Category: Garden

An Experimental Deer Fence

Now that we’re planting the herb bed, we need a way to keep the deer out of it. My father-in-law (affectionately known as Pa Kettle) is a country farmer from way back, and he’s tried nearly everything to prevent deer from ravaging his garden. Mothballs, garden spray with hot pepper, smelly plants like marigolds; you name it, he tried it. He hung bags of (humanely collected!) human hair on stakes throughout the garden, and did the same with bars of Irish Spring soap.

Each of these methods works for awhile, the deer acclimate to it, and then it’s no longer effective. He currently has an 8′ tall, wire fence around the garden which seems to prevent most break-ins.

Just look at those wee, little seedlings, will you?! I’m like a kid at Christmas!

Our neighbors paid $500 to have an electric fence installed around their large garden, and we’ve watched the deer leap right over it as gracefully as ballerinas. The little, tick-ridden acrobats.

Because this garden is in our front yard, I need a fence that is reasonably attractive. Or, at least not ugly. I read about a fishing line deer fence and decided to give it a shot. It’s easy to install, low maintenance and a minimal investment.

Materials:

  • T-Posts, or other fence posts – we needed 10 – Cost: $70
  • 1 spool of 30 lb. fishing line – Cost: $2
  • 1 Sturdy Gate Post – we used rebar
  • PVC Pipe – two pieces, cut to 18″, use the correct diameter for your gate post
  • O-ring, Rope or another contraption to use for the gate latch
  • Shovel or Post Hole Digger

We dug the post holes about 5′ from the edge of the bed. This leaves a wide path to maneuver a wheel barrow or push mower inside the fence. It’s far enough back that if deer manage to poke their nosy, little heads under the fence, they still can’t reach my herbs.

T-Posts are easy to install. The process goes like this: dig, level, fill, move on, dig, level, fill, move on, dig, level, fill, move on. Repeat until you can’t stand to look at another fence post, ever again. Burying the metal flange just below the surface stabilizes the post.

Once the posts are up, it’s time to wrap them with fishing line. Leaving the gate section completely open, I worked my way back and forth, wrapping the perimeter using one continuous piece of line. I might come back and hit the knots and hooks with a little E-6000 if the line doesn’t stay in place, but for now it’s holding.

The gate post is made from a piece of rebar. If this works well, I’ll paint it to match the T-posts. We tied fishing line from the post to the right of the gate and straight over to the rebar. The rebar recesses into the PVC pipe and it holds the gate in place.

To secure the top of the gate, slide an O-ring or loop of rope down over the top of the T-post and rebar post. I didn’t want to put downward pressure on the fishing line, so I looped a hair elastic through a hole in the T-post and attached a carabiner to it. The carabiner slides over the rebar to hold it in place.

When we want to open the gate we simply lift the rebar out of the pvc, walk it over to a second piece of pvc that we sunk into the ground to the right of the gate. This holds it upright until we’re ready to close the gate again.

We’re hopeful that this experiment works and we don’t have to resort to using guard dogs and explosives. (I’m kidding about the explosives. Mostly.) I’ll keep you posted.

Gate open.
Gate closed.

To read the post that inspired this project, go here:
http://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/deerfence

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Plant Marking – Gardening Tips

We’ve got just over an acre and a half here at Arthurized Home. About 1/3 of that land is wooded. The property was very overgrown when we bought it 15 years ago, and some areas (okay, most areas) still need a good clean-out. Along the way we’ve discovered surprises hidden in the woods, a Nikko Blue hydrangea, Annabelle hydrangeas and Bridal Veil to name a few. We don’t want to go in and clear it without a plan.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea

This year, as our plants bud and bloom, we’re flagging everything we want to spare from the loppers. We’ll be able to identify and prune them at the proper time in their growth cycle.

Annabelle Hydrangea found growing in the woods. We transplanted it by the house.
It’s more convenient for the deer to mow it down out here in the open.

Materials needed:

  • Flagging tape – Don’t be concerned by the word “tape”, this product has no adhesive. Find it at a home improvement or hardware store. Cost: $4
  • Permanent Marker
  • Scissors

I chose obnoxious, neon tape. Although difficult to photograph, (who knew?) it will be easy to spot in the woods later in the growing season.
Also, because pink is the best color.

Cut 12” – 18” sections of flagging tape and write the name of the plant on one end.

Fold the tape in half and double the loop over a sturdy branch and pull the ends through.

There’s no need to label every piece of tape. Hang blanks on plants that you’ve already identified. Later on, you can compare leaves if you’re unsure of the type of plant. Make sure that you place the tape so you can easily spot it when you return to prune the plant or trim back its overgrown neighbors.

This fall, I want to plant hyacinth and crocus in front of my daffodils. But, because they die back every year, I won’t know exactly where to plant without marking it. I placed a circle of rocks around each clump of daffys and I’ll know to plant in front of the rocks later in the year.

I hope these simple tips are helpful to you. Happy gardening!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Amending Garden Soil

Judging by the heavy, clay soil and the copious amounts of debris here, this area of our property has never been gardened. Our first job is to improve the soil by adding rich, new garden soil and compost.

Materials List:

  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or heavy, plastic tarp
  • Gloves – I prefer leather gloves for this job
  • Strong Back
  • Soil Amendments (depending on your garden’s needs – new garden soil, compost, manure, sand, peat, etc.)

Here’s how to amend the soil:
Dig the first row about 12″ deep (or the depth of a shovel head), and place the soil in a wheel barrow, or on a heavy, plastic tarp. Pour the soil amendments down into the row.

As you dig the second row, shovel the soil from row two over row one and mix it in. You’ve just finished amending row one.

Now, pour soil amendments along your newly dug row two.

Row Three: Dig and place soil amendments over row two, mixing as you did before.

Rows 4 – Last: Repeat the above process until you reach the final garden row. Once you have added the amendments to the last row, pour the soil from row one on top and mix it in.

Rake the bed smooth and pick up any rocks or clumps of soil. Your garden is ready for planting!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Digging a New Garden Bed – A Literal Bed of Nails

Now with BONUS crazy story!

I’m so excited because we’re finally creating an herb garden! I’ve wanted one for years but the few sunny areas of our yard are out of sight and mostly out of mind. Recently, a wind storm took down a pear tree near our house, opening up the perfect place to grow herbs.

RIP, pear tree. You were a good climber, from what I hear.

First, we determined the size and shape of the bed. I wanted an interesting shape because this bed is smack-dab in the middle of our front yard. At the center of the bed I stuck a weeding tool into the ground and tied a string to the handle. I marked the string at 8.5′ and used that as my guide to spray paint the perimeter line. (This is my very unscientific method, and I’m purposely avoiding using words like radius and circumference here. I have to trick the right side of my brain into participating in math and science.)

Anywho, then we got to diggin’. Closely following the painted line, we dug a very deep border edge (8″ – 10″) and transferred that sod into a wheelbarrow.

Resisting the temptation to turn or till it under, we removed the sod layer entirely. This layer is full of seeds (grass and weeds, in our case) and they will sprout in the garden bed. We could have moved it to our compost piles, or filled a few low spots in the yard, but we chose to create a small berm instead, and we’ll have to aggressively weed it going forward.

Dig, remove sod, repeat. Dig, remove sod, repeat. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. You can see the berm taking shape in the back of the picture below.

Now that we’ve cleared away all of the sod, we’re ready to begin amending the soil. But for now, it’s time to stand back and admire our handsome new garden bed.

Crazy Story Time:
Soon after we bought this house we noticed that whenever it rained, shards of broken glass and tile would work their way to the surface of the lawn. That discovery was quickly followed by a “no bare feet outside” rule. The debris that has surfaced since then seems to have no end.

Broken tile

Almost with the first shovelful of soil that we turned over in this bed, we began picking up rusty nails and other debris. The first day we threw them out. The second day we started tossing them into a 5 gallon bucket just to save a few steps.

We found half a license plate, bits of wire, metal springs, screws, a Willard battery cap and beer can tabs. Not surprising, since the original owner ran a neighborhood garage from our property.

That green blob on the right is proof that balloons don’t biodegrade.
The Great Archaeological Dig of 2019

We unearthed half of a broken, plastic cup, two table knives, four glass marbles and a tiny, blue game piece. Also not surprising, because the Thompson family raised fourteen children here. I can just imagine Mrs. Thompson raising Cain as her utensils slowly disappeared from her kitchen, never to be seen again!

And oh, my word! The nails that filled this bed! It’s been a week since we finished digging, and we haven’t found more nails, but I’m not deluding myself into thinking we’ve found them all.

Guess how many nails we dug up from the herb garden? Can’t imagine? Here’s a hint:

We picked up seven. hundred. and. eighty. two. rusty. nails!
782!
I would love to know what on Earth happened here, to have so many nails in the yard!

And then there is the glass! Our nieces and nephews have played on this patch of lawn forever. They’ve chased lightning bugs, played What Time is it Mr. Fox?, Tag and Toilet Tag here. They’ve scoured this area for hidden Easter eggs. This is where we have our New Year’s midnight silly string battle. Our nieces turn cartwheels here. It’s really amazing that no one has been injured by a glass shard.

I told my sister-in-law that we’d never be able to work in this bed on our hands and knees, and she suggested that we use a small bag of soft mulch as a kneeling pad. Great idea! We will certainly do that.

The best discovery of all (the only good discovery?) are these two glass bottles that my husband dug up. The larger bottle is absolutely perfect with no chips or cracks. I cannot believe that it survived undamaged, considering that we used shovels and a mattock to dig this bed! The smaller bottle has a chip on the lip, but is otherwise in good condition.

Is it just me, or does that white marble remind you of a glass eye?

So that’s your crazy story for the day, kids. Now, go update your tetanus shot!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Ground Cover for Steeply Sloped Banks

We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.

Ivy going nowhere.

We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.

Bank covered in vinca minor. This is such an easy care plant and forms a good weed barrier.
Vinca major in bloom.

In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′(yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.

Solomon’s Seal is perennial and gorgeous during the spring and summer.

With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.

Test liriope.

This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!

Liriope marching out into the lawn from a border planting.

Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.

We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.

Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.

New transplants!

To read more on vinca:
https://www.thespruce.com/vinca-minor-vines-2132217

For more information on liriope:
https://www.thespruce.com/liriope-plants-popular-varieties-of-border-grass-2132483

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Grow Free Hydrangeas Through Layering

We have five large Nikko Blue hydrangeas, and I’d love to create a long sweep of them in our yard. They’re planted just opposite my kitchen window and bloom from June through the first frost. Last fall, I layered them in the hopes of gaining loads of baby plants (layers) for free. I layered 20 branches and 16 of them have taken root.

The layering process is super simple and I hope you will give it a try. A note about timing: I do this at the end of summer, while the branches are flexible enough to bend to the ground without breaking. In Virginia, this means mid-late October. I’ve read that you can layer plants in the spring, but I haven’t tried it.

You will need:

  • An established, healthy “mother” hydrangea – ask a friend if you can layer theirs if you don’t have one
  • Rocks, bricks, small children or other heavy object(s) for weight
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Wintertime and patience

Find a healthy, lower branch of the plant. I select branches that are leafy, with no flowers. Without disturbing the leaves at the tip, break off the next lower set of leaves down to the branch. The place where you removed the leaves is the node.

Gently lower the node to the ground, loosen the soil under it and then pile at least an inch of soil on top of the node. Place a rock or brick on top to weight it down securely. Water the mother plant occasionally if needed.

Wait until Spring and check on your plants. New growth at the tip of the branch indicates that your baby plant has taken root.

Leaving the rock or brick in place, snip the branch between the weight and the mother plant as below and give the baby a few weeks of living on its own before transplanting. Be sure to water the layer baby daily until it is established, more often in hot weather. If the baby is very small, you might wish to delay transplanting for an entire growing season.

When transplanting small plants like these, I dig a hole about 12″ deep and 12″ across. Make sure the roots have plenty of loose soil to grow into. I like to mix in a little garden soil to lighten up our heavy clay soil. Once you’ve transplanted the babies, they will need some TLC. Water them each morning for a few weeks and then as needed until they are established.

I’ve only done this with hydrangeas, but I understand this works for other plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azalea. I would love to know if you try it and how the process works for you.

Happy gardening!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

PJM Rhododendrons – A tale of massacre and despair

My husband is crazy about rhododendrons. He loves them because they are showy, easy care and grow well in deep shade; which we’ve got in spades. I suspect he also loves them because in order to really see them in their splendor, you must be in the woods; his happy place. Last fall, we planted four PJMs and carefully tended them while they were settling in to their new home.

A few months later, we noticed the leaves turning yellow and falling off. It was an extremely rainy fall; did they get too much water? Maybe we planted them in the wrong area? Were they getting too much sun? We had no idea.

Shortly after that, we saw to our horror, that the neighborhood thugs (also known as deer) had come through and eaten the ends off every single branch of all four plants! They’d shown no mercy. It looked like we had wandered through the yard picking up sticks after a wind storm and decided to shove them into the ground instead of the burn pile.

Deerscouraged – Yes, it’s a word. I just invented it.
deers·cour·aged/dirˈskərijd/adjective
having lost confidence or enthusiasm for gardening in deer country; disheartened.”she must be feeling pretty deerscouraged”

Dejected, we paid a visit to the nursery where we purchased the rhododendrons, looking for a glimmer of hope for these little guys. The owner guessed that the wet weather had contributed to the leaves falling off. She encouraged us to leave them alone and wait until spring to see if they came back.

Well, this story has a happy ending (or middle?) because the plants have budded out and are blooming today. We’re hopeful that healthy leaves will return this year.

UPDATE:
A few weeks later, the leaves have returned to the PJMs, they’re growing like crazy and seem to be very healthy!

If you’d like to try PJMs in your landscape, you can read more about them here:
https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/280/pjm-rhododendron/

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Lighten your Load – A simple tip for container gardening

I love this time of year because I get to select flowers for the planters around our yard and on the porch. If you’re filling planters too, I’ve got a plant-saving, back-saving, money-saving and waste-reducing tip for you. One simple tip that has four different benefits and might not even cost you a penny? That’s a gardening win!

Save your aluminum beverage cans or ask family and friends to save them for you. For gallon size planters you will only need 3-4 cans. For really large planters, you could use 30+ cans.

Using my coffee filter tip; cover the drainage hole in your planter.

Then without disturbing the filter(s), start filling the planter about halfway with empty aluminum cans. Make sure that the cans are laying on their sides or upside down so that they don’t fill with water over time.

Carefully place potting soil on top of the cans, tuck your plants in and fill the planter with soil to about an inch from the rim. This is a great tip for people like me who tend to over-water plants. The cans provide excellent drainage so the roots don’t sit in water. The planters are easier to move because they weigh less than they would if they were filled with soil. You’ll save money because you won’t need as much potting soil to fill the planter. And it keeps the cans out of the landfill.

I’m attempting to rescue these lavender plants from our shady garden area.

Note: I have used this tip very successfully with annual and perennial flowers; I haven’t tried it with herbs or vegetables. If you try it with foods, use fewer cans and plant shallow – medium rooted crops. Hmm. Maybe I’ll experiment with lettuces and herbs?

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Window Boxes on the Garage – An Upcycling Project

The garage at Arthurized Home once serviced our small neighborhood.
The previous owners supported themselves and their 14 children with income from this garage. (As much as I love a good exaggeration, that’s not one. They really raised 14 children in our 950 square foot cottage! But that’s a story for another day.) The garage has a pit for changing oil and a beam for hoisting engines. There’s a fireplace out there; you can see where someone closed up a 4′ x 8′ window (yet another story) and blocked up a bay door. We’ve got some future goals for fixing it up, but for now it’s a utilitarian eyesore.

Why yes, that is a leaf blower hanging in the window!

A few years ago while my sister was visiting, we stumbled upon the Funky Junk Interiors website. She made the brilliant suggestion that I should “junk up” the garage. I started with some upcycled window boxes made from discarded metal sawhorses.

Here’s how: Wearing safety glasses and heavy leather gloves, my husband cut the legs off of the saw horses, leaving the attachment and folding the cut edge down into the box. (You could file the sharp edges if you like. We didn’t bother.) He then drilled holes for hanging along the back of the window boxes using a drill bit for metal. Next he positioned the boxes and marked on the wall where the screws would go. Then he drilled pilot holes into the cinder block using a masonry drill bit. He aligned the boxes with the pilot holes, placed a large washer over the holes and secured each one with a masonry screw.

Using my coffee filter trick, I blocked the gaps on the corners and filled the planters with soil and flowers. Because the planters are shallow, I use a moisture retaining potting mix. I feed and water these on the same schedule as my other outdoor container plants. When it’s hot outside they get a drink twice a day.

While I wouldn’t recommend installing them on a playhouse, (hello, potential sharp metal edges) these window boxes would be great on a deck, a potting shed or other outbuilding. A she-shed? A chicken coop?
I could go on all day.

If you make this project, I’d love to see it! Email your pictures to arthurized dot home at gmail dot com.

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Seed Starting Pots – A Recycling Project

Do you know that you’ve got an endless supply of seed starting pots in your home? Well, they’re not pots yet. They’re more commonly known as empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls! (I’m trying to refrain from potty puns.)

If you’re using paper towel rolls, cut them in half or thirds.
(Do you think my background looks like tiny rolls of toilet paper?)
Press the tube flat.
Open up the tube and pinch the first folds together and press flat again to form a square.
Measure across the top; mine is just over one inch.
Use half of that measurement to mark the fold lines. My fold line is 1/2″ from the bottom.
Using sturdy scissors, cut along each of the 4 corners up to the fold line. You don’t have to mark the flaps A, B, C & D. I’ve done that to better explain this step. I hope!
Now fold each flap toward the center of the pot. Starting from the top (A),
work clockwise (B, C). When you reach the flap on the left (D), tuck the top half of it
under the first flap (A). That will secure the bottom of the pot.

You want the pot to close tightly at the bottom so the soil is contained.
If yours has a gap, re-fold the flap a little higher until the gap is closed.
Now you have a little seed starting pot!
But he needs some friends.
Fill with potting soil and plant those seeds!

When your seedlings are ready to transplant into a larger pot or the garden, open the flaps and plant it whole. Or, carefully cut the side of the pot open from top to bottom without disturbing the roots. The pot will decompose over time. Happy gardening!

Copyright 2019 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.