Category Archives: Compost


The Dahlias didn’t put on their usual show last fall.

Perhaps it was the hot summer.

More likely it’s the shade created by the neighbor’s mulberry tree.

I don’t want the mulberry tree to go away.

It takes me back to my childhood.

On our way to church in late spring

Daddy would stop along a county road

We’d all jump out and start picking and eating mulberries.

For those of you who don’t know mulberries, they stain.

Big time.

So there we would be in our Sunday best.

Standing in a ditch

Eating mulberries.

Mother was fairly laid back about it all.

Thanks for that example, Mom.

Back to Dahlias.

So if I want Dahlias, I’m going to have to move them.

I knew this last fall

When Elliott was home he suggested moving them to the NE corner of the garden house.

Good idea.

But that space was full of plants.

So first I moved the Digitalis – Foxglove to the other side of the garden house.

Then I dumped lots of compost to settle in for the winter.

Earlier this spring I moved the Aloha roses to their new home across the path.

So, yesterday was moving day.

I decided to round the corner, too.

That meant digging up the Butterfly Bush.

I think it’s moving to Megan’s – if she’ll have it.

New Dahlia Bed

New Dahlia Bed

Next came digging up the dozen or so Dahlias that survived.

I’ve ordered more – lots more.

Emory Paul – that big glorious dinner plate Dahlia.

Along with Kevin Floodlight – a yellow favorite

Fleurel which is white.

Lilac Time, and the bi-colors of Avignon and Mom’s Special.

Since the ones I dug are of unknown lineage

And the new ones are all complimentary in color.

I just mixed them together.

Except for Emory Paul which creates a backdrop against the garden house.

There is no great trick to planting them.

Bury them about 6 – 8 ” deep like a Daffodil.

You can usually tell which end is up by the blunt end of the old stem.

It will take them a bit to come up

So place a marker by each one you plant.

Dahlias have a growth habit that is well…wild.

To say they need staking is an understatement.

They need staking and caging and anything else you can dream up.

Several years ago I came up with a system that works pretty well.

I use the triangular wire tomato cages you can find at garden centers.

I place them side by side

Alternating them to form a box.

Cover the entire area with cages.

Then stabilize them by connecting them with cable ties.

Now because these are tall heavy blooms

I go one step further.

Lace a 4′ piece of rebar through one side of each cage.

Are you beginning to get the picture!

Now we wait.

Gardening does teach you patience.

Fall will bring amazing results.

Enjoy the week.


P.S. Here’s what’s showing off this week.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Amaryllis planted in the garden

Amaryllis planted in the garden




Filed under Amaryllis, Compost, Dahlias, Digitalis, Fall, Garden House, Garden Planning, Gardening, Oakleaf Hydrangea, patience, Perennials

Lenten Compost


 Probably the most asked gardening question this time of year

is how soon can I start. 

We all get spring fever.

Wanting to dig up something

or plant something.

I have followed the same schedule for years

decades really.

“If by the middle of March the 15 day forecast looks good

Let the fun begin.”

And it’s worked.

I’ve saved myself from doing lots of damage over the years

Until this year.

After this remarkably warm winter

Everything is ahead

way ahead.

I have tulips blooming on St. Patty’s day ahead!

St. Patty's Day Tulips

Which I guess means I’m behind.

But I’m not going to think like that.

I’m going to pace myself

So today I broke out my friendly leaf sucker and began.

John had placed the blanket of chopped leaves and grass

on my garden last fall.

Now it must come off

and head to the compost pile.

But first I dug up the end of last year’s leaves fully composted and

spread them around my little “hill”.

This rich remnant of leaves has been home to worms the size of small snakes.

Three wheel barrows full are now enriching the heretofore ignored east end of my garden.

The hole this created has been filled with the contents of one side of my composter

and an endless pile of chopped leaves.

The beginning of the next batch.

A friend sent me a Lenten devotional about composting.

It says that the metaphor of compost is fitting for Lent.

From death comes life.

It’s true .

In gardening.

In life.


P.S.  The Redbuds are lighting up this part of the world.

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Filed under Compost, Forsythia, Redbud Trees, tulips, Uncategorized, Violets

Good Night Garden

We’ve come to the end of the season.

True, I’ll likely find a way to spend some hours puttering away over the next few months.

But for the most part gardening season is over.

There are a few end of the year tasks that create the ritual I call

“Putting the garden to bed.”

In the perfect garden universe

I would have time to do a complete weeding sweep through the garden.


Next would come a car load of manure

15 or 20 bags.

I’d cover the crown of each and every rose bush.

Providing winter warmth and slow release fertilizer.

The reward is new spring growth from the roots.

Hydrangea, Hosta and Hardy Hibiscus all get a good dose as well.

Next comes a “blanket” of leaves.

Remember the leaf rule.

Never…never…never put them on the curb.

Instead of raking them up

Mow them up.

This chops them into a perfect winter mulch for


John did this for me this fall as he mowed his fescue.

Makes sense

Fescue is a shade grass so the leaves fall …on the fescue.

What a gift this was.

Thank you John.

Cassidy & William helped too!

It’s also a good time for review.

I often make notes of what did and didn’t work.

What I’ve learned

How I’ll do it differently next time.

But this year the review feels more like

“What I learned during my 1st season of blogging.”

Technically, I’ve learned a lot – though I’ve got miles to go.

I think most of what I’ve learned is about myself.

For instance over Memorial Day I wrote of garden mentors.

About the “gumption”  my mother gave me for gardening and for life.

What an incredible gift.

Courage to try everything.

She never read the instructions to anything.

I’m guilty of the same.

Just jump in and see where it takes you.

I’ve also learned that I have a low threshold for “weather whining”.

I know

This is an historically bad weather year in about 9 different categories.

But really, folks.

Get over it.

I couldn’t end this first season without thanking many people.

So many of you have been encouraging with your compliments.

I love life in a small town.

It suits me.

Running into you around town

Sharing stories of our gardens

And our lives.

It warms my soul.

You may recall that I began blogging at the suggestion of a friend.

Amy grew up next door.

I’ve known her almost her entire life.

Recently, she came to lunch.

No longer the child I’ve watched grow.

She is a woman…wife…mother.

We have much in common as women.

We had lunch in the garden house.

Sharing stories of our current lives

And memories of her mother, Patti.

Thanks Amy, for the idea

And the encouragement.

And the friendship.

So…this will wrap up the first season of “In My Garden…tales from deep in my soil.”

I’ll be back in late winter.

Till then know that I’ve all ready seen the hope of spring.

Larkspur is sprouting everywhere!

Take care,



Filed under Compost, Garden House, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening Mentors, Hardy Hibiscus, Hosta, Hydrangea, Larkspur, roses, spring, Uncategorized


Dahlias are the showiest flower I grow.

They come late in the season here.

Imagine their tubers growing silently in the ground all season.

Waiting patiently for everything else to have its moment in the sun.

Then, just when you think it’s too hot and tired for anything else to happen

Dahlias bloom.

And bloom.

It’s no small bloom.

The giant dinner plate Dahlias are just that.


The size of your head giant.

Kevin Floodlight Dinner Plate Dahlia

Who can resist growing flowers  that big.

Certainly not me.

And now I seem to have hooked Elliott and Kristina.

They have wonderful Dahlias growing against their neighbor’s garage wall.

I’ve had a Dahlia bed ever since we moved here.

This garden had the perfect place.

A skinny spot near the fence where the garden’s edge curves.

And so it was that first spring I ordered Dahlias.

Way too many Dahlias.

All of them the giant dinner plate variety.

For years they have supplied me with drama for fall arrangements.

White and burgandy dahlias with Belinda's dream roses and green hydrangea

People literally gasp when they see them.

September arrangement for church

But not so much now.

The neighbor’s Mulberry tree and a Redbud that John’s planted in the back of my garden

Are now shading both ends.

So it’s time to move.

The Dahlias that is.

When Elliott was here last month we found a new location.

The east side of the garden house

Dahlia's future home

It gets full sun till the middle of the afternoon.

And there seems to be nothing growing in its direction.

So it should stay sunny for years.

It’s at the back of the garden.

So it can provide support for the taller than anything else in the garden plants.

The problem is.

It’s all ready full of plants.

So my big fall project is to find homes for everything there.

And move as many of them as possible.

I began with the Digitalis.

I’ve transplanted all of them to the south side of the arbor.

They seems to be happy.

It actually rained shortly after they were transplanted.

Zinnias and Cockscomb are blooming there now.

They will simply be pulled up at the end of the season.

The biggest part of the project is the large Aloha Rose.

I brought it from my previous garden.

So it’s accustomed to being dug up.

I’ve found a new home for it on the other side of the path.

This is good for many reasons.

Not the least of which is the fact that with roses on both sides of the path

I often do a zig zag as I walk through to avoid the thorns on long rose canes.

I’m hoping to get it moved this fall.

But will wait  a bit since it’s finally blooming.

I’d like to enjoy a few more blooms before I start digging.

After the rose is moved I’ll cover the area with manure and compost.

I’ll work it in a bit to allow it to further break down over the winter.

Come spring it will be a rich home for Dahlias.

Now the only question remaining is when to dig the old Dahlias.

Technically, I should dig them every fall since they are only hardy to zone 8.

But…my little zone 6b – 7 garden has kept them warm for years without digging.

If I dig them now I have to keep them someplace cool and dry this winter.

I think I’ll give it a try because….

Guess what I want to plant in their now semi-shady location.

I’ve been seeing some new varieties in my garden catalogs.

What else…


Enjoy the sunshine,


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Filed under Compost, Dahlias, Fall, Garden House, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Hydrangea, Perennials, roses, TRANSPLANTING, Uncategorized


There is something about fall




It’s an almost indescribable feeling

The end of summer

The beginning of fall

Here on the plains I’ve known fall to arrive anytime from mid-August until October.

This year it came right on schedule.

Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend.

Put away white clothes – check !

Turn on the cool – check !

It was as if someone finally found the switch on that blast furnace known as the Summer of 2011.

And they mercifully turned it off.

Every day since has been pure delight.

Cool crisp mornings

Sunny delightful afternoons.

So….what do we do in the garden now.





First I discovered that the sugar snap peas I planted a few weeks ago weren’t doing so good.

Some had sprouted

But not many

Something was eating on some.

Likely grasshoppers.

So I re-planted.

Remember to soak the seed a few hours or overnight.

Then since I was filling in I used a dandelion digger.

Stab it into the ground where there is a blank space

And drop the seed in the hole.

Water well and keep moist till they sprout

Which shouldn’t take long this time of year.

Hopefully there is still time for them to grow and produce Peg’s favorite veggie.

Then I began to think lettuce.


I seem to plant things in the same place.

I know with vegetables you need to rotate.

But since mine are inter-planted with my flowers that’s a little tricky.

So I’m doing the next best thing.

Keep enriching the soil.

The edge of the hydrangea bed by the gate is one of my favorite spots.

The impatiens mostly just fried there this summer.

So I pulled what was left up – way ahead of the usual time.

Next I worked up the soil

Pitchforks are great for this job

Added compost – lots of compost.

Compost from summer leaf pile

Work it all up and

Invite Cassidy and Sloan to help plant.

The theory is if they grow it they will eat it!

Once we’ve sprinkled lots of Encore Mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

We pat them in and give them a drink.

I’m working on a couple of other lettuce beds.

Won’t plant them for a week or two.

Hopefully this will spread out the season and we’ll have tons of lettuce

To eat and to share.

For the re-thinking I engaged Elliott

He’s here for a working vacation.

It’s amazing how you can ponder your garden for weeks trying to solve a problem

And solve it in a 10 minute conversation with a kindred soul fellow gardener.

The problem is that my wonderful Dahlia area is losing it’s sun.

It’s going to shade.

All ready the ends are not producing

The middle can’t be far behind.

Yet a solo Dahlia in the sunny part of the garden is blooming its head off.

Elliott’s idea.

Add a Dahlia area on the northeast corner of the garden house.

Great idea.

This area looks like it will always be sunny.

It’s will require some fall and spring transplanting

Before I can plant the area to Dahlias next spring.

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

As for observing

We’ve spent lots of time watching and feeding orb spiders this week.

An orb spider "preparing" lunch

But….that’s a story all its own

I’ll share it next time.

Till then

Glory in these days

Walk your neighborhood

Look at it through the eyes of a child

Take it all in.


Cassidy in front of the sunflower she planted last spring.


Filed under Compost, Fall, Garden Planning, Lettuce, Orb Spider, sugar snap peas, Sunflowers, Uncategorized