Fritillary Caterpillar and Butterfly

One of the fun side events caused by the gardening habit is the witnessing of nature's amazing works. Lately I've been seeing quite a bit of the fritillary butterfly in its various stages of growth.  It's probably the gulf fritillary butterfly but there are several different kinds in our area and even though I'm a plant person I'm not necessarily an insect person!  I found the orange with black spiked caterpillars on a passion flower vine in the back near our shed. The passion flower vine is one of several possible host plants for the fritillary butterflies. I saw this next caterpillar hanging out on a wild white eupatorium that decided to plant itself in my self-sowing garden. It's a pretty wildflower but needs removed before it goes to seed or else it will be everywhere! (which it already is). Then I found this cool display near my corner shade…

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Dry, Dry, Dry

The dry season is well upon us. Here in Tennessee we haven't seen a drop of rain in two weeks and even that was only .12 inches (at least in our garden). I'm not sure how long the plants can hang on without a good dose of liquid from the sky. And despite my repeated waterings the plants are suffering. My poor 'Shasta' Viburnum has foliage that looks much more like a contorted filbert. In times like these it's good to have a foundation of plants set that are drought tolerant. Fortunately I have a few! Here's a short list of the plants in my garden that so far have not been stressed by a month of Tennessee drought conditions. Their performance may vary depending on the quality of the soil. My Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Trees Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue' Oak Leaf Hydrangea Caryopteris Crape Myrtle (smaller and younger ones…

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John and Bob’s Organic Soil Amendments

Late this winter (or early this spring) I was contacted to try out some of John and Bob's Organic Soil Amendments.  They have a variety of different formulations that contain humus, beneficial minerals, and microbes that help the soil do what it does best - feed the plants!  They sent me several things to test and I fully intended to run a comparison evaluation of John and Bob's products by utilizing my vegetable garden beds as testing beds. I was going to have a bed with the amendments and one without then compare the same variety of tomatoes.  Unfortunately life hasn't been too kind to us this year and many of my best intentions have fallen woefully short of my expectations. But I did end up spreading the amendments on most of my garden beds and can pass on a few observations. My first observation was that blossom end rot…

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An Undersung Herb – Sage (Salvia officinalis)

I think I've failed to fully express my appreciation for my culinary sage. So let's fix that!  Sage (or Salvia officinalis) is one of those herbs that I use in all kinds of culinary concoctions from soup to seasonings.  Almost any kind of meat tastes better with fresh sage. Chicken, meatloaf, turkey, just about everything...it's almost like the bacon of the herb world...anything goes better with bacon right? Sage is easy to grow.  The plant I harvest from (and you probably only need one unless you are cooking in a commercial kitchen operation) I planted over three years ago from seed. This sage is now about 3 ft. by 3 ft. even after getting cut back each year.  The soil where my sage is planted is fairly well drained and sits slightly above grade in a raised bed created by concrete retaining wall blocks. The foliage has a silver/grey color…

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From the Vegetable Garden

The heat and lack of rain are taking their toll on the vegetable garden here in late August but there is always something to talk about!  The tomatoes are still producing but really could use some good irrigation from the sky.  The garden is ready for some cleaning up and soon I will need to start the fall garden. I'll talk more in depth on the fall garden soon but this year I'll be starting my seeds indoors then transplant them into the garden.  That should help be get around any heat germination issues. The basil is ready for cutting back to trigger some new growth. I took the trimmings/cuttings and dropped them in a jar of water to root them. This way I can have some potted plants growing with my Italian basil for winter use.  Basil roots easy and fast! The 'Tigger' Melons are covered now in powdery…

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Blessed By Beans

Beans are simply the best vegetable in the garden. I know, all you people out there who hate eating your greens disagree, but really when you compare factors like the ease of growing, pests, and diseases beans really win out.  In many cases beans will just continue to grow when other plants halt in the tracks due to dry weather conditions like we're experiencing now. While the tomato production is shutting down (hopefully that is just temporary) the beans are putting on flowers and pods in complete defiance of the weather. I've planted a few types of beans in the garden this year. I always plant bush beans because of their space saving size.  I pretty much can plant them anywhere in the vegetable garden where there is 6 inches of space or more. This year I added some heirloom beans like Cherokee Trail of Tears and a Purple Podded…

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8 Popular Plant Propagation Posts!

Since so much of the garden right now is suffering from lack of adequate rainfall I thought it might be a good time to look back at a few past plant propagation posts.  Some of these are favorites of mine and hopefully they will be useful for you too! Propagating Shrubs: 'Shasta' Viburnum plicatum var. tormentosa Hydrangeas Propagating Perennials: Russian Sage 'Powis Castle' artemisia 'Husker's Red' Penstemon Propagating Grasses: Switchgrass (Panicum) 10 Easy Plants to Propagate! Propagating in General!

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Garden Shed in the Morning (Photo)

Here's a quick look at my garden shed in the morning while a thin layer of fog was resting over the backyard. Two crape myrtles are planted on either side of the pathway but only one has bloomed - maybe next year the crape myrtles will achieve the effect I was hoping for.

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Time to Blitz the Bermuda!

Every gardener has an enemy, a nemesis, an evil villain that lurks in the garden that the garden would love to eradicate. I've had an invader this year that has been more aggressive than ever before - Bermuda grass. Once it gets a foothold in the garden it is extremely hard to hold back, let alone eliminate.  Recently I attempted to use an EcoSmart non-selective herbicide on the Bermuda grass. While it browned the leaves it did very little lasting damage and the Bermuda grass came back easily within a few days.  Bermuda grass 1, Dave 0.  This weekend I began a second assault on the Bermuda grass.   It's another extension of my very successful TARP for gardening program from a while back. I laid the tarp down over the infected area in order to bake the Bermuda to a crisp.  Let's hope this works! Hopefully the heat and…

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The Crape Myrtle Border

Along one side of our property there is a narrow strip of land between the house and our neighbors' properties.  There isn't much room to do a whole lot of gardening (or so I originally thought) and this side of the house felt exposed when we bought our home in 2007.  This is how it looked a couple years ago just after I planted a short row of hemlocks as a privacy screen: November 2007 And this is how it looks today: August 2011 You can't even see the hemlocks now.  I planted the crape myrtles in between each hemlock. We later lost two of the hemlocks then I replanted one then promptly lost it.  The two that remain are doing great now.  They get protection from the summer sun by the fast growing crape myrtles. In the winter we'll have evergreen color on the border. I added the stone…

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