Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is it really Spring?

It has been a somewhat uncertain Spring. At first we thought it would be an early growing season, but now that doesn't seem to be happening. It's late enough to plant broccoli, cabbage, celery, Brussels spouts and cauliflower outside, but we are waiting until the threat of hard frosts are done. Even cold weather plants usually grow really slow when it's cold, so you don't gain much growing time by planting when its too cold.
We always wait until mid-May to plant beans and squash seeds outside and we wait until the end of May to plant egg plant, peppers and tomato plants.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lasagna gardening cuts down on weeding

Lasagna (or sheet) gardening is an easy way to start a garden in a new spot or enrich an existing garden. Not to be confused with the Italian dish, this method eliminates the need to work the soil with shovel or rototiller. The reason for the name is because it requires layering of newspapers and compost.
My neighbors used a form of this method for their garden 10 years ago. They mulched with lake seaweed and decomposed chicken manure... it worked well. There were still weeds though and I don't see how you can completely eliminate the need to weed. One of my coworkers uses a weed eater when her garden gets really overgrown. Here's the steps to start a lasagna garden, minus the pasta and weed eater.

1. If you are starting a new garden, pick a spot that will get sunlight most of the day and that will drain well. You don't want your garden in the low spot or the high spot in the yard. Outline the area where you want the garden and mow the grass short.

2. Cover with a thick layer of newspapers, 5 pages thick. Then saturate with water.

3. Next layer with 2 inches of peat moss or other brown organic material such as: leaves, pine needles, straw, rotting hay, composted horse manure or other compost, humus, sawdust, grass clippings, barn litter, coffee grounds, seaweed, paper, cardboard and wood ashes. (whatever you have available).

4. Next layer with 1 inch of green material such as grass clippings, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, unwanted plants or weeds-that haven't gone to seed. (Fresh grass clippings are high in nitrogen, so don't use very much). It is ideal to use twice as much brown material as green.

5. Continue layering 2 parts brown and 1 part green, as deep as the roots of the plants prior to planting, (usually 8 to 10 inches).

6.  Plant the plants, covering around the roots with organic matter. Or... let the raised beds sit and decompose before planting. Either way, give the bed a good saturated watering right away. After planting, continue mulching around the plants as they grow.

In an existing garden, stomp the weeds down or use a weed eater. Then follow steps 2-6 above.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meadow Brook Garden Club meets April 27

The Meadow Brook Garden Club will meet at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, April 27 in the Coach House adjacent to Meadow Brook Hall on the estate grounds at 480 South Adams Road, Rochester. Coffee and refreshments will be served with program to follow at 10 a.m. Guest speaker Evelyn Hadden, an award winning author and renowned speaker, will present a tour of dozens of gardens and design strategies. Guests are welcome. There is a $5 non-member donation. Reservations are not required. Membership fee is $30 per year, or $45 per couple. For information, contact 248-364-6210, email, or visit

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Garden happenings in Oakland County

Healthy Lawn Workshop is 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19 at Oak Park Community Center, 14300 Oak Park Blvd., Room B, Oak Park. Featured speaker is Gary Eichen, Bioturf manager, Mike's Tree Surgeon's Inc. Register at 248-691-7497 or email

Buy garden compost, made from grass, leaves, and woodchips by the SOCRRA, Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority. Free to residents of SOCRRA communities, non residents pay $5 per cubic yard, (minimum $15). Loaded by bucket loader at SOCRRA's Yard Waste Compost Site, 1741 School Road. For information and times to pick up, call 248-288-5150 or visit

Don't Guess...Soil Test! is offered by participating garden center stores in cooperation with SOCWA, the Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority and the Soil Nutrient Testing Laboratory, Michigan State University through Sunday, April 29.
It is $25 per sample, includes lab analysis of soil plus organic matter test and delivery. Fertilizer recommendations are mailed or emailed.
The package price includes pH, lime requriement, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium testing.
For more information, call 248-288-5150 or visit

City of Auburn Hills Perennial Exchange is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 19 at River Woods Park. For more information, visit or call 248-364-6946.

Auburn Hills Farmers' Market 3 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, beginning June 7 at Auburn and Squirrel Road, behind Duffy's.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Planting delayed due to Bittersweet vines

I hate it when the temperature warms up outside and then gets cold in the Spring. It's not good for the fruit trees and flowering trees. But it doesn't really faze the greens, onions and peas, as long as it stays above freezing most of the time.
If I had planted St. Patrick's Day weekend, it would have been fine. But alas, instead of planting Swiss Chard and other greens, we had to counter attack a siege of mean Oriental Bittersweet, (not so sweet) vines that seem to have only one purpose: Kill all trees nearby or even several yards away. They intertwine themselves around the tree, then, like a boa constrictor, they choke it, slowly. The only way to kill is with herbicides, which also kill the trees. So we were manually cutting and removing the vines. With this method, we will have to stay vigilant on guard against their regrowth because they have an underground network of roots.
People actually plant Bittersweet vine when landscaping. The American variety is not invasive, like the Oriental variety.
For more information, visit