Archive for gardening

To Weed or Not To Weed

This spring, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to mow my backyard – the riding mower is on the frits and I am not going to push mow an acre!  So my backyard currently looks like a jungle, no kidding.

I have so many plans for the back 40, but I have limited time and resources.  I have several garden beds layed out and I have been transplanting divisions from the front yard to the back.

However, with no way to easily mow the back, I have only mowed a few paths through the backyard; mainly to reach the water meter, pick blackberries and transplant divisions.  What I have noticed over the past two months is that I am getting a VAST array of wildflowers, tree seedlings and shrubs.

Most people would be horrified to have such an overgrown yard, but I am in natural gardening heaven!  The tall bluegrass and fescue I can do without, but some other plants are definitely keepers:

-Several different species of Goldenrod – the official state flower of Kentucky – have sprung up all through the backyard.  This is my number one keeper!

Ironweed, mostly seen in cow pastures and fields, ha sprouted up in several places. I love the purple flowers.

Milkweed; most of you probably think this is a weed – but you would be mistaken.  Milkweed is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly and I love butterflies in my garden.  This one is also a keeper.

Walnut tree seedlings; I am allowing three black walnut trees to take up residence at the extreme bottom of my yard.  I love walnuts and if I keep them confined to the very back, I won’t have to worry about walnuts all in my garden in the fall.

Hickory nut seedlings; this is a definite “must keep”.  As I child I use to go with my grandparents in the fall to pick hickory nuts for the winter.

In addition to the new plant life, my overgrown backyard has become home to all types of wildlife:





-Red tailed hawks

So, if you want to attract wildlife or native plants to your yard, just leave a small portion of your grass unmowed and see what takes root in your gardens.


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Allowing Small Creatures Help With the Gardening

With organic gardening becoming the norm in more and more gardens, it only seems natural to let the tiny creatures of the garden assist you with some of your gardening chores.  Ever wonder what Earthworms do to your soil?  Or whether you should try and get rid of those moles tunneling through the garden?  What about the birds pecking the ground or roosting in trees?  Should I try to get rid of what some gardeners call nuisances in the garden, or should I use my instincts and try to work with these creatures?


In the spirit of being a true naturalist, I have decided to enlist the help of small and tiny creatures in my garden to help me make the most out of my resources.  The animal most gardeners dread seeing the most is probably Mr. Snake.  Snakes rank right up there with root canals and filing income tax for most people.  More snakes meet their fatal end with the edge of a shovel or hoe stabbing into their middles. 


But, if you would just stop a minute before hacking your slithering enemy to death, you may learn to enjoy the benefits of snakes in the garden.  Number one, if you run upon a snake in the garden, he is going to be more afraid of you than you can ever be of him.  The snake’s first instinct is to get away at the first sign of danger.  If you will just step back, the snake will skim across the grass faster than you can scream, “Help!”  That snake will be so startled, he won’t come out for the rest of the day, and he will probably find another hiding spot, one well away from the crazy humans.


Snakes will keep your yard free from excessive mice, voles, and occasional rats that are a natural part of a neighborhood back yard.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to put up with see the occasional snake in the garden in exchange for no mice or rats in my home.


Walk through the gardening section of discount and home improvement centers and you will see many traps and contraptions to eliminate moles from your yard.  Moles are the tiny bulldozers that leave raised mounds all through some lawns and gardens.  Some people will try anything to stop these tunneling creatures from making tracks through their lawns, but is that really necessary?  Moles are not vegetarians, so contrary to popular belief, they don’t eat the roots of your plants and trees.  Instead, moles continually feast on grubs they uncover in the soil. 


So whenever moles are leading a wagon train through my gardens, I just gently lift the mounding soil into pots and use them to make container gardens.  This soil is nice and fluffy which leads to nice drainage and aeration, perfect conditions for container grown plants.  Or, I will sprinkle the super fine soil across the lawn to provide supplementation throughout grassy areas.  It is also easy to use a steel tined rake and rake the mounds into the surrounding areas.  I look at moles like an extra hand with tilling the soil.  They keep the topsoil aerated and tilled; in return, they also eat all the grubs hibernating in the soil.  I don’t know about you, but the quicker the moles can rid me of Japanese beetles, the happier I will be.


Spiders are another ick factor for some gardeners, but without their continual patrolling of gardens and lawns, all our plants would be overrun with aphids and other soft bodied insects.  Spiders use their webs to capture large flies, cabbage moths and other flying creatures.  As a matter of fact, some large farm install “spider boxes” throughout their fields to have with insect problems.  These spider boxes are typically wooden crates turned upside down; the spiders spend the hot days under the cover of the box and build their webs in the vegetation.


So next time you are tempted to hack at a poor little snake, set out mole traps or brush away those spider webs, think first of all the benefits these creatures can have to a natural landscape.  You will be surprised at what these creatures can do.

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Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest

Plant a garden of ancient herbs and learn how early healers used them to cure sicknesses and aid in emergencies.  By planting this garden in the shape of a horseshoe, you will have a fragrant arch that will send you back in time; back to a time were doctors and pharmacies, hospitals and nurses, and laypeople and grandmothers turned to plants for their medicinal needs.  Many of these green medicines are still used in modern medicines today.



1 seedling Aloe Vera

1 seedling Calendula

1 seedling catnip

1 seedling dill

1 seedling fennel

1 seedling lavender

1 seedling lemon balm

1 seedling parsley

1 seedling peppermint

1 seedling sage

1 seedling woolly lamb’s ear

3 seedlings cilantro


Slit open the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant and squeeze the clear gel on your skin.  It feels cool and soothing when used on minor burns or skin irritations.  Stuff a pillow with lavender to ensure sweet, colorful dreams, and make your own bandages with woolly lamb’s ear leaves.  You can concoct a lemon balm wash for cold sores, and a healing throat gargle from sage leaves steeped in vinegar.  The petal of Calendula will surprise you with their ability to cleanse wounds and heal chapped skin, and a cup of catnip tea may become your favorite sleepy time drink.


Pick out an area for an 8 by 8 foot size garden that will receive at least six hours of full sun daily.  Outline a horseshoe shape, approximately six feet wide and eight feet long with planting beds 18 inches wide.  Make sure the opening of the horseshoe is facing south


Prepare the garden bed as you would any new garden space.  You can with till the top layer of soil under, double dig the entire garden, or do as I do and use the newspaper method.  Spread a layer of newspaper over the garden area, and then begin layering shredded bark, mulch and compost over the newspaper.  Garden is immediately ready to plant and the new emerging plant roots will grow through the newspaper into the topsoil below.


One the horseshoe shaped beds are planted, fill in the open area of the garden with mulch or shredded bark to keep the weeds down and provide a comfortable place to relax.  When planting, maintain 12 to 18 inches between each plant.  The tallest herbs, like fennel and dill, should be planted on the north side of the garden to prevent shading of the shorter plants.


Uses for Some Herbs:

1.     Dill – helps with upset stomachs and heartburn.  The foliage, flower buds and seeds are the eatable portions of this herb.

2.     Coriander seeds – the seedpods of cilantro are called coriander seeds.  Snacking on these seedpods will give your mouth a breath-freshening feeling.

3.     Aloe Vera – the oozing gel inside an aloe Vera leaf will help sooth mild burns, sunburns and other mild skin irritations.

4.     Peppermint – rubbing peppermint leaves on your exposed skin will help discourage nuisance bug bits.

5.     Fennel – the seeds of fennel taste like licorice and a helpful with weight loss because they satisfy hunger and decrease appetite.

Home Remedies

1.     Tummy Tea – strip dried peppermint leaves from their stems, pack them into a clean tin, and cover with an airtight lid.  Store in a cool, dark cupboard.  Herbalists use the healing, anesthetic menthol of peppermint tea to soothe upset stomachs and indigestion.  Scoop 2 to 3 teaspoons per cup into a tea ball, place into a teapot, and add boiling water.  Steep for 8 minutes, cool, then sip slowly for gentle relief.

2.     Sage Gargle – Sage leaves are filled with astringent and antiseptic tannins that comfort sore throats.  Pack a wide mouthed jar with whole dried or fresh sage leaves.  Cover the sage leaves completely with apple cider vinegar and cap tightly.  Store in a cool, dark place, and shake daily.  After two weeks, pour the sage-vinegar mixture through a strainer and rebottle the liquid.  Put it in your medicine cabinet and use as a gargle for sore throats.

3.     Cold Sore Remedy – Strip dried lemon balm leaves from their stems, and fill a clean glass or tin container.  Cap tightly and store in your medicine chest to make an antiviral wash for cold sores.  Put 2 to 4 teaspoons of dried herbs in a container and add 1 cup of boiling water.  Steep for ten minutes, strain, and let cool.  Apply the cooled mixture to cold sores with a sterile cotton ball several times a day.

4.     Herbal Bath Bags – Bath bags are simple to make and can be washed and reused.  With pinking shears, cut a piece of fabric into an 8-inch square.  Fill the center of the fabric with a handful of lavender flowers and stems and lemon balm leaves, lift the edges to form a bundle, and tie closed with a piece of ribbon.  For a muscle-relaxing soak, drop the herbal bag into a tub of hot water.  Climb in, stretch out, and breathe in the heavenly fragrance.

5. Dream Pillows – Aromatherapists and herbalists recommend the sweet, blended fragrances of herbs and flowers for calming, colorful, dreams.  Mix together dried lavender flowers, lemon balm leaves, and fennel and dill seeds.  Cut a 6- by 12-inch piece of soft fabric and fold it in half.  Squeeze a narrow bead of fabric glue along two of the edges and allow the seams to dry.  Loosely fill the pillow (it should be flat enough to slip inside a pillowcase) and finish closing the bag with another bead of glue.  Slip the thin fragrant pillow inside your pillowcase and drift off to sleep on a cloud of herb-scented dreams.

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