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Gifts from Readers

November 18th, 2015

A month or so ago I received this lovely hand-forged tool from a blog reader. She said it was one of her favorite garden tools and she thought I’d like it as well. As I’ve been clearing out the front flowerbed, I’ve been using it to level the soil. The extra reach provided by the extra long handle is quite convenient, with it I can reach more of the bed from one location.
homestead iron 1
homestead iron 2
This tool is made handmade in Missouri by Homestead Iron. You can find their tools over in their Etsy shop. I really like some of the other items, a boot scraper would come in handy around here that’s for sure.
homestead iron 3
So far I’m loving this tool. A big thanks to Amy for sending this along. If you’re looking for a gift for yourself or for friends/family this Christmas check out this little shop.

Have you received any thoughtful gifts recently?

Starting from Scratch

November 17th, 2015

When a garden bed is overtake with invasive weeds, sometimes you just have to start from scratch. Quackgrass or couch grass, as it’s also called, is a BIG problem here in my garden (here’s a great article about it if you’re interested in learning more). It’s EVERYWHERE and it’s quite a thug when it comes to the gardens. I’ve been working hard over the past 3 years to eradicate it from the edible beds. The pigs were most useful in dealing with it in the large food garden, in other areas I’ve been digging it out by hand.
digging out front flowerbed 2
It’s a problem in the edible and perennial beds because it reduced yields in edible gardens by up to 95% and in ornamental beds it will slowly choke everything else out. The front flowerbed was filled with it when we arrived three years ago, I haven’t done much to deal with it until this fall. Now I’m digging out everything in the bed, saving what I can, but most of the plants have been choked out or are infested with quack grass rhizomes. Luckily, the plants are easy to get if I want to replace any of them, which I don’t think I do.
digging out front flowerbed 5
digging out front flowerbed 4
I have big plans for this space, which is behind the boxwood hedge that I just moved. There’s the new hedge, a 2-3 foot rock wall, then this garden area. My plan is to put a row of ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas in this space, I’ll probably need 5 of them for the front. On the corner of the house I plan on putting some kind of ornamental tree that I can prune to come out from the house.
digging out front flowerbed 3
digging out front flowerbed 1
It’s a lot of work to dig out entire garden areas, but it’s what needs to be done in cases where invasive weeds have taken over. This weed is also in the lawn in front of the box hedge, I’ll have to start dealing with that next spring so it doesn’t creep back into the beds. Most likely the lawn area will be smothered and reseeded with weed free seed. Sometimes starting from scratch is the easiest way to get to where we want to be.

Do you have any invasive weeds you’re dealing with in your garden?

Box, Box, Box

November 16th, 2015

I talked last week about propagation and how great a skill it is to learn. This weekend I spent a half hour or so taking 100 boxwood cuttings from two different varieties. I’ve been wanting to do this for a few years, but I’ve been forgetting to do it until the garden is covered in snow.
propagating boxwood 1
I have a huge garden now and I need lots of plants to fill it. I’m especially in need of hedges to help tame the wildness of this garden and add a little structure and definition to all the different spaces. While I plan to use a variety of plants for the hedges, boxwood is going to be a main plant because it’s so easy to propagate.
propagating boxwood 2
I have ‘Wintergreen’ and ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood, both look decent without pruning, which is a bonus. I’m not positive that I want a crisply pruned hedge, and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to actually prune the hedges.
propagating boxwood 3
Generally, I have great success rooting boxwood. It’s much later than I usually take cuttings. These will go in the basement on a heating mat and hopefully that will increase my success rate. If not, I’m not going to lose anything but a bit of time. If I have good success I save myself quite a bundle.
Typically, I take them in August and let them root for a few weeks before planting them in the garden. I have read that they can be rooted directly in the garden, I’ll definitely be trying that next year! Propagating hedge plants is something I need to prioritize when it comes to garden chores, in the coming years I’ll be glad I took the time to get them going.

What did you do in the garden this weekend?

Friday Favorite: Sunrise

November 13th, 2015

It’s interesting that at certain times of the year I notice sunrises and sunsets more than at others. This time of year the sunrises become the highlight of my morning. Perhaps it’s the fact that the leaves are gone from the trees allowing for a wider view, perhaps it’s that the sun rises right in front of the house instead of over to the east where I can’t see it as much.
I suppose it doesn’t really matter why I notice it this time of year as long as I continue to do so. I love sitting in one particular chair letting the golden light shine in my eye while I drink my morning coffee.

Do you notice sunrises/sunsets more at certain times of the year?

Final Resting Place

November 12th, 2015

If you’ve been reading here for long, you know about my love of boxwood hedges. If you’ve been reading here since I moved from Ohio, you’ll know I planted a box hedge in Ohio the year before we moved. You’ll also know that the new owners of our home didn’t want the hedge and I brought it with me. They were moved in December of 2012, planted in my main vegetable garden here in Maine, then they were moved the following spring to a nursery area where they have been patiently waiting.
boxwood hedge 1
This week I’ve been moving to their new location, their final location where they can finally rest peacefully. They won’t all go in this space, I now have twenty shrubs, each about two feet around (both in width and height). I’m debating on placement for the remainder, I may be able to move them yet this fall if the weather continues to cooperate. These are the variety ‘Wintergreen’.
boxwood hedge 2
I planted the boxwood 34 inches apart and 26 inches in from the garden edge. At the moment, I’m thinking I want to prune into loose balls that are about three feet around in all directions. They will barely touch and should provide a semi formal hedge, not the crisp angular edge of a square hedge. I may or may not keep this look when it’s mature, if I decide I want a clipped hedge, I’ll simply root cuttings between these plants to fill in the gaps.
boxwood hedge 3
On the end of the hedge there’s a ‘Green Mountain’ boxwood that will be allowed to grow taller, in more of an oval shape to form an end cap to the hedge. I have already tied it up for winter because it was a little misshapen from the 12 feet of snow we got last winter.
boxwood hedge 4
The garden area behind this new hedge is a new space, it was grass last season. It has wonderful southern exposure and it fairly hot during the summer. I’m thinking of planting hardy figs against the rock wall and filling the remainder of the bed with masses of globe alliums and ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint, this photo from Pinterest is what gave me the idea. I’ll propagate the catmint this coming spring and buy the alliums next fall, the following year should be garden perfection!

Have you ever taken plants with you when you moved?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.