Saturday, March 30, 2013

April is National Lawn Care month

HERNDON, Va. — The majority of Americans say that their yard is important to them. A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive for PLANET, found that 81 percent of those with a yard/landscape say the upkeep of their yard/landscape is important to the look of their home. Why is it so important? Showing pride was the No. 1 response (42 percent of those surveyed) followed by the desire to create a relaxing outdoor space (16 percent).


“Spring is a great time to channel the excitement about getting outside in the yard into working to lay the foundation for a healthy lawn that the family can enjoy all season,” said Norman Goldenberg, Landscape Industry Certified, president of PLANET.

PLANET, the national trade association for landscape professionals, offers homeowners tips for getting a great start on caring for yards this spring.

  • Test your soil. Test your soil once every few years to make sure it has the proper pH balance and mix of nutrients. You can usually get your soil tested at your states local agricultural extension office, or ask your lawn care or landscape professional. You can also buy soil test kits at garden centers.
  • Fertilize, but test first. The decision about whether or not to fertilize should be based on the nutrition requirements of your plant as well as soil conditions. First, determine your soil nutrient needs through testing, and if your soil does need nutrients, make sure you choose a fertilizer that matches those needs.  Also make sure you fertilize at the right time of the year for your variety of grass. Contrary to popular belief, not all grasses should be fertilized in the spring. A few cool-season grass varieties do better when fertilized in the fall. June is also a good time to fertilize many cool-season grasses. Before fertilizing your lawn or plants, always check with the local agricultural extension office. Some state and local governments place limits on when, what kind, and what amount of fertilizer you can apply. Professional, licensed lawn care companies must follow state, local, and federal regulations.
  • Give your lawn mower a check up. Make sure the blades are sharp and the oil has been changed. Also, drain last seasons fuel and use fresh gas. Read the operator’s manual for your mower. Make sure you understand all of its safety features prior to use.
  • Don’t cut your grass too short, particularly for cool season grass. Taller grass results in a deeper root system and a lawn that is less likely to encourage invasive weeds. It also protects your lawn from scorching.
For design tips, tips on creating sustainable landscapes, indoor plant tips and seasonal advice, visit,

PLANET is the national trade association representing more than 100,000 landscape industry professionals, who create and maintain healthy, green living spaces for communities across America. For more information, visit

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Keeping da deer outta da garden

A friend commented on Facebook that deer ate her tomato plants, which doesn't surprise me. We have 6 foot fencing around our garden and sometimes that doesn't keep them out. Once they break in, they're eating machines. However, if it's just one deer and it starts with the green beans, it probably won't eat the tomatoes. Deer also love Swiss chard, even more than I do. They love all types of greens and corn, etc...
As far as repellents for deer, I've heard of many things, weird things like coyote urine, human urine, human hair. I haven't tried those.
One year, I sliced up Irish Spring and scattered it around the perimeter. I don't remember if it was effective. My husband made fun of me and said he saw deer out by the garden taking a shower with the soap. I really think Irish Spring might be a good deterrent and cheaper than anything they sell at the garden supplier, so I'm going to sneak out there and throw down the soap again this year.
We planted French Marigolds around the garden perimeter a few seasons, but that didn't seem to keep the deer out. At least they didn't eat the Marigolds. I think it helped keep the rabbits and bugs away though.
Another tactic, which I think actually works, is noise makers on the fence or playing a radio at low volume by your garden. The problem is protecting the radio and power supply from moisture. This measure could be saved for harvest time, that's when we have the most trouble with deer getting into our fenced in garden.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plants that deer don't eat, as much

First of all, deer absolutely love hostas. If you like watching deer in your backyard, plant a whole bunch of hostas.
But if hungry enough, deer will eat nearly anything growing in your yard. The plants that have the best chance of surviving raids by deer are flowers and plants that have a pungent scent, fuzzy or woody leaves and/or an unpleasant taste.

Flowers that are usually left alone by deer
Four O' Clock
Morning Glory

Deer resistant herbs
 Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint and Thyme

I have found that deer will eat jalapenos when hungry enough, but that's not their first choice.. They don't usually eat onion, potato, squash and tomato plants or parsley or other herbs.
Their favorites as I know from personal experience, are green beans, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, peas and broccoli.

 Renee' has a list of deer resistant varieties, Also check with Michigan State County Extension office

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Attracting bees and butterflies

I was reading about flower and plant selection for the yard. I don't usually spend much time on non food-producing plants, mainly due to lack of funds.
But this year, I am going to try to work around that.
The fact that there is a world-wide shortage of pollinators makes it a good idea to consider plants that attract bees and butterflies according to
Common flowers that do a great job are poppy, lupine, viola, wallflower, black-eyed Susan, Butterfly flower, Calendula, Dahlia, Amaranth, Marigold, Salvia, Sunflower, Zinnia, Portulaca, Lavender, Foxglove, Cosmos, Coneflower and Echinacea,
Anybody who has run barefoot in a yard knows that clover attracts bees. It is a great ground cover plant too.
Garden plants that are highly attractive to bees and butterflies include parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill, basil, chives, peas, squash and pumpkin. So I will plant as much of these as I can.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keep the green light on

The first day of Spring turned out to be so cold, that Oakland Press writer Jerry Wolffe put out a hit  "on the furry head of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that predicted an early spring." To read more, go to
 It's hard to keep warm green thoughts of Spring in mind. But it will come, so we need to get busy preparing. The good part about the extended winter is the fruit trees haven't bloomed early, so hopefully we'll have Michigan apples, cherries and peaches this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Arborist to discuss tree, shrub and lawn care

The Community House Friends of the Gardens will present “Care of Our Treasures: Trees, Shrubs, Lawns and more,” at 7 p.m. March 18 at the Community House, 380 South Bates St. in Birmingham.
Presenter Gary Eichen is the plant health care/bio-turf lawn manager for Mike’s Tree Surgeons. He is a certified arborist with over 25 years of experience in plant health care and lawn care.
Eichen speaks for the Technical Advisory Committee for the Health Lawn Care Program for Watershed Protection, Oakland University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University Extension, the Morton Arboretum in Illinois and many master gardener and garden clubs throughout Southeast Michigan.
He will talk about insects and diseases of trees and shrubs and what homeowners can do to reduce them.
The public is invited. Reservations are not necessary. Refreshments will be served.
A $5 donation is requested at the door. For more information, contact the Community House at 248-594-6410 or email

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lecture to focus on great plants for landscaping

The Pontiac Garden Club is hosting Great Plants and Plant Combinations at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 18 at Goldner Walsh Garden & Home, 559 Orchard Lake Road, Pontiac. Janet Macunovich, local plant expert, author and "Michigan Gardener" magazine contributor will share her picks for the best perennials, trees and shrubs that not only look great together for their seasonal colors but also for their combined forms, textures and foliage characteristics. She will be available for a Q&A and book signing of her garden inspired books after the lecture. For more information, visit

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The 3 challenges of organic farming

Gardening and farming continue to be traditions in my family. My daughters, Elizabeth and Emily, plan to start their own organic farm. Emily wrote an article about the challenges of organic farming and the solutions of three farmers.

by Emily Blake 
Organic farming is nothing new... it has been practiced since 5800 B.C. However, farming with pesticides has only become common within the last 50 years (Fossel, 6). Many commercial farmers would tell you that it’s not even possible to successfully grow crops without them. 

With recent studies done on the effects of pesticides on our health, organic farming is having a strong comeback. With this comeback have come new ideas. Technology today affords us a lot more luxury and variation when it comes to farming. This technology ranges from herbicides to tractors and doesn’t stop there. As a new farmer, it can be confusing coming into all this progress and trying to decide what works and what doesn’t. Every farmer has their own miracle fix or ideas on how best to solve the three main farming issues: Soil composition, weed control and dealing with pests and disease.

Experimentation is the best way to learn what will work on your land and in your particular climate as a farmer or gardener. In order to experiment, farmers must know what is available. Here are three farmers' methods and what works for them:

3 challenges of organic farming

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Native gardening workshop is March 7

The Native Gardening workshop discusses the benefits of native plants and offers advice on planting a native landscape. The workshop is 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7 at the Farmington Hills Nature Center, in Heritage Park at 24915 Farmington Road, between 10 and 11 Mile Roads in Farmington Hills. All materials will be provided, as well as refreshments. The cost is $10 per person and registration is required. Register at the Costick Center or online at The next workshop, Osprey and Birds of Prey is April 4. Call the Nature Center at 248-477-1135 or email for more information.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Garden planning can be fun or it's war

2012 Blake garden
My husband Ken, the garden boss, has drawn up the garden map. It's a good thing we like mostly the same vegetables, or this could easily become a war garden. Gardening is supposed to be peaceful and relaxing, so let's keep it that way. I don't like green peppers and asparagus as much as he does, but he doesn't like kale or celery so much. However, he cut some plastic pipe to protect the celery bunches as they grew last year. That worked pretty well. And to my credit, I froze the surplus green peppers and asparagus and have been using them in cooking.
We have a 10 x 20 foot fenced-in garden, north to south being the long side so we plant short east to west rows, which is ideal. We vary that on the north side of the garden where we plant peas along the fence, (and then replant 2 times every year, because something eats the seeds).  Last year, we planted short rows of Brussels sprouts, beans, egg plant and broccoli going north to south. We don't plant corn, because neither of us like it that much. We don't grow potatoes, because they get attacked by cut worms in our garden.
Ken's asparagus patch is on the north end of the garden, next to the rhubarb patch outside of the fence.
I have given up on spinach, it bolts really fast. Swiss chard, as I've mentioned before, is much more productive and lasts all season.
I will plant herbs and greens in my little raised bed garden: Romaine and leaf lettuce, broccoli raab, green onions, basil, parsley, sage, Rosemary, but not Thyme. Dill and cilantro grow so fast, then bolt, its hard to time it right to have it for making pickles and salsa. I waited too late last year. I will try to plant them after July 4 this year.