Build Fences

Layout of your fence. The basic theory is that you stake out where your fence will be and stretch a string between them. This will be a guideline when you are installing the posts. If your fence starts with your house you will probably like to have it at a right angle. It is a simple procedure to get this right. First stake the spot where you like your fence to start. Fasten a string to the stake and stretch it out roughly perpendicular to your house. Measure out 1,5-meter out on the string and mark it. Mark a point on your house one-meter from the stake. Hold a tape measure diagonally between the one-meter mark and the 1,5-meter mark and move the string until the distance between the marks is 2-meter.

Tie down your string at this place, and it would be perpendicular to the house. Mark the position of your first spot, then measure out for the line to mark the rest of the posts. Thee string should be at the outside of this post, so you have to measure in from the string for center of the posts. Mark this with a stake so you can see them. If your fence goes down hills you have two choices, you can have top of the fence to follow the slope of the hill or you can keep the fence sections level and step the fence down at each post. If you like to have step down fence, estimate the height different from top and bottom of the hill and divide this number by number of sections. And you will get the amount to step the fence down at each post.

Digging holes. You can use a clamshell digger to dig your postholes but this is a very hard fork and if you got plenty holes or you have hard ground it could rent a power auger but you normally have to be two people to run it. In most areas you need to have the postholes below the frost line to make sure that the post will stay in place when the ground starts to heaves due to the frost. As a guideline you should bury about half of the corner posts and about a third of the line post underground.

Setting posts. It’s a good idea to put a 30-40cm layer of gravel at the bottom of each hole to prevent rot and decay. The gravel will allow water tat collects at the bottom of the hole to drain away. Set the end post first and line up the post edge along your layout string. To prevent water from running down between the post and the concrete you should fill the hole little bit higher than the ground and slope the top of the concrete away from the pole a little. Brace the post in place while the concrete cures. The line post doesn’t need that much support. Normally it’s enough to set them with dirt. Use a spacer to get a consistent distance between them and shovel dirt around them when you have the posts in position. When you have 15 cm filled with dirt pack the dirt down and keeps filling it up. When you have all posts set hard, trim of the tops to get proper height.

Spring Planting

Let’s start with B&B plants. B&B is short for balled in burlap. Closely examine the ball on the plant that you have purchased. Did the diggers wrap twine around the ball to hold the plant secure? If they did, you should at least cut the twine and lay it in the bottom of the hole, or remove it completely. Pay close attention around the stem of the plant where it emerges from the root ball, as diggers often wrap the twine around the stem several times as they tie the ball. This is extremely important because if the string is nylon, it will not rot and will girdle and kill the plant two or three years from now.

When B&B plants are stored in the nursery for extended periods of time it becomes necessary to re-burlap them if the bottom starts to rot before the plants are sold. If the plant that you buy has been re-burlaped it is possible that there could be nylon stings between the two layers of burlap, so check the stem carefully. As long as the nylon string is removed from around the stem of the plant, it is actually harmless around the rest of the ball, and you do not have to remove it.

Is the root ball wrapped in genuine burlap, or imitation burlap made of a non-biodegradable plastic material?

Genuine burlap will rot quickly underground and does not have to be disturbed before planting. If you’re not sure or suspect a poly type burlap, you don’t have to remove it completely, but should loosen it around the stem of the plant and cut some vertical slices around the circumference of the ball.

Now here’s the critical part. What kind of soil are you planting in?

If your soil is heavy clay, I highly suggest that you raise the planting bed at least 8″ with good rich topsoil. If you can’t do that for some reason, install the plant so that at least 2″ or more of the root ball is above the existing grade and mound the soil over the root ball. Keep in mind that plants installed this way could dry out over the summer, but planting them flush with the ground in heavy clay can mean that the roots will be too wet at other times of the year.

The “experts” suggest that when planting in clay soil you dig the hole wider and deeper than the root ball and fill around and under the plant with loose organic material. That sounds like a really great idea, doesn’t it? Some of these experts also recommend that you dig the hole extra deep and put a few inches of gravel in the bottom for drainage. Where do you suppose they think this water is going to “drain” to?

Keep in mind that most B&B plants are grown in well drained soil. That means that the soil in the root ball is porous and water can easily pass through. Now imagine if you will, a root ball about 15″ in diameter, setting in a hole 30″ in diameter. All around and under that root ball is loose organic matter. Inside of that root ball is porous soil. Now along comes Mother Nature with a torrential downpour. There is water everywhere, and it is not going to soak into that hard packed clay soil, so it is just flowing across the top of the ground searching for the lowest point.

When it reaches our newly planted tree surrounded by loose organic matter, it is going to seep in until the planting hole is completely full of water. (Remember my article on getting rid of standing water and the French drain system?) By using this planting technique we have actually created a French drain around our poor little plant that cannot tolerate its roots being without oxygen for long periods of time. Because the bottom of this hole is clay, even though we’ve added gravel for drainage, there is nowhere for the water to go, and this plant is going to suffer and likely die.

If you cannot raise the planting bed with topsoil, and are planting in clay soil, I recommend that you install the root ball at least 2″ above grade and backfill around the ball with the soil that you removed when you dug the hole. Backfilling with the clay soil that you removed is actually like building a dam to keep excess water from permeating the root ball of your newly planted tree. The plant is not going to thrive in this poor soil, but at least it will have a chance to survive.

Once again, raising the bed with good rich topsoil is the best thing you can do to keep your plants healthy and happy.

No matter what kind of soil you have, be careful not to install your plants too deep. They should never be planted any deeper than they were grown in the nursery. Planting too deep is a common problem, and thousands of plants are killed each year by gardeners who just don’t understand how critical planting depth is.

Staking newly planted trees is always a good idea. If your new tree constantly rocks back and forth when the wind blows it will have a very difficult time establishing new roots into the existing soil. Stabilize the tree with a stake. You can use a wooden stake, a fence post, or for small trees I often use 1/2″ electro magnetic tubing, (conduit), available at any hardware store.

You can secure the tree to the stake with a single wrap of duct tape. In about six months or a year the sun will dry the glue on the duct tape and it will fall off. Check the tape to make sure that it has fallen off. You don’t want to girdle the tree with the tape.

Container grown plants are much easier. Follow the rules for depth of planting as described earlier. Before gently removing the plant from the container, check the drain holes in the bottom of the container for roots that might be growing out the holes. If so, cut them off so they will not make it difficult to get the plant out of the container.

The easiest way to remove the plant from the container is to place your hand over the top of the container and turn it completely upside down and give it a gentle shake. The plant should slide right into your hand.

Examine the root mass as you hold it in your hand. Sometimes when plants have been growing in a container for a long time the roots start to grow in a circular pattern around the root mass. This is not good, and you should disturb these roots before planting so you can break this circular pattern. You can take a knife and actually make about three vertical slices from the top of the root mass to the bottom. This will stimulate new roots that will grow outward into the soil of your garden. Or you can just take your fingers and loosen the roots that are circling the root mass and force them outward before you plant them.

What about fertilizer, bone meal, peat moss, and all those other additives they are going to try and sell you at the garden center?

Raise your planting beds with good rich topsoil and forget about the additives. Be very careful with fertilizers, they can do more harm than good. I landscaped my house 14 years ago and I haven’t got around to fertilizing the plants yet, and have no intention of doing so. They look great.

As far as bone meal and all those other soil additives are concerned, don’t get too caught up in all that stuff. The only thing that I know for sure is that they will make your wallet thinner, but I don’t think you’ll see a difference in your plants. Over the years I’ve landscaped several hundred homes with fantastic results, and I never added any of these additives to my planting beds.

Grow Ornamental Grasses

The easiest and most effective way to propagate them is through simple division. Of course you will need at least one parent plant of each variety that you would like to grow. If you shop around you might be able to find some 4″ inch pots at a fair price.

One of each variety is good for a start. I find that the best time of the year to divide them is in the spring, just before the new growth emerges. If you buy the stock plants in the early spring, you might be able to divide them right away. If you buy them at any other time of the year, just plant them in your garden or other suitable location, knowing that you are going to dig them up in a few months, or a year or so.

When spring arrives you can divide them at any time as long as they are not well into putting on new growth. The earlier the better. To divide them simply dig up the root mass and start dividing it into pieces. The divisions do not have to be to be very large. It’s difficult to describe, but as long as you have some roots, the new plant is likely to grow. If you have small young plants you can probably just tear the root mass apart with your hands, but if the root mass is very big then you are going to need some tools. You might need some heavy duty tools!

Last spring I divided several grass plants that had been in my landscape for a few years. When I dug out the root mass it was much larger and more dense than I expected. Using a very good digging spade and some real elbow power I was able to chop the root mass into quarters, and I replanted the quarters back into my landscape. That still left many clumps that I wanted to divide into very small plants that I could pot up in 2 quart containers. The root mass was too dense to tear apart with my hands, so I literally got a hammer and a 4″ wide mason’s chisel and chiseled off pieces. It worked and I now have a couple of hundred beautiful little grass plants in 2 quart containers.

Since then I have talked with a friend of mine who works for a large wholesale grower, and he told me that you never want to let an ornamental grass plant get that big if you intend to divide it. He said they plant small divisions in the field in the spring, and dig them up the following spring and divide them again. He assured me that if you get them just 12 months later, they can be easily torn apart by hand.

Secret of Rooting Cuttings

“Rooting Hardwood Cuttings of Deciduous Plants”

Hardwood cuttings are much more durable than softwood cuttings which is why hardwoods are the best technique for the home gardener. A deciduous plant is a plant that loses its leaves during the winter. All plants go dormant during the winter, but evergreens keep their foliage. Many people don’t consider Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Mountain Laurel evergreens, but they are. They are known as broad leaf evergreens. Any plant that completely loses its leaves is a deciduous plant.

Of the two hardwood techniques is one better than the other? It depends on exactly what you are rooting, what the soil conditions are at your house, and what Mother Nature has up her sleeve for the coming winter.

I have experienced both success and failure using each method. Only experimentation will determine what works best for you. Try some cuttings using each method.

When doing hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants, you should wait until the parent plants are completely dormant. This does not happen until you’ve experienced a good hard freeze where the temperature dips down below 32 degrees F. for a period of several hours. Here in northeastern Ohio this usually occurs around mid November.

Unlike softwood cuttings of deciduous plants, where you only take tip cuttings from the ends of the branches, that rule does not apply to hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants. For instance, a plant such as Forsythia can grow as much as four feet in one season. In that case, you can use all of the current years growth to make hardwood cuttings. You might be able to get six or eight cuttings from one branch. Grapes are extremely vigorous. A grape vine can grow up to ten feet or more in one season. That entire vine can be used for hardwood cuttings. Of course with grape vines, there is considerable space between the buds, so the cuttings have to be much longer than most other deciduous plants. The average length of a hardwood grape vine cutting is about 12″ and still only has 3 or 4 buds. The bud spacing on most other deciduous plants is much closer, so the cuttings only need to be about 6- 8″ in length.

Making a deciduous hardwood cutting is quite easy. Just collect some branches (known as canes) from the parent plants. Clip these canes into cuttings about 6″ long. Of course these canes will not have any leaves on them because the plant is dormant, but if you examine the canes closely you will see little bumps along the cane. These bumps are bud unions. They are next year’s leaf buds or nodes, as they are often called.

When making a hardwood cutting of a deciduous plant it is best to make the cut at the bottom, or the butt end of the cutting just below a node, and make the cut at the top of the cutting about 3/4″ above a node. This technique serves two purposes. One, it makes it easier for you to distinguish the top of the cutting from the bottom of the cutting as you handle them. It also aids the cutting in two different ways. Any time you cut a plant above a node, the section of stem left above that node will die back to the top node. So if you were to leave 1/2″ of stem below the bottom node, it would just die back anyway. Having that section of dead wood underground is not a good idea. It is only a place for insects and disease to hide.

Info of Planting Summer Flower Bulbs

Summer flower bulbs should be planted in early spring. They need to be planted in an area with adequate drainage. Flower bulbs will rot in standing water. For this reason, they should never be planted at the bottom of a hill.

Summer flower bulbs vary in their sun requirements. Dahlias, lilies, and daylilies, for example, thrive in full sun to partial shade. Gladiolus, on the other hand, requires full sun and iris prefer partial shade. When planning your arrangement, pay special attention to the amount of sun your garden or flowerbed receives and pick your flower bulbs accordingly.

All summer flower bulbs require loose, workable soil. If the area has never been used for growing, add some compost or peat moss. Most bulbs will not require any special fertilization, but follow your package directions carefully.

These flowers work best in masses. For the best effect, do not plant a single bulb or a thin line of bulbs. They look best when they are clumped as in the wild.

Summer flower bulbs should be planted when the soil is dry and free-flowing. Did the hole six to eight inches deep, and place the bulb in with the pointed side facing up. Cover the hole with dirt and pack firmly. Water thoroughly.

If you plant your summer flower bulbs in an appropriate location and give them the most basic attention, you will be abundantly rewarded. When all the other plants and flowers are dying, you will have a bed of bright, vibrant flowers.

Care for Your Fresh Cut Flower Arrangement

Your first strategy for having flower arrangements in your house for the longest possible time is to carefully select the source of those flowers. Flowers should be purchased from a professional floral supplier who has insured that the flowers have been harvested, processed and shipped following all the best practices from the farm to the distributors and finally to you. There are several care and handling best practices, the most important being maintaining a temperature of 33-34 degrees F. Seemingly small delays in shipping, or even being placed on a truck next to a box of flowers that have not been pre-cooled can raise the temperature of the flowers in the subject box several degrees. Those couple of degrees means a couple of days off the vase life of the flowers.

All that being said, other than buying from a reputable, well educated floral distributor, there’s not much you can do to control any of that, so, let’s assume the flowers you’ve received have been treated well from farm to home. Now, what can you do to make the best of an already great thing?

Temperature: Keep your flowers away from heat sources and direct sunlight. Though it is not reasonable to keep flowers cool in the home as a florist would in a cooler, temperature still makes a big difference. Never display your arrangement on a radiator cover, above a heating vent, on a tv or other appliance that gives off heat, or in a window where the sun would heat the space.

Water: Be sure to replenish the water in the container regularly. Flowers that have been processed correctly will continue to transpire throughout their stay in your home. The flowers will need a source of water to keep the stems, foliage and petals turgid and fresh.

Food: On the plant, flowers get their nourishment to develop and grow from the roots and from photosynthesis. Off the plant, this process virtually stops. However, the flower will continue to develop, buds will open and flowers will expand. Some stems will even continue to grow. There is some reserve of sugar or food in the cut flower, but not as much as the flower will need for optimum performance and color. Florists use preservatives in the vase solution to provide this food. When you receive flowers in a box or loose, you should also receive a packet of preservative powder. Follow the mixing instructions on the packet to make a vase solution that will prolong the life of your flowers.

Control Bacteria: The water in the vase or container can quickly become a bacteria soup. All it takes is a few stray pieces of plant tissue and some latent bacteria. Add some sugar from the preservative and you’ve got a recipe for cloudy, smelly water. The problem is not just an aesthetic one. Bacteria in the water will form plugs in the stem of the flower, blocking the water from flowing through the stem of the flower. A good floral preservative contains an antibacterial agent to stop all of this from happening. One caution though. If you do not follow the instructions for mixing the vase solution, and end up making a solution that is too weak, you may be providing enough sugar to grow bacteria while not providing enough antibacterial agents to stop the growth. This is a case where clear water with no preservative would be better than an improperly mixed solution. As soon as you notice that the water in your vase has started to become cloudy, it’s time to dump the water, rinse the stems, give them a clean cut and put them back in the cleaned vase with fresh water. This alone will double the life of your flowers.

Deep Watering Stakes

Water stakes are irrigation devices that direct water deep into the soil to the roots of plants or trees. In addition to watering, stakes can be used to deliver fertilizers into the soil. Stakes are generally driven into the ground and then attached to a drip emitter, which can also be replaced with a garden hose with a very slow flow.

Water, when poured around the base of the plant, fails to penetrate deep enough to reach the entire root zone. The penetration becomes even more difficult when the soil is hard. Shallow watering often results in shallow roots that grow laterally at the surface. Plants with shallow root systems are unable to draw water from deep down during dry spells, and hence find it difficult to survive through drought or extreme summers. This causes them to wilt or die. A deep root watering device such as the stake directs water closer to the roots and helps them run deep into the soil, thus enhancing the strength of the plant’s root system. It also prevents infestation that results from dampness due to shallow watering.

Watering stakes come in varying widths and depths to suit plants of different sizes. The shorter ones are ideal for irrigating garden plants, shrubs, flowering plants and bushes, small trees, or those in their growth stage. Longer ones are suitable for average trees, especially fruit-bearing ones.

In addition to promoting deep healthy roots and preventing plant diseases, deep watering stakes offer the following benefits.

• They prevent surface water runoff and soil erosion. Stakes also prevent evaporation of water from the surface of the soil. Both these aspects help conserve water when irrigating your plants.

• Deep water stakes aerate the soil, which to promotes deeper rooting system.

• They are easy to install and remove, and can be used for plants of all sizes – from smaller shrubs in garden to larger trees in parks, orchards, or walkways.

• Such root watering system can even be placed on a slope, where watering plants is usually a concern due to run off. The stakes deliver water deep into the soil, and not downhill.

• Many stake designs come with emitters that allow the measurement of water added to the device. This is especially useful for farming and agricultural purposes.

Tree Pruning

One of the advantages of pruning during the winter is that you can see much better what needs to be cut out and what should stay. At least that’s true with deciduous plants. The other advantage is that the plants are dormant, and won’t mind you doing a little work on them.

Ornamental trees should pruned to remove competing branches. Weeping Cherries, Flowering Dogwoods, Flowering Crabapples etc. have a tendency to send branches in many different directions. It is your job to decide how you want the plant to look, and then start pruning to achieve that look.

But first stick your head inside the tree and see what you can eliminate from there. This is like looking under the hood, and when you do you’ll see a lot of small branches that have been starved of sunlight, that certainly don’t add anything to the plant. They are just there, and should be cut out.

Any branch that is growing toward the center of the tree where it will get little sunlight should be cut out. Where there are two branches that are crossing, one of them should be eliminated. Once you get the inside of the plant cleaned up, you can start shaping the outside.

Shaping the outside is actually quite easy. Just picture how you want the plant to look, and picture imaginary lines of the finished outline of the plant. Cut off anything that is outside of these imaginary lines. It is also important to cut the tips of branches that have not yet reached these imaginary lines in order to force the plant to fill out.

For the most part plants have two kinds of growth: Terminal branches and lateral branches. Each branch has one terminal bud at the very end, and many lateral branches along the sides. The terminal buds grow in an outward direction away from the plant. Left uncut they just keep growing in the same direction, and the plant grows tall and very thin. That’s why the trees in the woods are so thin and not very attractive.

When you cut a branch on a plant, the plant sets new buds just below where you cut. When you remove the terminal bud the plant will set multiple buds; this is how you make a plant nice and full. Don’t be afraid to trim your plants, they will be much nicer because of it. The more you trim them, the fuller they become.

Lots of people have a real problem with this. They just can’t bring themselves to prune. Especially when it comes to plants like Japanese Red Maples. It kills them to even think about pruning a plant like this. Just do it! You’ll have a beautiful plant because of it.

Look at the plant objectively. If you see a branch that looks like it’s growing too far in the wrong direction, cut it. If you make a mistake it will grow back. Not pruning is the only mistake you can make. I hope this helps and doesn’t get you in trouble with your significant other. Many a family feud has started over pruning.

Mower Safety

Don’t allow these incredibly dumb mistakes to occur in your family! Listen to these three responsibilities you must assume, and wedge them firmly into memory–now–before you even start the engine.

    1. You must accept the responsibility to insure that your youngsters under 14 are not allowed to operate any power mower. They are forgetful, largely irresponsible at that tender age, easily distracted, and have no business attached to the controls of a power mower.
    2. You must accept the responsibility to adequately protect yourself from catastrophic or crippling injury. How? Read the instruction manual–especially the section on safety. Then do what it says! Apply some common sense; wear protective shoes; check the lawn for rocks, kid or pet toys, or anything that might become a projectile…before you start the engine. The tip of a mower blade can attain a speed exceeding 19,000 feet per minute. It’s usually attached to a five or six horsepower engine. The force at the tip can reach more than 10,000 pounds per square inch. You stick your foot in there, or reach in with your hand to clear grass away from the chute, and it could be sliced at the rate of 120 times per second! Trust me…a lot can happen in a second or two. Keep children and pets completely off the lawn during any mowing operation. That’ll lessen the risk of their being struck by something thrown from under the machine.
    1. 3. Critically important: never,

ever

    remove or defeat safety devices on a mower. A dead-man switch (that you may have already wired or taped in the “on” position) was designed for a very specific purpose–to shut that machine down almost instantly after you release the handle. Many fingers and toes could be saved if all mowers had a functioning dead-man switch. Additionally, the discharge-chute-deflector has proven itself to be of great value in preventing broken windows, bruised shins and ankles, and dented cars. Yeah…I know all about it! It gets in the way, so off it comes. Don’t do that!

As far as I’m concerned, the most valuable safety feature is the rear toe guard–the rubber or thick flexible plastic thing that drags on the ground behind the mower. I’m here to verify the fact that taking it off because it interferes with pulling the mower backwards is incredible dangerous…and can bring about painful expense. I know what I’m talking about! Take a look at the picture of a badly chopped-up shoe (follow the link at the end of this article). The foolish person who was wearing it broke four cardinal rules: he’d removed the toe guard, had defeated the dead-man switch, was pulling his mower backwards, and was daydreaming.

I’m still paying for those foolish mistakes. (In my own defense, however, I was younger then. . .and convinced of my indestructibility and, perhaps, immortality as well. It’s a young-guy thing!)

What can you do to protect yourself and your family from the dreadful and crippling consequences of these or similar errors? Don’t allow your kids under 14 to operate power equipment…even if they are smarter than most…even if they’re “supervised”…even if they beg or if you’re too darned lazy to get off the couch or out of the lawn chair and do it yourself. Read and follow safety instructions. And never tamper with safety devices or features. Now it’s up to you. You can do it. How much do you care about your or your kids’ personal safety? How much is a foot or hand or an eye worth?

If your power equipment has had its safety devices removed or defeated, that’s tantamount to playing with fire in a gunpowder factory. You must put those safety devices back in working order. And if you’re any kind of a responsible person, you’ll do it now, before another blade of grass is cut. Fail in that responsibility and you or one of your family may soon have a shoe that looks like mine to spark memories of damage. . .or lost toes. You may never be able to forgive yourself!

Choosing Flowers For Summer

If your flowerbed is in direct sunlight for the majority of the day, you will want to choose a hardy, heat-resistant plant. Some of the better choices for full sun are marigolds, zinnias, petunias, and zinnia. Be careful to choose a variety of heat-resistant plants, as some of these full-sun varieties are prone to diseases, especially marigolds. You will want several types of flowers in your flowerbed not only for contrast and interest, but in the event that one variety does poorly or becomes diseased, you can simply pull the plants (roots and all) and cultivate your remaining varieties. Keep in mind that if any of your plants are diseased, you should pull them immediately to avoid spreading the disease to your other plants.

For areas that are in partial to full shade, consider impatiens, begonias, and vinca. All of these come in a variety of colors and grow quite well in shady areas. In choosing the colors for your flowering plants, remember that red colors make the plant seem closer and larger, while blue will give the illusion of smallness and distance. Planting a single color of flowers will draw more attention to your flowerbed, but if you want several colors make sure the flowers compliment one another. Purple goes well with pink and white will blend in nicely with any other color. Also, red goes very well with violet as odd as this may seem.

The most important thing you can do to ensure beautiful summer flowers is to prepare your flowerbed appropriately before planting. Till the soil thoroughly and remove any weeds, roots and all. Fertilize your flowerbed before planting and for the first month after planting flowers, water every other day so that the roots of the plants will be properly nourished. Use mulch as a covering in your flowerbed to preserve moisture and do not over-feed your flowers. Use fertilizer exactly as directed on the package and avoid getting the fertilizer directly on the parts of the plant that are above the ground.