Saturday, August 29, 2009

Precision Drip Spikes

Last May 30 I posted that I was going to try Precision Drip Spikes to help keep my potted pole beans and bush cucumbers watered during the summer.

I ordered a pack of four spikes for $16.95 from Gardener’s Supply. Each “Spike” consisted of a 7" spike to fit in the water bottle, a tiny hose and a small “dripper” spike. The water bottle is not included.
A numbered dial on the "dripper" spike sets the amount of water to be released.

According to the instructions, “When you plant the (dripper) spike the water outlet must not come in contact with the soil.”

The first thing that happened with the Precision Drip Spikes: The 2 liter bottle spike sunk in the soil and it was difficult to put the drip end in the soil without getting it too deep. I tried to prop the bottle on some flat stones and lean it against the pot. There was still an S-shaped curve in the hose. A smaller bottle didn’t work much better.

I fiddled around with it for weeks. If I got everything right, it worked well. Some times it created a vacuum and no water came out at all. I finally took them out. I think it takes someone with more patience than I have to get the Precision Drip Spikes working correctly.

I’ve read that some people cut the bottom off the water bottle which makes it easier to refill and eliminates the vacuum problem. I may try that next year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hot Summer Garden

. . . and other garden ramblings.

I have a new meaning for the words shade garden -- gardening in the shade.

I’ve been following the shade around the garden. The little time I’ve spent in the garden is planned to take advantage of the shade. Last week 90 to 100 degree heat and high humidity put this new meaning on shade gardening. Fortunately I have a lot of mature trees.

Morning Glories in Round Rock (Texas) reported a heat index 117 in her blog on June 30. I thought of her as the sweat dripped off my nose with the gnats and mosquitoes buzzed in my ears. I can’t even imagine what a heat index of 117 feels like.

We’ve also had some wild storms. The wind and rain turned the crepe myrtle into weeping crepe myrtle.


The cosmos leans against the pussy willow. I’ve cut some of the broken stems and propped up some others.

I picked some great sweet peppers (‘Early Sensation). The seeds were planted on March 11. On my May 13th post, “Seed Challenge”, the plants were ready for the garden. I cooked up a pot of old-fashioned stuffed peppers last week – five months from seed to stomach.

I got some exciting news from Carol at May Dreams Garden this week. I won a CobraHead Weeder. The good folks at CobraHead LLC gave one to everyone who entered. Very generous indeed and just in time for fall weeding.

I’ve been having trouble with the link to Doug Green’s Garden (blog). Does the link at the right work for anyone? Please leave a comment. I’ll change the link if anyone else is having trouble. I can’t seem to get it working. Here’s the link to Doug’s Simple Gift Farm website - You may be able access his blog there. Doug will also release a new propagation ebook this week. It’s a winner.

Fortunately, we’re having some better weather this week with temperatures in the 80’s and lower humidity. I’ll be a happier gardener this week.


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Confession of my dirty little secret:

The herbs in my garden are ornamental. I don’t use herbs for cooking, crafts or for medicinal purposes. For me, cooking and crafts rate just above dusting on my "what-I-like-to-do scale". I use other substances for medicinal purposes.

That said, I decided to plant herb seeds in fish boxes just to see what I could grow. On May 5, I planted basil and oregano in one box, parsley and lettuce in the other two.

The lettuce was pretty but it never grew to a size that I considered large enough to eat before going to seed.

The parsley was growing nicely until the rabbits mowed it down. This box has a sprig of lobelia growing at the end. The lobelia seeds must have been in the soil from another year.

The basil and oregano did well in the fish boxes with pretty shades of green.


I couldn’t resist free plants from a friend. Lovage, basil pistou, Christmas basil, lime basil, Plow Church Cemetery basil, Spice Island rosemary, summer savory and Mexican mint marigold were planted in a circle on June 24. They’ve grown large and should have had more space.
The scents are refreshing. I love to run my hand over the plants to release the aroma or pick a twig to carry as I walk around the garden.

One thing I’ve learned from my little herb experiment – herbs are easy to grow. And, if you like to cook, they can be an easy to grow way to fresh flavor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Dodder (Cuscuta campestri)

I never thought I would see a weed that I haven’t seen before in my area. Dodder, sometimes called strangleweed or field dodder, is a new one to me. I found it the other day while working in a local garden. It’s not a weed I will soon forget.

I searched online and verified through the Lehigh County Extension office.

It is a parasitic weed. The yellow tendrils wrap around the host plant (snapdragon in the picture) and suck the life blood out of the plant. The weed can cover a plant or shrub quickly. There are no roots to pull. Once the seed germinates, dodder gets all its nourishment from the host plant. One plant can produce up to 3,000 seeds. The seeds can remain in the soil for years.

I put a plastic trash bag over the affected plants, pulled them out and put the whole thing in the dumpster. I’ll use Preen to discourage any seeds from germinating. I’ll have to be sure to watch for a recurrence next year.

(More information about dodder from the University of California and Purdue University.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2009

This month I picked Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Venice’ for my bloom day post. It wasn’t hard to pick just one bloom this month. It's one of my favorites. This hydrangea started blooming in the middle of July. Some flowers were deep purple - others bright pink.

After five years my garden, it continues to bloom in different colors on the same compact bush. In recent nursery ads, it’s listed as dwarf or 12 to 32”. Mine is at the top end of that measurement plus.

It has a long season of bloom. Last September 3, I posted a picture of one of the last flowers to open.

(The pictures on the right show the same flowers on July 26, 2009 and again this week.)

To enjoy other gardeners’ spectacular summer blooms visit May Dreams Gardens August Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Carol on the 15th of each month.


(I’ll be away for the weekend so I'm cheating a little by posting this early. Hope you don't mind.)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Locust Tree

The old locust tree in the back yard is humming with bees. You can hear it best in the morning when the entire tree literally hums.

The sidewalk is covered with blossoms. The grass resembles a light snow event. Drunken bees walk on the driveway.

When the blossoms are gone the tree will produce seed pods. They will eventually drop and stain the sidewalks or rot in the garden. The leaves are small and easy to rake up in the fall.

We got the tree as a sapling from a relative so I really don’t know its name – most likely a honey locust. I have never seen any thorns. Modern varieties like Shademaster are both thornless and podless. They make a great shade tree growing to 70 feet high and 50 feet wide.

It’s a pretty, umbrella shaped tree and the blossoms smell sweet so we tolerate the mess.

(More information about honey locust at Tree Help dot com.)

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Last December I wrote about my Euonymus (Fortunei ‘Moonshadow’ and ‘Emerald Surprise’) .

Another problem has come up with ‘Moonshadow’. Parts of it are dying off. As I cut off the dead branches, I couldn’t find much evidence of scale. I found a little fungus on some of the branches.

It’s a bit of a puzzle. The lifespan of Euonymus is said to be 5 to 20 years. The ‘Moonshadow’ in my garden was planted in 2000. It could be the end of its lifespan, I guess.

With the very wet spring and beginning of summer, I have to suspect fungal infection. The shrubs are very dense from trimming all those years. I’ll open them up a bit by taking some of the larger branches out. I’m trying to pick up all leaf debris around the plant.

Also the ‘Emerald Surprise’ has scale for the first time this year.

I’ll continue to spray both shrubs and see what happens.

(Euonymus Diseases & Insect Pests from Clemson University Cooperative Extension.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Summer Garden

I’m taking a break from the garden this week to attend Musikfest.

Arts Quests’ music extravaganza began July 31 and continues through August 9. It’s a party all over downtown Bethlehem with a variety of music, street performers, craftspeople and food. (Picture above coleus at Blumenplatz next to Americaplatz.)

But I have had time to enjoy my own garden.

The reseeding area makes an instant cottage garden. Cosmos, snapdragons, snow-on-the-mountain, cleome, sweet alyssum with the double orange day lilies crowd together. This area is slightly different every year depending what re-seeds. This year the cosmos has pretty much taken over.

The new Casablanca lily’s pretty, scented blooms look good in their first year.


I like the look of liatris and coneflowers together. The liatris seems to be extra tall this year.

Super Elfin Bright Orange Impatiens and coleus light up a dark spot under the redbud tree.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Weeding and Deadheading

I’ve been trying to catch up in the garden.
Mature gardeners running willy-nilly around the garden attacking plants is not a pretty sight. Then it also seems like nothing is ever complete. So this time I’ve made a list. I’m trying to be logical and sane – the cool, organized gardener.

After the vegetables were picked, I started weeding and deadheading.

With 3 inches of rain while we were gone, the weeds are as happy as the plants. I plan to weed one garden area at a time.
Purslane, creeping woodsorrel, crabgrass need to be pulled before they go to seed. Some of the paths are overgrown. The plants are so pretty I’ll leave them. Cosmos and sweet alyssum took over the path above.

Lilies, calendula, hostas, petunias need to be deadheaded.

I’ll cut about 1/3 off the top of the lily stalk.

I’ll cut the hosta flower stems as low as I can.

I plan to cut the calendula flowers off with a hedge clipper. There are so many of them I don’t want all those seeds to fall.

I also need to pinch off the seed heads on the petunias. They look a little sad after a week of neglect. I always pinch the flower and seed head. I know some people just pull the spent flower. I think if they’re making seeds, they have less energy to make flowers. What do you do? Does it matter?

That's my immediate list. I wonder how long it will take to go from the cool, organized gardener to a garden maniac?
(See Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide for pictures of purslane, creeping woodsorrel and crabgrass. Weeding gives me a lot of time to think. I wonder what weeds are in your garden? What weeds give you fits in the middle of summer?)