The Lazy Gardener
Figuring out the right planting times & temperatures can be tricky. Feet are not always an accurate indicator of temperature. Apparently, though, in England there is a wives tale that says “If you want to know when to sow, take your trousers off and sit on the ground!” During Victorian times the former method was replaced with an elbow. I recommend against said wives tale, and opt for other means of determining the best time for planting a particular plant.
Seed packets carry a wealth of information to help. Some packets have the USDA Plant Hardiess Zone Map on them. The Zone Map shows Rochester as Zone 5b so I know to buy plants and seeds that will survive within my zone. I also need to find the dates of my “average last frost” which can be found online. I linked through the UNH Extension Home, Yard & Garden site with a search of “frost dates” to the Northeast Regional Climate Center which states “about half of the Northeast has passed the date of the average last frost.” Hooray! And that “If a frost or freeze is anticipated, watches and/or warnings will be issued by your local National Weather Service Office.” I definitely keep a weather eye out not only for frosts but for temp highs & lows, droughts, strong winds/rain and hail. I am definitely the laziest grower, but I will throw a tarp or blanket over my plants to avoid damage.
Also the UNH Extension is one of my go to sites when seeking info and not just on gardening. If you can’t find a Fact Sheet or Blog Post on what you are looking for you can Ask UNH Extension and a real person will get back to you with an answer.
So no matter how you are determining the soil temperature, try your hand at sowing some seeds. Peas are easy to grow and good to plant right now! Sometimes, as a measure of extra laziness, I leave some of last year’s pods in the garden to see what happens.
-The lazy gardener.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” -Audrey Hepburn
I took advantage of the good weather of late and a raised bed I amended (added a soil mix of loam, ash, compost) last fall and planted some seeds! I love the feel of warm spring soil and the joy of sprouting seeds.
Raised beds do warm up earlier than ground level beds, so I took a chance with the planting. I had fun making the “S” shape which hopefully will look nice when the beans mature. I also added calendula, radish and Swiss chard as well to fill out the rest of the bed. Those last will do fine with early spring weather.
There is a multitude of information on raised beds, soil mixes to fill them and what grows best in them. As always the UNH Cooperative Extension specifically and cooperative extensions in general are the best first stop for info. I searched ‘raised beds’ and this blog post “question of the week” was at the top of the list.
I found this gem, Building Raised Beds, on Hoopla. It is available to borrow right now! There are no wait lists.
Also on Hoopla this: Bean by Bean
Enjoy the weather and any beans in your future!
-The Lazy Gardener
As the weather warms up I start thinking about growing flowers, herbs, vegetables and whatever else I think I can keep alive. Seeds and plants all have their own needs. Peas like cold “toes”, as my mom would say, while tomatoes like hot “toes”. Tomatoes like their roots, and the rest of them, nice and warm! Soil takes longer to warm up than the air we feel as spring winds on.
Note of caution: There are a lot of diy instructions online. I have used some of them. If a sealant is called for remember that sealant is seeping into your soil and plantings along with the water.
Be safe! -the lazy gardener
Musings on Weeds
I, even being lazy, spend so much of my time in the garden planting, replanting, mulching, weeding, creating different areas, mowing, pruning. Even as I am completing these tasks I am noticing five more things that need doing. Ha! I want these jobs completed so my garden can finally be done! I have to remind myself that gardening is on-going. There will always be tasks to do. Always.
While the Beans Bed is doing weIl, the surrounding area needs attention. Some of the weeds there I do not mind so much. The clover, wild strawberries, chickweed, dandelions, (I feel sure my property abutters love that I let them go to seed) and more. But they are colorful, hardy, and, most importantly, pollinator forage. After all, my goal is to be wildlife friendly. But the insidious guackgrass and crabgrass are my perennial nemeses. These are the weeds I pull most. Ugh! Even the pretty ones need to be kept in vigilant check. Cautionary Tale: Do not let a large amount of wood sorrel go to seed three years ago.
But the garden is not all weeds and unfinished work. It is its own ecosystem and there to be delighted in. After all that is why we create them. Well, and for herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruit, nuts, landscape, habitat, etc. Heed the excellent advice of Master Gardener Paul James and try not gardening for a spell. Just sit, observe and enjoy.
"The most important time you can spend in the garden is the time spent not gardening. You don't have to be working the whole time you're out there. You don't have to be pruning. You don't have to be doing anything, but observing all there is to take in. Do it in the morning. Do it in the heat of the day. Do it especially at night when things really change. And that puts you in touch with the garden in a way actively gardening never will.” -Paul James on Joe Lamp’l’s Growing a Greener World Episode 1006-Catching up with TV Garden Legend Paul James
I found this Smart Lawns for Pollinators article from Michigan State University Extension which argues in favor of encouraging certain weeds in your garden. I liked it very much. Most of the articles I found about lawn weeds are about how to eradicate them.
A word of caution about noxious/invasive weeds which are different from regular nemesis weeds: You do not want them. This Invasive Plants article from the UNH Extension explains what they are and why they are prohibited.
If you need help battling your own nemeses try this Weed ID Tool I found at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension the picture ID makes it a snap to use. Also a google search adding the suffix site:edu (example below) or site:gov will bring up sites from an educational institution, most likely a county/cooperative extension or a government site depending which you choose.
This Hoopla always available ebook (above middle) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife pdf (above right) just may entice a little bit of laziness! Click on either image to go to the site.
-The Lazy Gardener
WHAT IS MULCH AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
-The Lazy Gardener
I still have the substrate in the refrigerator to try for a second batch. After that we plan to make clay from that same substrate.
-The Lazy Gardener
All pictures are from TMH except for the jar of sprouts which is from UF||IFAS Growing Sprouts article.
The Bees Knees!
Not all small flying, stabby bees and wasps around our homes and gardens are the same. Bees, wasps, sawflies and ants hail from the insect order hymenoptera- thought to be named for the Greek god of marriage as the fore and hind wing, when in flight, sort of hook and loop together or are “married”- come in wondrous variety. Some are terrifyingly big like the Great Black Wasp (1”+) and the Golden Digger Wasp (almost 1”) both of which visit our garden regularly.
There are social and solitary bees and wasps. The solitary bees wasps are generally mellow and non-aggressive as they do not have a collective hive or nest to protect as do the social bees and wasps do. But even social bees and wasps can be pretty mellow. That said, as it gets later in summer bees and wasps can become a bit testy while looking for harder to find food sources..
The sand wasp, which, for years, have inhabited a sandy, beach-garden area in our backyard, are extremely mellow. They mesmerize me as I watch their looping aeronautics just above the sand looking for prey (from the true fly, or diptera, order- which includes mosquitoes!) to put into dutifully excavated tunnels for their young. They are non-aggressive, about ¾ inch to 1 inch so their size can be alarming. Our dog, Nellie, lays in the sand alongside them and has, so far, been fine. According to this article about sand wasps from Missouri Department of Conservation they will take a fly from your hand and will not sting unless grabbed or stepped on.
The Common Eastern Bumble Bee, which frequents our abundant coneflower and liatris beds, is a social ground nester but not nearly aggressive as ground nesting social wasps. I have not come across any nests so far, but do find individual bumblebees early in the morning or later in the evening “bedded” down in a flower blossom, lots of times in fluffy purple liatris blooms.
Female andrenid bees (Andrena cornelli) foraging for nectar on Azalea (Rhododendron canescens).
Bees and wasps are among our many beneficial pollinators. Eliminating nests should be carefully considered. If they are out of the way and of no danger to people, pets or structures, consider leaving them be. Maybe cordon off the area. If you do consider a pest control method this humorous, cautionary tale from from Missouri State University or this fact sheet from UNH are great places to start.
Nests in Undesirable Places
You may come across a bee or wasp nest in a building or on the ground. Paper wasps usually build their nests high enough on buildings that they’re not problematic; yellow jackets, on the other hand, may enter buildings through openings under shingles or siding to construct their nest in the wall cavity. These nests will be gone by winter. With most species (though not honeybees), only the queen lives through the winter, and she leaves the nest to wait out the cold in a sheltered place.
If you find a ground nest that might pose a threat, the first step is to observe it. Solitary species may be seen excavating tunnels in the ground for several days, but then usually leave the area. Though they can sting, they are usually non-aggressive. On the other hand, social species—especially yellow jackets—will aggressively defend their nest.
Source: Types of Bees and Wasps in Massachusetts
Proper identification is also key, but can be tricky as getting close is necessary. And gettin close to fast-flying, stabby-stingers is distressing. We discovered several bees/wasps coming and going from a spot at the bottom of a section of siding on our house. We had thought at first they were honey bees and reached out to the Seacoast Beekeeper’s Association. The beekeeper gave a few tips on the differences between honeybees (hundreds coming and going all day) and yellowjackets and recommended trying to get an image. I was able to get about 4 feet away from the opening to a wasps nest in our siding and zoom in with my phone. Using the internet for id I am fairly sure that the wasps were yellowjackets. We did hire professionals to take care of the problem as the nest was becoming visible on the interior wall in our cellar.
A Cautionary Tale: Make sure you do not pull siding away from your home to see what kind of nest the wasps are building. My husband’s investigation resulted in some very nasty sting-stabs and he sported a swollen eyelid and wrist for days. Both painful and itchy!
Also some people learn of a severe allergy only after being stung. Watch from a distance to find clues about what kind of bees and wasps are in your area. And look through this beautifully illustrated and informative Bee Basics from the USDA, Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership.
Be careful out there.
Source links used in article:
Great Black Wasp
Great Golden Digger Wasp
Sand Wasps Missouri Department of Conservation
Getting Rid of Wasps’s Nest Missouri State University
Controling Wasps, Bees and Hornets Around Your Home Fact Sheet UNH Cooperative Extension https://extension.unh.edu/resource/controlling-wasps-bees-and-hornets-around-your-home-fact-sheet-0
Seacoast Beekeeper’s Association
Bee Basics An Introduction to Our Native Bees Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees
Resources (from this article)
*** http://www.pollinator.org *** very informative, bee articles, planting and gardening guides.
*** http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators *** - most informative, concerning pollinators.
Types of Bees and Wasps in Massachusetts
Source links not used, but useful:
Bees and Their Habitats in Four New England States
The Bees Knees!
Collecting garden ideas
This great article Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic from Vox talks about several different projects you can do right from home! There is transcribing historical weather records to backyard astronomy to collecting data from right where you are.
Citizen Science can be a great way to participate in nature from your own backyard if you are like me and not quite ready to jump all the way into tending to the garden just yet.
The Lazy Gardener
Citizen science in the garden
From the Rochester Public Library Children’s Room collection:
Citizen Scientists Be a part of scientific discovery from your own backyard by Loree Griffin Burns.
From the always available Hoopla collection:
The Field Guide to Citizen Science by Catherine Hoffman, Caren Cooper, Darlene Cavalier.
Sharing the garden with wildlife
Creating a themed garden
Creating a Themed Garden
One of the most popular themed gardens is the Three Sisters. Corn, or maize, squash and beans have been grown together for centuries by native Americans. These companions help each other grow. The corn stalks support the climbing beans. The large leaves of squash creates a living mulch that protects the soil from heat and evaporation. The beans pull nitrogen from the air and release some of it in the soil. There are many stories and much folklore and history about the Three Sisters.
Another fun themed garden is a pizza garden. In this type of garden one would grow ingredients for pizza such as tomatoes, peppers, oregano and basil. It could be shaped in a circle with each wedge or “slice” having a different plant.
I have always wanted to have a moonlight or night time garden planted with lots of silver vegetation, white flowers and blooms that only open at night. I have not yet created one but am now inspired to try one in a container.
Other ideas are a Butterfly garden with lots of plants that host and feed butterflies, caterpillars and eggs. Perhaps adding a muddy spot for butterflies to drink or a dinosaur garden with ferns, moss and prehistoric looking vegetation. Also a dinosaur or two in amongst the foliage.
Some other examples are: beneficial insect garden, herb garden, tea garden, bird garden, edible flower garden, salad garden, cocktail garden, cutting garden, burrito garden, fairy garden, medicinal garden, cottage garden. They can be any size or shape. In the ground or in a container. Themed gardens are limited only by one’s imagination.
Enjoy your garden!
The Lazy Gardener
Here are some always available titles from Hoopla digital:
Super Simple Butterfly Gardens by Alex Kuskowski
Growing a Pizza Garden by Maddie Spalding
Growing Your Own Tea Garden by Jodi Helmer
The Edible Salad Garden by Rosalind Creasy
The Medicinal Gardening Handbook by Dede Cummings, Alyssa Holmes