Fall To Do List

Halloween is over and Thanksgiving just around the corner. These are traditional markers for bringing in the harvest and other winter preparations. We are trying to check off our fall do lists, and thought we might share some of the things on it with you. autumn-oak-foliage

  • Re-pot and bring in an houseplants that went outside for the summer
  • Cut Back Perennial Plants
  • Divide Perennials
  • Dig up are cover and mulch cold sensitive bulbs
  • Mulch
  • Over seed the lawn
  • Plant bulbs that will bloom next spring
  • Remove Fallen Leaves
  • Clean Gutters
  • Drain and store hoses/ winterize spickets
  • Winterize and properly store lawn equipment, like the mower, weed eater, and power washer.     hose strung out

That’s a lot just concerning the yard. Not to mention taking down and tilling the garden beds. We will start taking down some of ours this week. Not all of them though our tomatoes are still going like crazy. I will leave them until we get a heavy frost and pick what I can the night before.

Some of the really important things go in inside the house. Or will help keep the house warmer when it does get cold (eventually). Not to mention also needs done for safety reasons.

  • Sweep the Chimney
  • Clean the gas furnace, and check for gas leaks
  • Cut firewood
  • Check doors and windows for cracks. Silicone or add weather stripping if needed
  • Spray for spiders

That doesn’t even include dragging out all of the winter clothes and making sure that the kids coats still fit.       Pet Chicken.jpg

Plus we can’t forget the pets. We love heated water bowls, they make our lives so much easier. We also try to keep an extra bale or two of hay on hand for the chickens or  just in case the dogs have to stay outside for an extended period when its cold.

That’s most of our winter prep list. I am sure I forgot something, but it’s a start anyway. Hopefully it helped you remember something you may have forgotten.

Fall Clean Up   Chimney Sweeps

English Ivy

Hedera Helix is more commonly known as English Ivy, common ivy or simply ivy. It is native to most of Europe and western Asia, ranging from Ireland to Ukraine. Colonial settlers brought the ornamental vine to the United States with them as early as 1727.

 

What it looks like  ivy-on-wall

 

Hedera Helix is a green vine with alternating leaves. There are two types of leaves. The first type is the  five lobed juvenile that grows out of  the creeping and climbing stems. The second it the mature unlobed leaf.

 

Flowers and Fruit     

ivy-getting-tall
Ivy is getting tall, and beginning to attach to the house

 

Mature ivy plants will produce flowers in late summer and into the fall. Flowers can grow up to 2 inches and are a greenish yellow color. Birds and insects are attracted to the flowers and black to orange fruit that ripens in winter. Birds and animals like and in their native environment depend on the fruit, but it is poisonous to humans.

 

English ivy is considered invasive to a lot of the areas it has been introduced. It is not very picky when growing conditions are concerned. It may grow up to almost a 100 feet long if is able to find adequate support such as a fence or house. It shoots out aerial rootlets that from matted pads that help to stick to buildings if it is not trimmed. Also if left to it’s own devices the roots could possibly do damage to porous materials, such as a wooden fence or house.

 

Where it likes to Grow    

ivy-before-trim
Before trim

 

If the vine is kept well maintained it can be grown as a groundcover or nice low kept shrubs or hedges. With the aid of a wire frame English ivy can even be sculpted into creative topiaries.

 

Ivy prefers cool, moist dark areas and will fill any empty corner that it can. Since it is an evergreen it can withstand cold winters up -9 degrees fahrenheit. Making it a good plant for U.S. hardiness zones 6 and up. It will also grow in full sun if it can get enough water, although it may not winter very well in the sun if it gets too dry.

 

A Caution 

ivy-after-trim
After trim

 

English ivy is a wonderful ornamental evergreen that can bring color to your yard all year around. It is however, important to keep it under control so that it does not take over your home and yard. Many areas consider it invasive for just this reason. It can cause hundreds of dollars of damage to your home in a single season if it is not trimmed or sculpted properly. I love nostalgic pictures of ivy covered houses but would not want it on my home or in my trees.
Give 2 J’s a call if your ivy or other plants have started taking over.

 

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Tips for Growing Mums

It’s officially September and the weather is getting cooler. The time for bonfires and fall decor are  here.  Mums a fall flower favorite are beginning to pop up  in stores, as a reminder. purple chrysanthemum

 

I love mums, especially the gorgeous maroons ones. Unfortunately we are great at killing this gorgeous perennial after only a few months. I think we have bought them for like the past four consecutive years, so it’s rather sad because we have pretty green thumbs in our household. Last year we left them in pots and brought them inside with the other house plants for the winter. We planned on planting them the following spring. They did great until about February when the cat cat knocked them over.  Being hard headed we plan to try again this year.

 

Chrysanthemum are a hardy perennial that grow in zones 5-9. They come in a variety of shapes and just about any color you could want from white to dark red.

 

They are a native plant to Asia and northeastern Europe, although most species originated from east Asia. In 1796 General John Stevens imported the first cultivated species called ‘Dark Purple’ from England to America.

 

Mum Care     orange chrysanthemum

 

  • Mums need a minimum of 6 hours of light per day
  • Well drained soil
  • 1” of water per week after they have been established
  • Water anytime they begin to wilt or bottom leaves shrivel and brown
  • Do NOT soak the foliage as it may cause disease
  • Pinch off dead flower heads to encourage new growth

 

Tricks for Winter Survival           mied mums

 

  • Plant your Mums earlier in the year, this will allow their delicate thin roots time to grow and establish.
  • Plant 1” deeper than the nursery pot that they came in.
  • After the first hard frost mulch your Mums thoroughly being sure to get between all of the branches.
  • It may not hurt to cut the plant back to almost ground level after frost if you want before mulching although leaving old growth till spring can better survival rate.

Keeping Mums Indoors

 

  • Keep them near a window that receives bright but indirect light all day.
  • Temperature should be kept between 70-75 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Water when the top 1” of soil becomes dry, a moisture gauge may come in handy.
  • When Spring comes your indoor Mums should begin to produce new flowers, this is the time to repot with new soil and fertilize to keep the plant happy and producing gorgeous blooms.

 

What We are Going to Try this Year

 

I can’t wait to try my luck with Mums again this year. I think we may try to plant some in the next week. If it doesn’t work this year we will try again in Spring. But I think I will try cutting the end off of an old bottle to fill with water so that our new plants receive more of it while they are establishing roots.

 

Remember to keep pinching the dead flowers heads off so that new ones will grow and the plant looks better, along with not being weighed down by the bad heads.

 

Mulching is something I will not forget to do this year and I will probably cut my plants down to within an inch of the ground before I mulch them.

 

We wish you great luck with your Mums if you decide to purchase some this year. It seems such a shame to keep buying perrinelas every year when they should come back on their own.                  white chrysanthemums

Why Plant Native

Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?

Why Natives

Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment.  This makes them more hardy to their particular climate conditions. honey bee on butterfly milkweed

PROS:

  • Less water
  • More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
  • Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
  • Don’t require as much fertilizer
  • Don’t require as many pesticides
  • Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
  • Native plants have also developed to withstand their regions climate like wind and sun.

 

How Invasive Species Affect the Environment

 

Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations non-native plants compete with the native plants and even effect the animals and insects. Queen Annes Flower

CONS:

  • Need more water
  • Need more fertilizer
  • Need pesticides
  • Take over native species, in essence choking them out
  • Take away nutrients from natives
  • Take sunlight from natives
  • Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
  • Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
  • Run rampant on uninhabited property

 

Yard Scenario 1

 

In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average there maybe about a dozen native insects present.

 

Yard Scenario 2

In a yard with a grass lawn and all native tree, shrubs and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.

 

Why Insects are Important

 

It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds , bats , fish and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.

 

Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem

 

Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your homes landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.     chickadee

 

A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.

One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species. caterpillar-monarch

 

If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.

 

We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit.  This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

 

To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like  elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.

We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa ever year when we plant them.         wild rabbit

 

Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.   

 

Benefits of Over-Seeding

What is overseeding, and who should consider overseeding their yard?

 

Overseeding is adding grass seed on top of your existing grass. This process helps fill in bald or thin patches in your lawn, that may be caused from heavy traffic, kids, pets, erosion or poor weather conditions.    

dog grass trail
No one want bare spots in their lawn. Overseeding can help.

 

On occasion the homeowner may choose to use a different variety of grass seed. High traffic area may benefit from a type of grass that is more adept at handling the added stress. Or a cold wether variety of seed may add more color to your lawn during the winter months when the rest of your grass is dormant. The best part is that the already established grass in your lawn will help to hold the new seed in place, preventing heavy rain and watering from washing it away.

 

Overseeding may be done in early spring or fall. It can be as simple as throwing handfuls of new seed in the areas you want the new grass. For better results and larger areas it may be necessary to rake the desired area to remove debris and loosen compacted soil. A seed spreader may come in handy too. 

seed spreader1
Why you should over-seed your lawn

 

Lawn maintenance can continue as normal for the most part. A few extra waterings may be necessary, and it wouldn’t hurt to cut down on excessive traffic until the new seed establishes. But the existing turf should help establish the new seedlings.

 

Overseeding is a cheap and easy way to help a tired looking lawn get a new lease on life. Add curb appeal without using expensive toxic chemicals and spending a fortune.  

 

For more information on what grass seeds may work best in your yard check out

Best Grass to Grow in the Ozarks

Best Grass to Grow in the Ozarks

We have had lots of questions about grass recently. It’s something that a lot of people take for granted, but if you are new to Northwest Arkansas growing and keeping your grass alive can be a challenge. A lot of homeowners have given up or don’t want the hassle of mowing and simply have gravel yards.

 

The Ozarks are a transitional band that is somewhere in between cool and warm weather grasses. So what grows best? What grows at all? Most importantly what kind of grass will help with my erosion?

 

Establishing and developing a green, thick, lush  lawn takes time and more than one type of grass. Fescue and zoysia are often mixed together with great results.

 

The pre-mixed seed mixtures sold in stores have many combinations of seeds in them, and then these mixtures have been compounded with different seed strains. The possibilities of seed mixtures already mixed on the market are nearly endless. So reading the ingredients on the bag can be confusing if you don’t already have an idea of what will work best for your area and soil quality.

 

Turf Fescue      

 

Tall turf type fescues forms a deep root system in sandy soil or the horrible clay that we have here in Northwest Arkansas.It also tolerates a wide range of soil pH and grows well in light shade and great in full sun. All of this a makes it one of the most drought tolerant cold weather grasses. Turf type fescues usually need to be mowed about once per week and should be kept 3 to 4 inches tall.

 

Zoysia       

zoysia grass
Zoysia Grass

 

Zoysia grass is a beautiful dark green color and forms a dense lush cover. It tolerates a variety of temperatures as well as varying amounts of sunlight and water. As this grass matures it’s density forms a great barrier against weeds, which is why it works so well with fescue. Zoysia’s tough leaf texture stands up well to heavy traffic and makes it a great candidate not only for your lawn but golf courses too. Like fescue, zoysia can be mowed once a week, however if you like a shorter lawn zoysia can be mowed down to about 2 inches.

 

Kentucky Bluegrass    

kentucky bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass

 

Kentucky Bluegrass is another cool weather grass but adapts well to open full sun locations in the spring and fall, but may need shade during the summer afternoon sun. It should be kept about 3 inches tall and mowed about once a week like the fescue and zoysia.

 

Perennial Ryegrass                              

perennial ryegrass
Perennial Ryegrass

 

Perennial Ryegrass is a fast germinator and often used as a cover crop for seeding over other grasses while they establish or during the winter months, This grass is not very drought tolerant and requires frequent watering in our area. However it does stay green during the winter when other grasses are dormant. We have Perennial Rye in our yard and it does great in the shaded areas around our house. Perennial Rye should be kept about 2 to 3 inches tall.

 

Fine Leaf Fescue

 

Fine Leaf Fescue is another quick germinating grass that is also used for overseeding. This grass type is great in helping to prevent erosion. It grows best in dry shady areas and doesn’t mind slightly acidic soil.

 

Buffalo Grass   

buffalo grass
Buffalo Grass

 

Buffalo Grass may be the only turf grass that is native to North America. It is a very fine grass with a beautiful soft blueish green color.  Buffalo Grass  usually grows in climates with only a foot or two of rain per year, if it becomes extremely dry it will however become dormant. It thrives in neutral to alkaline clay soil.  Buffalo grass does not have to mowed at all but can be kept between 2 and 4 inches tall.

 

Grass Care   

 

We all want a perfectly manicured lush green yard. Unfortunately this causes a lot of Americans to over mow. Mowing creates wounds in our yard which leave it susceptible to fungus and disease. This is amplified if we mow the lawn too short, we should never remove more than one third of the leaf growth when trimming our yards.  Mowing our yards to soon also prevents our grass from producing seed and re-seeding themselves. We always let our yard go to seed at least once in the spring and again in the fall. Our last tip is “Don’t Bag It”. Leave your grass clippings in your lawn, they act as natural compost by adding organic matter back into your soil. That’s also where your free seed will be.
We hope this helps clear up some of your grass questions. Different yards in Northwest Arkansas require different seed mixtures. One type of seed may work great in one area of your yard but not another. As well as adding a certain type of seed for a while that will later be over run when a longer lasting variety fully establishes itself. It is possible to have a vibrant lush green yard in the Ozarks although it may take time and a lot of patience.

Companion Gardening

help prevent garden pests without chemicals
help prevent garden pests without chemicals

We started learning about, and using companion gardening about seven years ago. It is a very easy, time saving and cost effective method to keep your garden happy and cut out a lot of chemicals. There are a lot of great books and the internet is full of resources about the practice. I wish we had started doing it sooner.

To break it down companion gardening is simply growing plants that are beneficial to each other in the same location. In some cases one plant may repel pest that commonly affect another plant, or a certain plant may grow deeper roots and deposit nutrients and minerals that another plant needs. Some vegetables or herbs may even make others taste better or increase yield. This is the way our grandparents did it, and now it is nearly a lost art. Lucky for us thanks to the trendy new green movement this practice is making a come.

Planting tomatoes and basil near each other is a good example of companion gardening. The basil’s strong smell repels unwanted insects from the tomatoes, and in return the tomatoes provide shade for the basil as they mature. Some people also believe that basil makes their tomatoes taste better (kind of makes since I add basil to almost everything I cook with tomatoes).

On the other hand it is important to realize that not all plants should be grown near each other. We learned this the hard way in our home vegetable  garden. One year we ended up with spicy banana peppers because we planted them to close to jalapenos. The nearby bell peppers suffered the same fate and the jalapenos came out sweet. Cross pollination in the works, but lesson learned and we won’t be doing that again.

Marigolds and other flowers provide benefits as much as veggies and other herbs do. Incorporating flower  borders around your vegetable garden is a great idea. This concept adds a lot of of appeal and turns an otherwise visually boring vegetable garden into a landscaping masterpiece. Most visitors will never know how hard those gorgeous marigolds or nasturtiums are working to protect your crop from aphids and other pests.

I love companion gardening it costs less and helps make my garden be more self sustaining, which saves us time and worry. We have less little critters eating our valuable produce before we can get to. I don’t have to worry about my chickens getting into all of those chemicals that would otherwise inevitably wash out into my whole yard.  Top that off with giving my whole yard a cozy cottage appeal, and giving the birds and butterflies more reason to stay.

Here are some of the combinations we use in our garden. There are many more and to be honest I can’t remember a lot of them or the exact reason why we plant things where we do any more it just works and we haven’t had hornworms in our tomatoes for years.

 

Tomatoes by Basil and marigolds

Beans go with just about anything

Mint deters mice and aphids we plant it all over (be careful it spreads fast)

Broccoli by Oregano

Bell Peppers by Tomatoes

Sage goes well with Broccoli and Cauliflower plus the bees love when it blooms

Strawberries and Thyme go well together if you have a worm problem

Hot Peppers no where near the Sweet Peppers

Catnip and eggplant to deter flea beetles

Cucumbers and radishes

Cilantro and spinach

Garlic and roses help keep japanese beetles away

 

Positive little critters that will prey on the more destructive ones

Yarrow brings in bees

Camille bring in wasps

Angelica attracts lady beetles and lacewings