Nature Drama in a Japanese Garden

Screen Shot 2019-01-19 at 7.45.49 AMHere’s the scenario.

This green heron sat very still, half hidden by a stone.  Inch-long fish wiggled very near in the pond but just out of reach of the bird.  The enterprising heron took wee bits of whatever it found on the stone, dropped them into the water and waited.

The found “lure” dropped into the pond rippled the surface. The heron watched. An unsuspecting fish swam to investigate and became lunch.

Did you know green herons use bait to catch fish?

This certainly wasn’t the highlight of Morakami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray, Florida, but it was a fascinating snippet of nature.

The botanical garden grounds are exquisitely manicured and there is a variety of different types of Japanese gardens including six historical gardens.

Much of the lake shoreline reminded me of the Adirondacks with its boulders and rocky ledges. I’m always considering, “What can I take home from this experience?”

In the Adirondacks, the landscape is wild. Here the wilderness was partially tamed through pruning and placement of pathways, wooden bridges, archways and bamboo fencing.

Mostly pruning considering the boulders are enormous and spans of rock ledge extend into the waters where turtles and koi eagerly put on a show.

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One of the many pleasures of the gardens is the carefully positioned benches set into the scene to give visitors a resting place with long views of expanded spaces and unfolding natural dramas.

There’s a lot to see including art exhibits. And, lunch here is a culinary delight. Check out the website: https://morikami.org

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We need Volunteers Today!

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.03.42 AMSix raised beds are in place and we need helpers to staple landscape fabric around the base as shown in the photo below.  Even if you can only give us an hour, it will help.  Please come and volunteer. We will be in the garden from 1 p.m. to at least 5 p.m.
This step moves us closer to getting the pathways down and the soil in the beds.  As of this morning, we have 25 raised beds built. Rich Torkelson will be there this afternoon moving us forward.  Yay!

Bring gloves and a staple gun if you have one. Hat and sunscreen, too.

Thank you.   Our volunteers have been incredible and we appreciate each and every one of you.

Great Plants

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 11.52.02 AMRobert Curry has grown tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and eggplants that he is selling to the gardeners for $1. each.  The plants are beautiful, robust and healthy. This is a very generous offer.

Right now, the plants are near the silo.  You can pay Robert directly or add your money to the Robert C. honor jar near the plants.

Livestock Troughs as Planters

Anyone have experience with using galvanized steel livestock troughs as raised garden beds?

I’ve been pricing materials for raised beds and searching online for what other gardeners have used: the costs and designs. One idea that caught my eye was using livestock troughs as planters.

Online, I’ve seen 20 gauge galvanized steel livestock watering troughs measuring 3 feet by 10 feet, 24 inches tall for about $240.

Advantages: Less expensive than using some long lasting wood boards, ready to use, taller beds make gardening easier for all. The height of the bed should discourage rabbits and the bottom should keep voles and moles out. Lifespan: 5 to 20 years.

Disadvantages: Some websites posted concerns about zinc leaching into the soil. So I did what journalists do, I researched.

Source One

Alana Hochstein, a corrosion Engineer with the American Galvanizers Association noted in an emailThe Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved the use of galvanized steel for food preparation and conveyance for all applications with the exception of foods that have a high acid content, such as tomatoes, oranges, limes, and other fruits. For more information, see our website:

https://www.galvanizeit.org/hot-dip-galvanizing/how-long-does-hdg-last/contact-with-food

Source Two

The National Gardening Association (https://garden.org/about/intro/president)

I emailed NGA President David Whitinger about whether zinc was a concern. He wrote: “Plenty of people use galvanized containers for gardening and I’ve never heard of anything to suggest that it’s not safe.”

I also noted online that community gardens and restaurants are using galvanized steel as beds. Still, I needed more information.

Third Source

I looked for data from Cornell University. Cornell soil extension agent Robert R. Schindelbeck emailed: “The zinc can leach from the metal object into the soil. Generally this is OK as zinc is relatively “safe.” He referred me to this link titled Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities:

http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/Metals_Urban_Garden_Soils.pd

Excerpts follow.

“What levels of metals are acceptable in garden soils?

“There are no standards protective of public health specifically for metals in garden soils in NYS, but there are guidance values developed for other purposes that gardeners can consider.”

Zinc is naturally occurring. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Department of Health developed guidance values. The guidance values for zinc are 2200 parts per million (PPM). Levels found in NYS soils in rural areas were 10-140 ppm and in urban areas 64-380 ppm.

“Human health: Small amounts of zinc in the diet are essential for good health.

“Plant health: Zinc is an essential micronutrient for plants, but it can be toxic to plants at higher soil levels, even below those that are a concern for human health.”

That begs the question: What are the zinc levels for soil in a galvanized trough? This question gets answered by the fourth source: Rodale’s Organic Life article written by Deb Martin, November 13, 2014

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/when-sheet-metal-meets-soil

Is it safe to use galvanized sheet metal to build raised garden beds? —Susan Taylor, Monticello, Utah

Over time, compounds used in the galvanizing process will leach from galvanized metal into surrounding soil. Climate and soil conditions such as moisture and salinity affect the rate and the amount of leaching. While the by-products of corrosion are unlikely to occur in amounts that pose any risk to human or plant health, gardeners who are considering growing in galvanized containers or metal-framed beds should be aware of the potential for zinc and other materials to transfer into the soil.

Zinc, the main ingredient in the galvanizing “bath” used to prolong the life of steel, is an essential micronutrient that occurs naturally in North American soils at an average background level of 0.07 milligrams of zinc per gram of soil. For the sake of comparison, the Daily Value (an approximation of our dietary need) for zinc established by the FDA for adults is 8 to 11 milligrams.

While studies of zinc levels in the soil next to galvanized structures have found increased amounts of the element, those levels often are comparable to background levels and within EPA guidelines, says Dan Barlow, a corrosion engineer with the American Galvanizers Association.

Zinc does not migrate readily through soil, so elevated zinc levels tend to be found only in the immediate area of a galvanized container or structure. Soil pH, organic matter content, and other soil characteristics affect zinc’s ability to be taken up by plant roots. As much as 90 percent of zinc in soil may be unavailable for uptake by plants.

Due to zinc’s limited bioavailability in soil, there is little chance of ingesting too much zinc through plants grown in proximity to galvanized metal, says Eric Van Genderen, Ph.D., manager of environment and sustainability for the International Zinc Association. “You will likely never get even your recommended daily allowance from your produce, much less too much,” he says.

Because galvanized metal corrodes faster as pH decreases, Van Genderen says it’s probably not the best container material for plants that require acidic conditions.

Other corrosion by-products may show up in the surrounding soil, Van Genderen says. He notes that levels of other metals found in galvanized surfaces, such as nickel and bismuth, typically would be “so low that you’d probably never see a difference in the amount coming from the galvanized metal versus the background levels.”

The health of beneficial soil microorganisms that are exposed to galvanized metal is another consideration. “There is no question zinc can kill some of the soil’s microbes and that others love it,” says Jeff Lowenfels, author of Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Timber Press, 2010), and Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition (Timber Press, 2013). “I am willing to let the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi take up excess zinc, feed the plants what they need, and hold the rest,” Lowenfels says. His research has convinced him that “any damage done to the soil food web [by excess zinc] is quickly corrected by it if the soil food web is a healthy one.”

Troughs in the Garden

Want to see more? 

If you search Google, you’ll find dozens of examples of troughs that have been painted and made pretty.

The nicest I’ve seen is at http://www.nwedible.com/the-most-attractive-veggie-garden-ever/. Check it out.

Tips on Painting a trough: https://www.gardenista.com/posts/steal-this-look-water-troughs-as-raised-garden-beds/

Tips on making a trough self-watering.

http://www.insideurbangreen.org/2011/07/galvanized-horse-or-cattle-troughs-make-cool-looking-planters-but-ive-never-seen-them-converted-for-sub-irrigation-aka-erro.html

 

 

 

 

Companion Planting

One of our gardeners asked me about companion planting. That is, planting two plants near one another for the benefit of one of the plants.

I’m always interested in keeping insects away and so I do some plant planning with this in mind.

For example, onions are planted in rows between carrots to repel carrot flies.

And the nasturtiums – in addition to being colorful – are next to the beans to repel bean beetles.

And if you are wondering what is planted down the middle of the potato patch…it is a row of beans which are said to repel Colorado potato beetles. Horseradish is also a good beetle repellant.

Onions are planted around the cabbages and tomatoes to ward off insects. And the radishes near the carrots and beans are said to do the same.

You will notice I plant lots of flowers, too. The sunflowers, salvias and zinnias are planted to attract hummingbirds because these birds eat whiteflies. And the scent of marigolds confuses some other insects pests, so plant them where you can.

I’m always open toweb ways to garden organically without chemicals.

Happy gardening, Natalie

Deadheading Knockout Roses

deadheadingrosesYes, I know you don’t HAVE to deadhead Knockout roses. “Their self-cleaning,” marketers say.

I know. I’ve heard that, too. And while it’s correct, it is only part of the story.

Knockouts will do fine with no deadheading. However, when you remove the roses that are past their prime, it signals the plant to begin the next bloom cycle. And that’s what I want, plenty of blooms. I don’t want seed heads.


Pleasant Morning

I was out in the garden early with a scissor and a basket. I chatted with neighbors walking their dogs, jogging and biking. The time went by quickly as I snipped off – on an angle – dozens of faded red rose blooms. When I was done with one side and moving to the next, I noticed how pretty even the faded blooms looked in the basket. Thus this photo…deadheadingknockouts

I’ll let you know when the next cycle of bloom begins.

Great Day!

MCG1Thanks to a hard working crew and gardeners much was accomplished in the garden yesterday.

Roto-tilling, weeding the beds and between beds, and, of course, catching up with each other after the long winter.

It felt so good to be back.

Many thanks to Harris Seeds for their donation!

Some tips for gardeners –

Dill deters squash bugs, so plant them together

Bed #34 is the communal bed for herbs.

No invasive plants may be planted in the garden beds or surrounding plots.

Thanks, Natalie

Natalie

Planting Guide for Family Garden Plots at Moreau Community Garden

FG - Moreau

I spent time this morning creating a plan for Family Gardening plots with consideration given to bees, butterflies, and plants that work well together.

As you look at it, note that details, such as the heights of plants were included in the plan. This will be relevant when I’m planting and make the job easier as I will reach for the tallest first to plant in the center down to the shortest along the edge without having to read each packet.

The group of bee and butterfly luring flowers were included for maximum delight and to attract pollinators for the vegetables.

Last season, everyone enjoyed the butterflies that came through. swallowtail1

I made certain to include companion plants to repel each crop’s troublesome insect, For example, borage deters tomato hornworms and these two plants will grow side by side. Nasturtiums discourage bean beetles and, as I mentioned yesterday, dill repels squash bugs.

Hope you enjoy seeing this plan. I may tweak it a bit as I haven’t found borage seeds yet. Does anyone know where I can get some?

This weekend I will be turning the soil for the plots that are part of the Family Gardening Program.

It is too soon to plant outdoors some of vegetables and flowers I intend to grow, but a few – like peas, kale and spinach – can be seeded now.

What will you be growing? If you need help knowing what to plant and where, I will be in the garden from 9 to noon this Saturday, May 17th.

From Chaos to Manageable: A Garden where Beauty Reigns

20130806_2717A friend of mine had this incredible English cottage style garden of flowers. Beautiful to look at but so much maintenance that she decided it was time to simplify.

I worked with her to create a beauty-with-brains-not-braun low-maintenance garden. It’s still in process. As of this week, beds have been dismantled, transplanting done, the ground leveled, new plans are drawn and the flower installation will occur in the Spring.

Here is an image of the garden taken this summer for you to enjoy._DSC1452

Select plants removed from their former beds will be re-planted in new locations and other low-maintenance perennials will be added. Our goal is continuous bloom but not a lot of work and this is being accomplished with careful planning, plant selections that are big bloomers but not demanding, long-lasting landscape fabric and a watering system.

Next season, the gardener will be able to pour herself a drink, put her feet up and enjoy the beauty of her garden instead of being concerned with garden work, water and weed control.

Landscape Edging, sigh

I like these cool days. I’m able to get a lot done.

There’s one job that I’ve been putting off all summer.

This is a project that needs doing and will add to the neatness of the exterior, but for which I can only muster modest…ok minimum…. enthusiasm.

On the east side of my old house, I want to put down a landscape edging, fabric and small rocks. It is my hope that this will make this usually weedy area look crisp, tidy and be forever low maintenance.

I’ve been eyeing the edging for months and thinking, “OK, before winter.”

Now the nights are getting colder…and it is time.

To begin, I clear the weeds.

Next step: dig a trench 6 inches deep where the edging will go. It’s sandy soil and this goes quickly.

Place the edging with the side with the bottom lip toward the house.

Back fill but leave a swale for water to run out.

Rake smooth.

That’s as far as I got this afternoon. Tomorrow, I will place the
fabric and use landscape staples every 5 feet to hold it in place.

Tonight, I’ll call the rock man and get a stone delivery arranged for next week. I’ll be ready.

Get project: Cleaning the garage.