Saturday, June 30, 2007

Community Gardens

Bethlehem’s community gardens

The Garden of Serenity maintained by the Bethlehem Garden Club was a 2006 recipient of the Suburban Greening Award by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. (see April 21, 2007 post) It is a peaceful oasis in the city with a place to sit and enjoy the garden.

Miller House Garden is also maintained by the Bethlehem Garden Club. (see April 21, 2007 post) Full of 18th century plants, this garden offers a view of what might have grown in a colonial garden. The plants, from roses to lavender to tomatoes and thyme, fill a walk through this little plot with delightful nostalgia.

Musikfest’s Blumenplatz, is planned, planted and cared for by members of the Blumenplatz committee. Starting in May until the middle of August, the garden illustrates the dazzling fun of Musikfest. This colorful garden was also a 2006 recipient of the Suburban Greening Award by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society.

As you stroll around Musikfest (August 3-12, 2007) stop to look at the community gardens in Bethlehem. Blumenplatz and The Garden of Serenity are located near Americaplatz in Bethlehem’s City Center near the Public Library. The Miller House Garden is located behind Volksplatz in the Colonial Industrial Quarter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Varmints in the Garden

Bunnies and birds and ground hogs and deer and skunks – we’ve had them all.

Right now either the bunnies or the birds are munching on the dusty miller. I’ve tried putting pinwheels near them. That worked for a while. Now I’m sprinkling cayenne pepper on the leaves. That seems to be working for now. Soon the plants will be large and less tasty to the critters.

The ground hogs stand on their hind legs and feast on the cone flowers. I use cayenne pepper there too. It seems to work – unless the ground hogs are waiting for the tomatoes to ripen so they can make salsa.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Compost Tea

I’ve started making compost tea. It’s a simple process, really. I purchased an Aquatic Gardens Single Outlet Aquarium Air Pump Hi-tech 800 and 8 ft Clear Air Line Tubing for $11.64. I loosely tied a hex-nut to the end of the tubing to keep the hose at the bottom of the bucket. Then, I followed the recipe and instructions from Doug Green’s

After filling the 5 gallon bucket, I ran the pump for 24 hours to remove the chlorine from the tap water. Then I put 3 or 4 handfuls of compost in a knee-hi ladies stocking and hung it over the side of the bucket. I added a little molasses and lemon juice and let the pump run for another 24 hours. I used a sprinkling can to water vegetables and flowering plants. It’s too early to tell if this process is worth the effort. I’ll be making compost tea all summer to see if I can notice a difference in areas where I’ve applied the compost tea. There are a lot of variables so I don't know if I'll be able to tell if the compost tea makes difference.

Anyway, it can’t hurt, right? Well, not according to some writers. See “The Great Compost Tea Debate” in Garden Rant blog by the Jeffs and comments – 6/21/07 Jeff Gillman: Benefits? Maybe. Problems? Likely - and - Jeff Lowenfels: AACT (and only AACT) is the real deal

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Watering and Trimming

With the weeds under control (which means there are now more plants that I want than weeds that I don’t want), my gardening attention has turned to watering and trimming. After a few weeks of hot, dry weather I’ve turned soakers on in each garden about once a week for about 20 minutes. Some of the potted plants need to be watered twice a day. We had a storm last night so I will have a watering-day off today, I hope.

I’ve also managed to trim the overgrowth from the garden paths this week - to reduce the chance of getting poked in the eye on my walks through the garden.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Ground Cover

Probably the most work-intensive ground cover in my garden is ivy. Again, I don’t know the name. The neighbor who gave it to me called it American Ivy. There are bunch of varieties at .

We originally put it on our small bank in the front of the house to hold the hill and to eliminate the need to mow the lumpy little bank. It needs to be cut back about three times a year and gets an unattractive green-brown color in the winter. I think mice live in there, too. The colossal job of ripping it up and replacing it makes me put up with the work it takes to keep it somewhat neat.

On the plus side - The ivy provides some winter protection for Heather Erica x darleyensis ‘silberschmeize’ which blooms white from December to May.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ground Cover

One of my favorite ground covers is this little sedum. It was another gift from a gardening friend so I don’t have it’s name. It looks similar to Sedum rupestre 'angelina' but I can't be sure.
The fast-growing stonecrop pictured here survives in the hot, dry pathway between our deck and garage. If it grows over the stepping stones, it’s easy to pull out – I scoop it up with my finger tips. Stepping on it is usually enough to keep it back. It spreads quickly and has a pretty little yellow flower in late spring. It helps keep the weeds to a minimum and moisture in the soil. It’s about as care free as it gets.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

More Weeds

As I continued weeding this week, I realized some weeding tasks are more tedious than others. I have several places that I allow to reseed. Above, nicotiana and alyssum reseeded with weeds (top). In order to save the plants and get rid of the weeds, I had to pick out the weeds one by one. This time-consuming task is worth it to me for free plants. I sit in the shade with a cool drink and pull them out one by one.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


"Nothing satisfies like a neatly weeded bed; improvement in the garden is immediate, sometimes even dramatic. Gardeners who like it often describe weeding as 'therapeutic.'" HGTV website article “Weeds Aren’t All Bad” by Lindsay Bond Totten, Scripps Howard News.

After a steady rain, compliments of tropical storm Barry, the weeds are growing with a vengeance, the ground is soft and I’m off on a weeding frenzy.

Weeds are a fact of life in my garden. Even landscape fabric will not stop them. I know a home owner who used the fabric in the entire garden and thought he would never need to weed again. His weeds grew higher than the shrubs.

A layer of mulch keeps down the weeds or makes them easier to pull out. Years of compost and mulching keep most of my garden’s soil soft and loamy so the weeds come out easier. The pre-emergent Preen helps me keep some of the weeds out of the paths. (Although, now Preen comes with fertilizer. What’s up with that?)

Getting to the root of the matter -

My favorite tool for weeding is my good old dandelion digger. I feel great satisfaction getting the weed out roots and all. I am almost euphoric when I get a complete dandelion, wild garlic or a small thistle.

My new paving weeder is great for getting weeds that grow in the brick edging, between bricks and in tight places. The nicotiana coming up between the bricks is a weed in that spot. The thin blade will fit between the bricks and lift out the plant, roots and all. It’s also great for edging along sidewalks.

My least favorite weed at present is oxalis - the one with red stems & roots. The shallow horizontal roots are difficult to completely dig out. I use the dandelion digger or a small trowel to slide as many roots out as possible. I’ve been hot on the trail for years. I’ve resorted to Roundup where the weed is not too close other garden plants. I don’t seem to be winning the battle. But, the challenge keeps me going.

I attended a class at Lehigh County Extension “The Wicked World of Weeds” with Dick Pudliner, Master Gardener that was extremely informative. Call the Lehigh County Extension office if you want some expert help with your weeds.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sweet Shrub

The Sweet Shrub is almost finished blooming. I believe it is Calycanthus floridus, although when it was given to me, the owner called it a strawberry bush. I guess the small blooms do resemble a strawberry.

This bush fills the air with a sweet, pungent odor for the month of May. The shrub is about 10’ tall and 6’ wide. I hack it back a couple of times during the summer to keep it within bounds. In the early spring, I dig up the runners so I won’t end up with 100 sweet shrubs. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by any diseases or bugs.

While the blooms aren’t much to look at, the fragrance is irresistibly alluring.