Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bird baths in the Garden

While working in the garden in this hot dry summer weather I like to keep plenty of water on hand for me, our dogs and my backyard birds.

Not all birds eat seeds, but all birds drink water. Birds need water to avoid dehydration and to maintain health. They are attracted to shallow dishes of water which provides them a place to drink and bathe. Bird baths are probably the best way to attract birds to your yard, even more so than bird feeders. Clean water is often the most difficult resource that birds must locate in order to survive. They use the water not only for drinking, but also for bathing which can cool their bodies during the heat of summer. Having water available is especially important in times of drought when birds may be stressed. If you can combine water, the appropriate wild bird food shrubs and trees, and maybe even nesting boxes, your opportunity to attract wild birds will be greatly enhanced.

Make sure to locate your bird bath where the birds can see around the area. Housecats and other predators can hide in nearby cover. Some of my birds like to bathe on a pedestal style bird bath, other like a ground level bird bath and still others will visit my fountains and pond. It is advisable to change the water in your bird bath everyday to provide fresh, clean water especially during hot summer months. Water that is exposed to direct sunlight may become stagnant and algae may grow. If you allow the water to sit for long periods of time, it will become less desirable for birds and will be much harder to clean.

Pedestal styles are the most common but there are also ground and hanging bird baths. Pededtals also provide a nice centerpiece for your garden. Solar bird bath use the suns energy to power a pump that can filter and keep the water moving. The dripping sound seems to attract birds. Grounded bird baths or bird ponds can be placed anywhere in your yard. Various modes are available and can add beauty to your garden as well as provide water for bathing and thinrsty birds.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moonflower Vine- a plant for an evening garden

The moonflower vine (Calonyction aculeatum) is one of the wonders of the evening garden. Giant 5 to 6 inch white blooms that resemble morning glories are nestled against large heart shaped deep green leaves. As the sun begins to set in late afternoon the flowers begin to unfurl and release a lovely fragrance. When the sun rises, the blooms gently spiral closed. Considering adding this moonlight marvel to your garden. I’ve been growing it in my gardens since 1999 and enjoy what they add to my evenings in the garden. Macroglossum stellatarum often called Hummingbird Moth have covered my vines in September and October. I don’t usually have to plant it because it does re-seed readily. Sometimes I will collect seedpods and save for next year but often the vine just shows up in my garden.

If starting moonflowers from seed here are some hints for you:

· Prepare the seeds. Use a knife to make a small nick in the moonflower vine seeds. Sandpaper will work to rough up the surface of the seed. Place seeds in a custard cup or other small glass container and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.
· Plant seeds in peat pots. Fill peat pots with soil-less planting medium. Moisten with water. Place 2 or 3 vine seeds on the soil and cover with 1/2 inch of soil-less mix. Water again gently. Planted peat pots should be kept moist and in a warm location until the seedlings are large enough to transplant. Start vines indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last anticipated frost.
· Prepare seedlings for transplant. Moonflower vine seeds germinate in around 3 weeks. Before planting, thin seedlings to one vine per pot. Remove weak or extra seedlings by cutting them with scissors. Do not pull seedlings from the soil. Pulling may damage the tender roots of the remaining seedling. Seedlings that are ready for planting should have formed 2 or 3 leaves.
· Choose outdoor planting location. It prefers a location that receives full sun and the soil should be moist and well drained. Choose a location that provides the vine ample support, such as a trellis, arbor or fence, and away from other plants. The Moonflower vine can grow up to 40 feet in height with tendrils that can, if left untended, engulf nearby plants or trees. I think my vines have grown as much 1-foot a day. So I do have to train the vines to a trellis or fence.
· Transplant the seedling. Loosen the soil in the desired planting area. Dig a hole slightly larger than the peat pot and the same depth. Remove the bottom on the peat pot and place the peat pot and seedling in the planting hole and lightly cover with the original soil. The peat pot will disintegrate in the soil and will provide added nutrients. Gently water the transplanted seedling.
· Collect seeds. Moonflower vine seeds are easy to gather for next year's garden or to share with friends. When the husks that follow the white blooms become black and dry, they can be gathered and stored in a dry place. The seeds are the size of a garbanzo bean and white in color.

I hope you will give this vine a try on an arbor, trellis or fence.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July Garden Tips

Rain can become very elusive in July. Humidity begins to peak and in the lowcountry we are actually passing out of prime growing conditions into the lethargy of the dog days of summer. Gardeners just have to play it by ear. It is important to keep an eye out for pests and disease.

General tips for July

· Slow down and give you and your plants a rest from the heat
· Give plants a mid-season feeding or side dressing, to get them through to fall
· Keep eye on rainfall and water as needed
· Stay ahead of the weeds
· Watch garden centers for clearence plants
· Keep lawns at about 3”, to protect from heat
· Keep bird baths and feeders clean


· Keep dead heading flowers
· Cut back spent annuals by 1/3
· Put focus on heat resistant flowers like: coleus, hibiscus, melampodium, pentas, plumbago, portulaca and zinnias.
· Pinch back fall blooming flowers one last time in mid-July like mums and asters
· Divide Iris

Now sit back and enjoy your garden and all the efforts you put in earlier in the year to get where it is now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Midsummer Makeover

By midsummer most of your garden is usually looking pretty good. Your perennials are growing and the annuals you planted are blooming like mad. Yes all is doing well except for that one planting bed. Now what can you do about that one bed? Just because the calendar says it’s the middle of summer doesn’t mean it is too late to rejuvenate a flowerbed. Here are a few ideas to perk up a lackluster perennial border.

1. Size It Up- Take a good look and see what you can salvage in the bed.
2. GO “Sale-ing”- Take advantage of late-season plant sales at garden centers and pick up perennials for a lot less than you’d play in the middle of May. Buy a few annuals like begonia to fill in the gaps around the perennials while they are small. I also like to sow seeds of fast-growing annuals like zinnias, cosmos, or celosia.( I can often harvest these seeds from flowers that bloomed earlier in the season.) Next year the perennials will be larger and you won’t need to fill in with as many annuals.
3. Dig In- Summer heat and drought can be hard on young plants. Don’t skimp on preparing the planting holes for the new plants. Add moisture crystals if your area is especially hot and dry and don’t forget to add 2-3” of mulch to help hold moisture and cut down on how often you need to water.
4. Spot Some Pots- Container plants are often in their peak by midsummer. Place a few colorful pots among the plants to quickly fill in thin areas. A pot of coleus can add some texture and color to a bed. Other plants that look great in containers in late summer are dahlias, sedums, and asters.
5. Add A Personal Touch- Finally, don’t forget to include some hardscaping or a piece of garden art to personalize your bed. Whether bold or subtle, art should accent your plants not overpower them. Make sure they are sturdy enough to withstand summer wind and rain with out toppling over into the plants.

Midsummer plants: Aster, Blanket flower, Celosia, Coleus, Cosmos, Dahlia, Phlox, Purple Heart, Sedum and Zinnia.

For more heat tolerant plants check out: “Some Like It Hot” Flowers That Thrive in Hot Humid Weather by P.J. Gartin, “Tough Plants for Southern Gardens” by Felder Rushing and “The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide” by Toby Bost & Jim Wilson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harvesting Vegetables

Since temperatures are a little closer to normal (Staying in the mid-90’s) my garden vegetable is doing a little better. I located my peppers in some partial shade this summer and I’m not having sunscald on my peppers this year. I was having more tomatoes than I could eat for about two weeks but that has slow down some. I found this link about harvesting vegetables on the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center to be helpful. I had not grown cucumbers until this summer and didn’t know how to tell when it was ripe. Picked it and used in salads last week. Clemson HGIC: