on the bottom. Once this is done it is time to refill the water, which takes 9 hours with only one hose running. The fish go back in and I add a aqua shade product, which turns the water blue and keeps the sunlight from growing too much algae.
The moral to this story is that while having a pond is wonderful, the bigger they are, the more work. And without a well it would be quite costly to fill. Also consider the cost of running a pump to circulate the water and provide power for the waterfall. I have estimated that it costs about $20.00 a month to run our pump. I consider this amount small considering the pleasure the sound the waterfall makes gives to my family and I. I also have the benefit of all the wildlife that comes to my pond to a sip of water. A huge variety of birds, squirrels, deer and all those nocturnal critter's that my dog tells me we have. The dragonflies are a treat as well.
So, if your thinking of building a large pond, please consider all these points of maintaining a large body of water in your yard. My next house will have a much smaller water feature: I'm thinking that a pond less waterfall is the way to go, a pretty waterfall without the body of water to maintain.....the less work the better!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Does A Strawberry Pot Really Need Strawberries?

Who said that you must put strawberries in a strawberry pot? Not me.....I think these pots work very well for many different groups of plants. For those with only a small space but a big desire to grow fresh herbs, why not plant all your favorites in this one pot for your own little herb garden. The larger pots have enough niche's for many favorites, and they could stay in a pot for 2 years before the plants began to overgrow the pot. How about a cherry tomato in the top space, along with some leaf lettuce and maybe a parsley or cilantro. Several different varieties of leaf lettuce would give you lots of color and you could actually get 2 crops a summer. What about spring bulbs? A pot full of tulips or even daffodils would look great on the front porch. For a hot spot.....Cati's or any of the annuals that love the heat, moss roses, marigolds or lavender. I could really see these pots done up for a shady spot.....ferns, sweet woodruff, trillium's, lobelia with a big, beautiful hosta in the top.

So, if you have one of these strawberry pots tucked away somewhere, dig it out and plant it up for a very different kind of container growing. Growing Hint: since my pot stands about 2' tall, it takes alot of water to get all the way to the bottom. My solution to make watering easier (and to save water) is to cut a piece of 1" PVC pipe that fits standing on the bottom of the pot and it comes all the way up to the lip of the pot. I drilled holes every 2" all the way down the pipe. When I water, I pour right down the pipe which waters all the soil right down to the bottom of the pot. It's usually not possible to center the pipe as a plant would go right in the center, but the pipe still makes watering much easier.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Making a Topiary.....Fun & Easy

Making a ivy topiary is one of the best times I have in my little potting shed. I make my own heart shaped form, but you can also buy topiary forms in just about any shape you can think of.
I use a heavy coat hanger and just cut off the hook with a pair of wire cutters. Then start shaping the wire into the heart shape, you may want to wear a pair of leather gloves for this. Your heart shape doesn't have to be perfect, after all it will be all covered.
Once the wire shape is done, find a nice pot you'll want your topiary to sit in. At your local nursery or variety store, find a 4" pot of ivy with the longest tendrils you can find. Transfer the plant into your nice pot, and carefully insert the heart frame. Begin to wind the ivy tendrils around the wire, not to tightly but close. Use plastic covered bread ties to hold the ends of the ivy in place. As the ivy grows, keep wrapping the frame. Give your topiary bright light and water when dry. Don't forget to fertilize during the growing months with a general all purpose mix. Hint: when selecting your ivy plant, only buy one with the small leaves, the larger leaf ivy is usually for outdoor use.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Very Busy Day!

Wow, what a day.....I just finished pruning all the shrubs in my back yard.....this is quite the job. I started at the crack of dawn and never turned off my electric clippers! I did manage some time to get the rack of lamb on for 45 of my closest friends that are coming for dinner tonite. I'm almost ready for company, but first I wanted to cut my hair, do a manicure and clean the house. How's your day going..........?
o.k., I confess, this photo is actually Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire, England............April's Fool!!!