Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watering the Garden

I’ve been dragging hoses and hauling watering cans for the past several weeks so naturally this week’s blog is about watering. In my travels around town I’ve seen a few watering "no-no’s."

Neighbor Ed's garden--looking good
First, it takes up to two years for plant material to fully root in so if you have newly planted landscaping make sure they get 1" of water a week. A well established plant and grass can certainly handle a little drought but drought does stress the plants and make them more susceptible to disease even into the following year

Second, water in the morning so that any water that splashes on to the leaves has a chance to dry before evening. This will reduce the opportunity for disease.

Third, water the soil, not the plant. I noticed my neighbor Ed, whose garden is looking quite lush, water with a sprinkler the other evening. Watering from overhead is very inefficient because of evaporation. Water will also splash up onto lower leaves and can invite soil borne diseases such as tomato blight. Watering in the evening also can provide an opportunity for diseases, since they thrive in moist conditions.

Put the hose at the base of the plant
to ensure proper watering

When water trees and shrubs, especially newly planted ones, place the hose right up to the base of the plant and leave it on a slow trickle for awhile. This allows the water to penetrate the root ball from the center and then move out into the surrounding soil and encourages the roots to grow out in the same direction.   

And one last thing on the watering front: Lots of people, including me, garden in containers and not just flowers but vegetables as well.  I have two whisky barrels that I plant up every year with tomotoes, peppers, eggplant and some herbs every year.  If you grow tomatoes in containers it is very important that you water them consistently.   Tomatoes require calcium to prevent a problem known as blossom end rot.  There is usually enough calcium in the soil from fertilizers to provide enough calcium but if they get too much water so that the calcium is diluted or not enough water so that they cannot pull enough up through their roots you will notice a "water spot" on the blossom end of the tomato.  Eventually it turns black and starts to rot.  If you notice this happening there are foliar calcium products on the market that you can spray on the plants to prevent it but also remember to water regularly.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Garden Walks

Garden Train with creeping sedum
in foreground
The Garden Conservancy raises money for charity through their "Open Days" program, private garden owners open their gardens to the public. You can go to their website and request to be on their e-mail list to get notices of gardens open in your area. 
Another view of trains with
sedum and veronica
Last weekend I went to two gardens in the Barrington area. The first garden has as it main feature garden trains. These "G" scale trains are built for outdoor use. The woman who owns the garden actually has a business designing and installing garden trains called Huff N Puff. In an area the size of my city lot, she had quite a layout with numerous tracks and trains all running at the same time. There was also an indoor display that basically depicted all of Illinois, from down state farms to the city of Chicago, complete with Wrigley Field, Millennium Park and Grant Park.

Non Stop Begonias, salvia
and argeratum
What I found fascinating was her use of annuals in her gardens. It’s rather inspiring to see plants most people can only afford to use in containers being used as bedding plants. She had a whole bed of tuberous (Non-Stop) begonias in full bloom that were gorgeous. It inspired me to stop at Countryside and get a few for my last container. It is mind boggling to think of the number of flats and 4" containers that are needed to fill a garden that size. It must be truckloads.

The second garden was equally as fabulous, though for different reasons. Again, lots of use of annuals for great color punch, but also, as my friend pointed out, several well-placed arbors to give some structure to an other wise flat landscape when you moved away from the house area. One in particular had clematis growing up the arbor and shrub roses along side.

Clematis arbor
Janice also pointed out that even in the shady areas, the turf grass was thick and green. It’s hard to grow grass in shade and in really dense shade we usually recommend putting in some type of ground cover. To do it successfully, you must start with the right type of grass seed mix. Most shady mixes will have very little bluegrass and lots of fine and tall fescues. It’s important not too push the grass by heavily fertilizing as that will just result in tall spindly blades of grass.

We over heard the owner of this property tell another visitor that she has gardeners in Monday through Friday. That’s a bit intimidating so I am perfectly happy with my little lot.

All of this brings me to the subject of our next garden walk, which is next Saturday, July 9th. It is sponsored by the McHenry County Master Gardeners and is a major fund-raiser for them. This group of volunteers gets special training by the Cooperative Extension Service and must also complete additional training to keep their certificates current. They repay the extension service by volunteering in the extension office in Woodstock and answering homeowner horticultural questions. The garden walk starts at the demonstration garden at McHenry County College and then to 8 other gardens in southern McHenry County. The cost is $17.