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Monday, January 30, 2012

Miscellaneous Musings

After last year's drought, I have a tendancy to get excited if we get any significant amount of rainfall.

Imagine my joy then, when we got over three inches last Wednesday.  Of course the problem with getting over three inches of rain in one day is that it tends to lead to flooding. As it happened, we were lucky and by afternoon it had cleared up, so the street flooding that often occurs around freeway off ramps and service roads had, for the most part, cleared up by evening drive time.

I was actually home from work on that day and spent the day indoors, watching the water gushing out of the downspouts and out to the street to the storm drain.

It was raining so hard and so fast that the water started pooling in the back garden and I got worried about flooding.

 Eventually though,  most of it soaked in to the ground (I'm sure the pine tree was loving it) and the swales around the house took the excess water out to the street too and out to the storm drains.

The sight of the steady stream of runoff between the houses to the street got me thinking about something else I read about last week. 

As I watched the steady stream of runoff water, I felt relieved to note that I don't use any kind of chemicals on the yard, so we weren't contributing any pollutants to the local streams and rivers through the storm drain system.

Fellow gardeners have probably heard about the proposed partnership between NWF, National Wildlife Federation and Scotts Miracle-Gro in NWF's Be Out There program, aimed at getting kids outside and reconnected with the outdoors and with nature.

There was a firestorm of opposition in various blogs around the internet, as well as on Facebook and Twitter from people who couldn't understand why an organization which condemns the use of pesticides and other chemicals in the garden and promotes gardening for nature would partner with the company which makes its money selling said pesticides and chemicals, such as Round Up.

Now I'll admit, I've used Miracle-Gro on my houseplants and a few years ago I spent way too much money having Scotts come out quarterly and treat the lawn, before I learned about the benefits of organic gardening.

I've even got Miracle-Gro Organic Choice fertilizer in the garage now and use it, and I feed the birds in the garden with Scotts No-Mess Patio Blend seed, which they relish.

So I'm not totally anti- Scotts or Miracle-Gro, but I did feel a little disappointment that my recently NWF-certified wildlife habitat was now a little tainted by the association with Scotts in the minds of many gardeners.

I read later in the week that an issue had come up involving a pending legal settlement that Scotts were involved, dating back to 2008, in which they had not disclosed to NWF. 

Because of that pending legal settlement, NWF announced that the partnership would be ended

NWF is still going ahead with the Be Out There campaign, which I highly endorse -- I spent my whole childhood outdoors and loving it and often think how kids today are missing out on something great.  I hope the program is a success.

Something that might get myself and my husband outside more in the near future has been the arrival of seemingly every seed and plant catalog in existance!

We're planning a small vegetable garden on the unused east side of the house. It will be raised and will be created using bricks left over from the building of the house, which have been taking up room in our garage since we moved in.

I'll keep you updated as it progresses. 

And finally, we added a new birdhouse in the back corner. I think it adds a cottage garden look to the garden.

I hope Mrs. Wren or Mrs. Chickadee like it.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Did you know that Saturday, January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day?

I know a lot of people consider squirrels to be annoying pests, but I find them entertaining.  

When we first moved into this house, I was thrilled to discover resident families of squirrels in the trees on either side of us who regularly visited our garden.  

Then began the battle of wits to keep them from tearing apart the bird feeders and stealing all the food for themselves.

Actually it was a short battle because I didn't use actual feeders for very long.  I discovered in our first summer here that, no matter where I put the feeders, they got soaked every time the sprinklers ran.

It got to be a chore to bring them all down the night before the sprinklers ran, and I was always forgetting, so in the end I did away with feeders, for the most part.

I took to sprinkling seed along the top support rail of the fence and the top of the back wall and, as you can see here, the birds and the squirrels were happy to share.

I also gave the squirrels a feeder of their own and I love watching them lift the lid and reach inside for their goodies.  It was amusing watching the birds around it too. One day I watched as a woodpecker perched by it and picked out corn, piece by piece, and toss it to the ground!

It's rather sad to say that we rarely see squirrels here anymore.  We used to have trees on either side, and a row of trees along the road behind us, so the squirrels had plenty of habitat.  That's all gone now, except for the trees in our garden.

But I still keep the squirrel feeder filled and occasionally one will come to visit.  I hope they know they are welcome here.

7 Ways to Celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day from the National Wildlife Federation.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rebirth in the Garden

Back in December, in my post Requiem for a Garden, I lamented that my garden had been damaged by the recent freezing nights and had gone from green to brown, seemingly overnight.

I wondered if it I should leave everything be, or pull it out of the ground.  Among the suggestions was one from Cindy, that if things were black and mushy, to cut them back to healthy green stem. 

New Year's weekend the weather was so glorious it made me forget all about the drought-ridden dog days of summer in Texas. I couldn't wait to get out there and get started on my garden clean up! 

These are the kind of days that I'm happy to garden in Texas.  I savored the winter sunshine on my back (and the fact that I wasn't sweating) and the quietness around me.  All I heard were birds, the snip, snip of my secateurs, and the occasional small plane going overhead from nearby Hooks Airport.

Back to the task at hand, looking around the front garden it was immediately apparent that the milkweed fit right into the "mushy black" category.

But what a pleasant surprise I had as I set about trimming them back....

 ... they are already putting out lots of fresh green leaves!  There should be lots of plants ready for the Monarch butterflies when they come through.

I found similar sights as I trimmed back the lantana...

 ... and the garden mums..

 I even have some flowers in the garden (not counting the pansies which have been blooming faithfully since before Thanksgiving as always)

This Gazania, or Treasure Flower, kept firm and green, while others around it turned to mush and has flowered repeatedly through the winter. I really haven't paid much attention to it before, but it really is a "Treasure" to have in the garden.

Lastly, this garden mum, which I trimmed back a little while ago, already has blooms on it.  I seem to have an orange theme going on in the front garden which is totally accidental!

Anyway, I'm posting this a week after I took these photos and it's lovely outside again now.  I'm getting that itch to garden again -- and there are some more black and mushy things out there awaiting my attention.

I'm going to head outside now and I'll sit and catch up on my blog reading later on this evening.

Happy Gardening everyone!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.