ShadyGardens Blog

April 1, 2014

April is National Gardening Month

Filed under: April, children, contaminants, fruit, gardening, month, produce, vegetables — shadygardens @ 1:35 pm
Since April is National Gardening Month, now is a good time to get others interested in gardening. Over the years, I have become increasingly concerned about what contaminants might be in the food I am feeding to my family. Most store bought produce and meat contains some kind of germs or pesticides. And genetically modified foods are very scary to me, since I do not fully understand what all they entail. It is very important to know where our food comes from. I try more and more to grow as much of our own food as possible and what I can’t grow, I try to purchase from another gardener in our area. Unfortunately, our year round farmer’s market sells produce from all over the world, so I can’t trust it for my dinner table. Our true farmer’s markets are seasonal, open only from late Spring to early Fall.

Locally grown food from last summer

It would be difficult to be entirely self-sufficient and feed our families only what we can grow and produce ourselves. It’s true that years ago, families did just that, only purchasing things like grain and sugar. But that was before the days of mothers working full time outside the home and before television, Facebook, and Netflix took over our lives. 

Still, we can grow much of what we eat ourselves, right in our own backyards. I don’t have to worry anymore about where my eggs come from and whether or not some hen was mistreated while producing them, since we have our own backyard flock. But I do worry about salmonella, e-coli, or pesticides hitch hiking into my home and onto our dinner plate via salad greens and fruits I buy at the grocery store. 

I try to do what I can to encourage others to grow their own produce. I’m not suggesting you plow up your whole yard and turn it into a garden. Start small. Purchase a few plants from your locally owned garden center. Most of these home nursery owners grow the plants themselves from cuttings or seeds. You can help them grow their home business and grow food for your family at the same time. 
Children love planting veggies
Get the whole family involved. It is important to teach our children how to grow their own vegetables and fruit. Gardening can be hard work, but it is very rewarding. When your child sees fruits and vegetables actually growing on the plant and learns where food comes from, he will be excited to eat things he wouldn’t normally try.

Although gardening can be hard work, some plants produce with little or no help from us. Plants like blueberries, plums, and blackberries don’t require much intervention from us once they are planted in the ground.

How often have you turned around at the grocery store to find your child eating unwashed grapes or strawberries? That always horrified me when my children were small, but when you grow your own fruits and vegetables at home, your children can pick and eat right off the plant.

September 26, 2010

Garden Planting Zone

Filed under: arbor day, garden, gardening, planting, update, usday, zone — shadygardens @ 1:23 pm

What planting zone are we in? Often the hardiness zone  in which a particular plant will grow appears on the plant tag, so this is important information you need to know.

I’ve always planted as though we’re in USDA Zone 8, although many of my master gardener friends have told me we’re in zone 7. Our garden does have a sheltered location. We probably have a microclimate since our property slopes to the south, providing our plants with protection from those cold north winter winds.

But what zone are we truly in? Drastic changes in average low temperatures over the last several years have caused many to believe the USDA Hardiness Zone map is out of date. The last update occurred in 1990. A new map was proposed in 2003, but rejected. The National Arbor Day Foundation decided to go ahead and update their map anyway, and it’s worth taking a look at. They used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to formulate the new map. According to them, the changes in average low temperatures have changed so much that planting zones would change by as much as two zones!

I’ve noticed for years that several of my “houseplants” return each summer in our shade garden. Among them are spider plant, split-leaf philodendron, and butterfly plant.

Well, anyway, according to the new Arbor Day Foundation hardiness zone map, we’re now in Zone 8!

You can take a look at the map yourself, by going to Arbor Day Foundation. This new information gives us many more plant choices for our garden!

January 15, 2010

Gardening for Birds, Squirrels, and other Wildlife

Although I do plant in my garden plants that please me, I usually garden with little animals in mind. Birdwatching really does bring alot of joy to my family. We enjoy watching the little birds flitting around, grabbing seeds, diving at each other with their territorial antics, and such. Most of our native birds are very beautiful, and my favorites are the little chickadees! Also, it tickles us to hear the sound the doves make when they fly up to a tree branch. 

And, although I hear many complaints from others about the squirrels, I don’t mind that they eat so much of the birdseed. It’s worth it to us, for the fun we get out of watching them try to get a little snack before Shadow, our very large black lab, notices them.

It probably doesn’t surprise you that when I choose new plants for the garden, I look for something that will help me out with expenses–I try to plant shrubs and trees that will make berries and fruits for the wildlife creatures to eat, thus saving me a little bit in the cost of birdseed and corn. Some of the plants we use are common, but every little bit helps!

  • Holly is a dependable plant for berries each winter. The evergreen hollies with which we’re all so familiar are great, but my favorite is our native Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua. The shiny red berries really stand out against a winter background, the mottled gray and white bark is lovely in all seasons, and the tree is constantly full of birds during the winter.
  • Dogwood provides showy fruit in either red or white, depending on the species you plant.
  • Viburnums are available in both deciduous and evergreen species, but my favorites are the Cranberry and Arrowwood Viburnums. They’re native to the US and provide plenty of colorful berries. Plant several of each for good berry production.
  • Blueberries are devoured quickly by the lucky one who finds them first, so plant as many shrubs as possible, and you’ll need more than 1 variety for cross-pollination.
  • Mahonia, although not a native plant, is a wonderful addition to the winter garden, since the bright yellow blooms appear in January and develop into purple berries in late winter and early spring when all the other berries have been eaten.
So as you add to your garden, plant some of these berry-producing shrubs near a window so you can see the birds and squirrels, and I promise you, you’ll find yourself smiling as you watch them.

October 13, 2009

Saxifrage: Saxifraga, Strawberry Geranium, Strawberry Begonia

Saxifrage possibly has more common names than any other plant I know. Perhaps that’s because this plant is also one of the most versatile plants one can grow. 
Whether you know Saxifrage as saxifraga stolonifera, strawberry begonia, strawberry geranium, mother of thousands, or one of the many other names, you must agree that this is a wonderful little plant. 
Often grown as a houseplant by our grandmothers, Saxifrage is hardy in the garden all over the southeastern United States. When grown outdoors, saxifrage could not be any easier! Provide shade and soft moist soil, and she will reward you with many little plants. Saxifrage multiplies by sending out little plantlets on runners just as strawberry plants do. 

Saxifrage forms an evergreen mat of ground-hugging foliage about 4 inches tall. Foliage is very attractive–scalloped deep green leaves are mottled with a silver veining and can have purplish undersides.
Flowers look like little soft pink butterflies fluttering well above the foliage. 
Saxifrage prefers moist, rich soil in full shade. Grow it with ferns and other moisture loving shade plants in the woodland garden. 

Lovely as an easy care houseplant. Especially nice in hanging baskets. Hardy outdoors in USDA Zones 6-9. For more information on this and other easy to grow shade plants, visit us as Shady Gardens Nursery

September 7, 2009

Green Gardening

Going green in the garden is becoming more and more important to us as we learn additional dangers of pesticide use. To grow a good garden, we must preserve the life in the soil. Healthy soil is full of microorganisms which help to grow more vigorous plants. Too much fertilizer can kill microorganisms. To grow healthy plants, whether your passion is food crops or beautiful ornamentals, you must build up the soil.
  • Add compost–composted manure contains much more beneficial microorganisms than just regular compost.
  • Mulch with organic or plant based mulches (shredded bark or leaves).
  • Believe it or not, applications of horticultural molasses will feed the microorganisms.
  • Cornmeal added to the soil feeds a certain fungus that helps fight plant diseases. Isn’t that fascinating? Now I know what to do with that cornmeal I forgot about in the back of the cabinet.
  • While we are feeding our soil microorganisms, we must also remember to protect them.
  • Synthetic fertilizers harm the soil organisms and should be avoided.
  • Over tilling the soil breaks down the soil ecosystem, so add mulch instead. I know I mentioned mulch already, but application of good organic mulch is important enough to mention twice. Mulch attracts the soil critters like earthworms who will till the soil for you.

July 8, 2009

Gardening Is More Than Just Growing Plants!

Filed under: animals, cat, cats, garden, gardening, kitten, kittens, mice, Shady Gardens Nursery — shadygardens @ 2:37 pm

It’s true–gardening involves more than just growing plants!

Gardens need animals, for various reasons. In our garden, we have a dog for chasing off critters that eat the plants, chickens for eating insects that eat our plants, and cats for keeping away mice (which also will eat plants.) Every garden needs a cat, but not too many.

We do have too many cats. Much too often, someone else decides we don’t have enough cats and another kitten is dropped off at our front gate. Most recently my husband found a cute little critter asleep right beside the road at our mailbox. Instead of doing the responsible thing and have their cats spayed or neutered, some irresponsible @$$#*!~ just allow their little cats to keep having litter after litter and they deposit the little babies on the side of the road when they no longer want them. This activity is one of the worst things a person can do, and it angers my family much more than I can say.

We are animal lovers here, and it’s difficult for us to get attached to a cute little baby and then give it away. That’s what we have to do every few months, because we can not possibly provide a home for every little baby animal we find up at the road. Leaving a baby kitten at someone’s mailbox should be a crime. It is, in my opinion. Each time this happens, we do the best we can to find a good home for the little thing. If unable to find the kitten a good home, we keep it.

We now have 5 cats–3 toms and 2 females. We love them all. Yesterday we gave away the most recent little baby to a wonderful girl who responded to our advertisement on the local Christian radio station. (We list the babies on that station only, praying that only good people would be listening.)

It ripped out my little girl’s heart to give away the kitten in the photo above. Children grow attached to cute little baby animals so fast. If I could catch the person who keeps doing this to us, I’d sock them in the nose. It might make no sense to you that I write an animal lover post on a garden blog, but as I said, cats do belong in a garden. And since gardeners are usually concerned about the environment to a great degree, I figured you all would not mind if I vent a little. We all should do what we can to prevent the cruel neglect and abuse of allowing cats to have litter after litter of kittens to just deposit on highways all over town. We plan to install a video camera at our gate so we can get a tag number!

March 4, 2009

Master Gardener Day in Georgia

Filed under: class, county, extension service, gardening, Georgia, Master Gardener, program, volunteer — shadygardens @ 4:23 pm
Master Gardener Day in Georgia is March 21, 2009. All over the state of Georgia, Master Gardeners will be celebrating the day by doing what we do best–gardening for our communities.

Many do not realize what a Master Gardener actually is. Master Gardeners are volunteers who perform a wide variety of garden-related tasks in their communities. Some help in the office, taking calls and answering questions about local garden topics. Others work closely with children in the Junior Master Gardener program. While others actually get down and get their hands dirty planting gardens in and for the community. Whether it be an ornamental garden on the town square or a vegetable garden for the needy, Master Gardeners are always around to help.

Trained by professionals provided from the University of Georgia and the local County Extension Office, Master Gardeners are a knowledgeable group of people.

If you’d like to get involved in the Master Gardener program, please contact your local County Extension Office to find out when the next course will be offered.

February 10, 2009

Guineas in the Garden

Filed under: garden, gardening, guinea, guineafowl, guineas, Lyme, tick bite, ticks — shadygardens @ 7:08 pm

My 8 year old little boy has been removing his own ticks for about 3 years now. When tick bites are so common that a 5 year old begins removing ticks on his own, it’s time to do something! But what? We tried everything. Really. But what works?

Our garden is much too large to make pesticide application affordable, but we did try that, before the chickens joined our family. We just can’t remember to apply insect repellent every time we go outside, and that also gets expensive when you spend all day outdoors as we do.

A few years ago when our little girl received an Easter gift of 2 baby chicks, we thought that might help. And really, it has…some. But after my husband was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, we realized the seriousness of the situation. It terrifies me to know that one of my children could encounter that dreaded disease that leads to a life of joint problems.

Last fall an adored friend of ours gave us a gift for which we are very grateful. He hatched out for me 4 Guineas! (He hatched them in an incubator.) I’ve been told ticks are a favorite treat for guineas, and they will eat hundreds of them. We’re so excited, and we’ll let you know in the summer if we see a decrease in the number of ticks latched on to our tender areas!

I must tell you that I don’t know much about Guineas, but I have found a wonderful site that is a wealth of information on Guineas, including some very entertaining photos and captions. It’s worth your time to take a look at I don’t know the author personally, but on her site you can learn all about guineas, because after all, she wrote the book on Gardening With Guineas! (Yes, really–you can order it from her website!)

February 9, 2009

Gardening With Children: Don’t Miss Out On This Joy!

Filed under: children, children's, garden, gardening — shadygardens @ 3:09 pm

According to recent studies, time spent outdoors has decreased by 50% in the past 20 years. Thanks to the popularity of electronics, children now spend an average of 6 hours daily watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer. When I was a child, if we didn’t want to play outdoors, my mother made sure we did anyway. Nowadays, perhaps we as parents are so busy that we don’t think about it. Or maybe the children are simply following our example.

At any rate, children are fatter and less healthy as a result of living sedentary lifestyles. In addition to health problems, staying indoors more has decreased awareness of the environment and the value of nature.

I myself am guilty of enjoying my gardening tasks without involving the children. However, something just occurred to me–if gardening is a source of joy for me, relieving stress while providing exercise, it can do that for my children too!

Yesterday we pruned together, and this afternoon, we’ll be planning a garden! Children love to plant things. Even though we’re in the middle of winter, now is the time to plant many cool season vegetables.

Consider letting your child help you plant some Sugar Snap Peas, Beets, Radishes, and Lettuces. These seeds germinate quickly, which will excite your child about his garden. Flowers to plant now from seed are Larkspur and Poppies. If you don’t have a garden in which to do your planting, just get some large pots. Then your child can have a garden even if you have only a patio or porch.

What and where you plant your garden will not be nearly as important as the time you spend with your child. Remember to take photos of your little ones planting their seeds. The pictures will mean alot to you when the children are older. And the children will remember this time spent with you.

January 18, 2009

Gardening In Deer Country

Filed under: buckeye, Deer, deterrent, garden, gardening, gardens, Magnolia, native, plant, plants, resistant, sedums, shrub — shadygardens @ 7:31 pm

As lovers of animals, we welcome all wildlife into our garden, even deer and squirrels. We enjoy seeing the squirrels run and play among the oak trees and we like it when we awake to watch deer eating fallen acorns early in the morning fog. What we do not like, though, is taking a walk in our woodland garden to find that the deer have apparently enjoyed an all night buffet in our hosta bed, or enjoyed the tender buds of our blueberry bushes that held bloom buds that would have ultimately developed into juicy berries for our children.

Shadow, or large black lab, is getting older, taking more naps and chasing deer less. Actually, I have observed her lying down on a soft bed of leaves while watching deer forage right beside her! We accept that though, since she is a very good dog.

Still, we’d like to enjoy the investments we’ve made in our garden. Plants can get expensive. So what do we do about it? Getting rid of the deer is not an option for us. Fencing must be at least 10 feet tall and surround the whole garden to be effective. Deer deterrant sprays are too expensive and are just temporary, having to be resprayed after every rain or watering.

The best option we’ve come up with is to plant things deer do not eat. Many of the plants disliked by deer come with a strong fragrance which will fool the deer into thinking there’s nothing there they want. For every plant they like, we try to plant one they don’t.

Unfortunately, many of our native plants are tasty to deer. Afterall, God created a food source for the animals when he made the animals. If you have the space, you might just want to plant plenty of the plant, hoping when they eat, they’ll leave some for you to enjoy.

But there are a few easy to find native plants deer don’t like, and here’s a list to give you some ideas:

  • Buckeye
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coreopsis
  • Iris
  • Native Ferns
  • Magnolia
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Sedums
  • Verbena
  • Witch Hazel
  • Yarrow

The deer-resistant plant list can be lengthened if you consider adding some non-native, yet non-invasive, plants to your garden. Herbs are great, since their scent is not a favorite of deer. Rosemary has helped us alot, making a great companion plant for our native dry roadside garden. For a list of non-native plants you should consider, please visit our other site, Gardening Shady Style.

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