Tag: Gardening

Butterfly Garden

We have a small pond in the back yard and a bricked in courtyard in front of the house. I am building butterfly gardens with native plants in both areas. Hopefully we’ll be able to sit in the dining room and watch butterflies hatch.

Here are the plant that I’ve ordered

Common Name Botanical Name Type
Partridge Pea Chamaecrista fasciculata Host and Nectar Plant
Showy Milkweed Asclepias Speciosa Host and Nectar Plant
Western Sand Milkweed Asclepias arenaria Host and Nectar Plant
Wild Petunia Ruellia humilis Host and Nectar Plant
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa Host Plant
Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Host Plant
Whorled Milkweed Asclepias verticillata Host Plant
Blue Sage Salvia Salvia azurea Nectar Plant
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis Nectar Plant
Iron Weed Vernonia altissima Nectar Plant
Orange Coneflower, Orange Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida Nectar Plant
Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea Nectar Plant
Royal Catchfly Silene regia Nectar Plant
Sweet Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum Nectar Plant
Wild Bergamot, Wild Bee Balm Monarda fistulosa Nectar Plant
Golden Alexanders Zizia aurea Host Plant
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense Nectar Plant
Rose Milkweed Asclepias incarnata Host and Nectar Plant
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Nectar Plant
Wild Lupine Lupinus perennis Host Plant
Wild Senna Senna hebecarpa Nectar Plant

Bulbs For Next Year

The fall planted bulbs are in bloom, and we know what grew well here (and what didn’t — wild tulips survive well here, but the big, beautiful Dutch tulips become a rodent buffet. I’ve tried mixing them with other bulbs to no avail. As much as I love the Dutch tulips, I’m not buying more this year.). It’s time to put in an order for this Autumn. I order bulbs from both ColorBlends and Old House Gardens. This year we’ll be planting daffodils:


And some more crocus bulbs to scatter throughout the lawn:

DIY Hop Arbor

Our hops are finally strung! I ordered coir rope that is used by most hop growers – hopefully this doesn’t snap like the twine we used last year. Last year, all of the ropes slid together at the top. Which stretched the ropes (and probably didn’t do anything to keep the twine in one piece). This year, used 3/4″ PVC piping (yet another Home Depot purchase not being used as intended) and drilled holes through which the ropes are strung.


It was a lot easier to get the strings up this year – we ran each individual rope through its hole and tied the stakes to each end. Then pulled the wire that runs between the two trees up and secured it onto the tree branches.

Some of our vines were long enough to wrap onto the coir rope — so we’ve got hops climbing their ropes:


I’m intrigued by the idea of permaculture gardening — creating landscape installations that are planted once and are then self-sufficient. For growing food, it is a slow process — the tomatoes we plant this year will produce this year. The fruit, nut, asparagus, etc that we plant this year … we’ll get some in two or three years at the earliest (some nut trees take a decade to produce!). But they’ll keep producing year after year. In some cases, they’ll even spread.

We planted some apple and peach trees from Trees of Antiquity last year – and then found out it was a cicada year (i.e. a really bad year to have new trees). Well, most of our new trees made it. This year, I want to start some asparagus and nut trees.

I selected hazelnuts to start — first, we all love hazelnuts. And it really doesn’t make much sense to put effort into growing something you won’t enjoy. But they also produce nuts in 2-5 years. I ordered them from Willis Orchard — I’ve read good and bad reviews of the place, but the shipped prices were great and I read a lot of bad reviews about pretty much any nursery or orchard. Hazard of shipping live products.

The trees were small, but I knew that when I purchased them. I love how these bare root trees where shipped. There’s some gooey gel stuff around the bare roots that keeps the trees hydrated (esp good when you are SUPER slow about planting your bare root trees!).

We’re starting asparagus from seed — it takes longer, but I was able to get unique strains unavailable as crowns. I picked up some berry seeds too – no idea if they’ll actually grow (this is more of an experiment than an attempt to cover the yard with cane fruits and cranberries). And strawberries — Home Depot had a whole bunch of strawberry plants well before it was reasonable to plant them … but they were beautiful plants on clearance. They’re still potted and located close to the house to keep warm.

I also want to replace our ornamental grasses with something useful (and hopefully something that doesn’t spread into the lawn and create an unmowable fibrous mass). Maybe a patch of oats that can reseed themselves.

Low Tunnel Update

We had amazing tomato and pepper plants pop up in our compost. Shouldn’t be possible (compost is hot), but the enormous plants are evidence to the contrary (we have pepper plants that are three feet tall, with more than a dozen little peppers growing). We had a frost warning yesterday, so Anya and I went out to put the greenhouse up over the compost bed. Pulling the CPVC and rebar from the garden bed sounded like a quick task. An hour later … low tunnel greenhouses are not as easy to move as I thought. Earlier in the year, we drove the rebar into the ground with a drilling sledge. To pull it out, we had to dig down about twenty inches. Luckily I didn’t actually *need* all of the rebar — we pulled four of them to get greenhouse plastic over the tomatoes and peppers.

Once the rebar was out, getting the greenhouse together was quick and easy. We’ll eventually have two garden beds — one greenhouse and one where we’ll put the stuff that needs chill-hours. For crop rotation, we’ll switch those each year. Certainly going to want rebar in each bed!

This was also my first opportunity to use the real greenhouse plastic we bought this summer. It is so much nicer than plastic painting drop-cloth. Cost a lot more, too – but there is significantly more light getting through.



We finally harvested our potatoes — we got twenty potatoes, so a good bit more than we started with … but no where near what I expected given the size of the plants. I think we planted too late because a lot of the roots had tiny little nubs that would have become potatoes in a few more weeks. Good to know for next year 🙂

Harvesting was fun — we tried pulling the plants, but only found five potatoes. So we started digging around in the soil by hand — got fifteen more potatoes that way, and Anya loved it.

Definitely planting potatoes again next year. Sweet potatoes, however, were a total bust. We had some decent sized vines, but nothing.


Removing Weeds From Walkways and Patios

We have an aversion to chemical herbicides – both run-off and run-on (Anya feet), so have been trying to find a good way to keep the weeds out of our stone/brick patio and walkways. Crawling around and pulling weeds is rather effective. Anya beams with pride each time she gets a root too. But it isn’t a sustainable weed-control method for the entire space. The string trimmer can be used to quickly cut existing growth, but since the roots remain … they return right quickly. I imagine the root system can only sustain regrowth for so long, but we’ve never managed to chop them enough to prevent regrowth.

We had to clean our water softener’s brine tank – and I figure there had to be some basis in reality for the stories about Scipio Aemilianus salting Carthage after the Third Punic War. Not reality of the “he really did it” sense, but it isn’t like folklore has conquerors spreading well composted manure over the fields to render the soil useless. We pored the brine over our stone patio (I’m sure salt isn’t good for stone … but it had to go somewhere). There is one particular low-growing brownish-red weed that still grows, but it blends in well enough with the stone that I don’t really notice it. Other than that, though, *no* weeds for the entire summer. Burned the lawn some, and this is only useful if you find yourself with thirty gallons of brine that need to be dumped somewhere.

Next year, I have more techniques that I want to test: vinegar, baking soda, and boiling water. Hopefully we’ll find a few more approaches. Then next Spring, we’ll do a controlled experiment. 1/n of the patio and 1/n of the front walkway will be weed-controlled with each method. We’ll see which one kills the weeds without running off into the surrounding lawn and which prevents new growth for the longest time.


We have corn tassels and a couple of cobs starting!


Anya and I weeded our potato patch, and found a couple of new potatoes at the surface.


Our potato plants are huge — and evidently the weather has been sufficiently odd that potato SEEDS are forming. I’ve seen potato plants with flowers before, but the little tomato-looking green things were new to me. We can also tell that part of our potato bed is amazing for growing plants, some of it is ok-ish, and the right-hand third is too shaded. The potatoes and sweet potatoes along the left-hand side look like a massive pile of vegetation. The middle part … well, they look like potato plants to which I am accustomed. The right-hand side … there’s one little sweet potato vine that’s about five inches tall.


These are all growing in a leaf mulch that formed where the previous owner dumped the grass clippings and leaves from the bottom of the property. After we harvest the potatoes, I plan to mix all of the soil together (the stuff from the left may have its nutrients depleted, but the stuff on the right is essentially unused), add some compost, and then use this as a potato bed next year. Then we’ll start a rotation – definitely bush beans, but I’m hoping to build a trellis next winter & have a wall of vine beans or peas behind  the bush beans.

We’ve got plants!

Corn!!! The corn has been loving the hot weather. Our tomatoes are doing quite well too. We’ve even got half a dozen garlic plants sprouting up. Still need to get some beans planted (we’ll do the greenhouse thing again at the end of the season, so we *should* get a good number of beans even though we’ve gotten a late start of it).


The largest hop plant is really taking off too. We have four rhizomes from our original two. Although two are *really* tiny little guys with just a vine or three, they all lived through transplanting.