Thursday, July 30, 2015

Caring For Damaged Irises

The other day my husband decided to run the mulching lawn mower over my backyard irises. He thought it was a good idea; quicker and faster way to trim back the fans and needless to say I was devastated. Many of the rhizomes were damaged and other plants had no leaves as they were cut down so low that I doubt they will produce flowers next spring or the year after, that is if they survive this shock.
My backyard irises that grow next to the rock wall

Anyway I was upset but today I dried the tears from my eyes and decided I would try to care for my damaged irises; try to save them. The first thing that I did was add some organic compost to the flower bed. Normally I do not cover the rhizomes but today I did cover most of them, leaving only a small section before the leaf would begin. The compost is a rich fertilizer and hopefully will aid in provided the irises with the nutrients that are needed to grow and not die.

When I completed the compost, I then watered the irises, in fact I set up a soaking hose that will provide the irises with a slow drip in the morning.

Presently I am watching the irises for sucking insects like spider-mites and aphids and if I see these garden type insects I will treat the irises with a spraying of neem oil insecticide. My friend is a master gardener and she does not think that the flowers will survive. It is a terrible shock to flowers and like I said the rhizomes were cut.

Know that my husband is a great help to me with the garden and that I had explained how to trim back the leaves, even showed him how to sterilize the garden scissor but he thought the mower was a good idea and cut down the irises. Of course he knew immediately that he made a mistake and did say he was sorry.  But the damage is done.

Keeping Irises Insect Free with Neem Oil

This summer has been a real buggy one. I suppose it was due to a cold and damp spring, followed by standing water due to ground saturation then it got hot and the insects came out in full force. Overall my irises took a beating from the sucking insects and when I found that natural soap  treatment was not strong enough I cut the irises back and treated the soil rhizomes and leaves with neem oil insecticide
Keeping my irises healthy with neem oil concentrate

Neem oil insecticide is natural and is safe to use in your garden. Plus it will not harm the butterflies or hummingbirds. I bought the brand Garden safe Neem oil extract concentrated liquid from The label featured that it eliminate the garden pests; spider mites, aphids, powdery mildew, whiteflies, black spot and rust.

I followed the directions and treated my irises and roses in the evening after the sun went down. It is best to use this plant and shrub spray on a cloudy day or in the evening. Not a good idea to use during the heat of the day or in direct light as it will burn your plants leaves.

I saturated the soil, around and my plants stems and leaves. I am am pleased with the results thus far. Now as far as the grasshopper and other chewing garden pests I plan to treat my entire yard with concentrated spearmint as this was recommended to me by pest control expert.

Know that if you irises are under attack by mites, leaf spot disease, rust and aphids then neem oil concentrate mixed with water will help. If you have grasshoppers or other chewing garden pests then neem oil will not get rid of them

Learn the dos and don’ts for cutting back irises here

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DO NOT Trim Iris Leaves with Lawn Mower

This post is not like my usual How to care, plant or maintain your yard and gardens, instead it has to do with what NOT to do.

Know that yesterday my husband offered to help me cut the leaves of the irises, because I am having a problem with garden pests and needed to treat the irises with concentrated spearmint.   I thought that the leaves were  cut on irises then it the pest repellent would have a better chance at getting to the rhizome and then get rid of the borers. 

I sterilized two sets of garden scissors and showed my husband the proper way to cut the leaves.  I generally cut them to three inches and the  leaves look like a fan.  Husband said he understood. So I got started with the garden in the front, 300 irises and husband started in the back; 287 irises.

About ten minutes into the project husband told me that cutting the leaves was ridiculous and that he decided to cut the grass. So I thanked him for what he did and went about my garden business.

I heard the lawn mower and was happy the grass was being cut.  A few minutes later my husband approaches me and says “ I cut them too short” I was not sure what he was referring to and asked “what did you cut too short” He replied “the irises” 

Bearded irises growing both sides of garden path
Know that if the rhizome is cut then they are damaged and yes this is too short, I had showed him and thought he understood how to cut the irises leaves.  Apparently not because I followed my husband to the backyard where the Batik irises are planted on both sides of the garden path and yes he did cut them too short and I suspect I lost a couple hundred irises flowers because my husband ran them over with the mulching lawn mower.

Using the lawn mower or grass trimmer is the wrong way to cut irises and if you do this you put them at risk for borers and damage that cannot be repaired. I suspect that they will all die.

Know that my husband can be a great help to me in the garden, and I have no idea why he thought using the lawn more on the irises was a good idea. He watched me cut the leaves so that they looked like fans  with a sterilized garden scissor. I am shaking my head in disbelief. He said he was sorry, but does not really understand the damage that his actions have created.

Learn proper care for irises here

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gardening Today: Removing Dead Branches from Trees

Husband and I were up early today because if we are going to do any work outdoors it has to be early in the morning because afternoons are too hot. Here in the central states we have extreme heat and drought. To give you an idea the average temperature has been 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with a heat index of 110. We are both used to working outdoors, but this extreme heat is just too hot.

I have been weeding the garden beds and husband removed the dead branches from the Mimosa tree and also trimmed the branches that are too close to the windows on the side of the house. Then from there husband pruned back the poison ivy that was growing over the wall. I cannot touch it but for some reason he can pull out with his hands and it does not bother him.

We worked together today on manicuring the trees and also treated the flowers, shrubs and around the trees with a soap wash to get rid of the aphids, spider mites and beetles

Learn more about mimosa tree by reading my blog post here.  Know that our mimosa tree is no longer flowering so it is safe to trim back the  branches to encourage growth and many blooms next year.

Happy summer gardening everyone. If you are out in the garden be sure to have some water close by. Keeping your body hydrated is the best way to prevent heat stroke.  

Learn more about pruning your flowering trees by viewing this video.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dandelions: Easy to Grow and Tastes Good Too

Every growing season my husband and I have disagreements about the dandelions that grow in the yard. He thinks of them as an ugly weed and I think of them as a health food. Since my husband was opposed to the dandelions growing in the lawn I transplanted them to their own earth box.

Dandelions will grow anywhere as long as they have good drainage, sun and water. So you can pant them in a container garden, raised garden or separate area in your yard if you trust your spouse not to mow them over.  Dandelions are easy to grow and have a pretty flower however the new leaves and the flowers also taste good.

Dandelion greens are similar to spinach. Know that If you like sautéed spinach then it is wise to grow dandelions. The entire plant is edible; flower, leaves and root. You can serve in salad, chopped as a garnish on casseroles or sauteed as a side dish.

You will feel better when you grow and eat dandelions because the dandelion also has medicinal properties; the leaves are a natural diuretic, plant. The roots can be roasted to make a coffee like drink or herbal tea.  Dandelion is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, and essential B vitamins. So if you want to improve the health of your liver or gallbladder it is wise to add the Dandelion herb to your garden.

Learn more about dandelions by viewing the youtube video.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Maintaining Backyard Wildlife Habitat

In 2004 my husband and I decided to grow a wildlife habitat that would naturally provide the songbirds, squirrel, deer and other wildlife with forage. We knew that initially the garden would not do as intended but within a few growing season we would no longer have to worry; the plants would adapt to the garden and the wildlife would have plenty of food.

Here are photographs of wildlife in the backyard habitat 

Raccoon by serviceberry trees 

Black butterfly and mimosa flower

Butterfly garden

Cat relaxing after visiting the catnip garden
Raccoon hiding in the grass garden

Well that was the plan and it worked well the first few years then came the droughts and the extreme heat during the summer months and we lost many fruit shrubs due to not enough water and or pests. We simply could not hydrate the plants with the water restrictions in our area.

So the following year we collected water from the spring rains in the barrels that I bought at This was a good idea, however come end of July we had exhausted all of the water intended to sustain the habitat plants during the drought season.

Know that when we noticed the rain barrel water levels were getting low we then started collecting household water from bath, shower and water used to rinse the vegetables.  Yes taking buckets of water from house to outdoor rain barrel wasn't fun, the buckets were heavy and sometimes the water spilled out of the bucket when lifting to pour into the barrel. But by recycling the water we were able to have more water for the forage plants,  but it was not enough water to maintain the wildlife habitat throughout the summer.

Since we had lost many plants due to our extremely hot summers we decided to grow only native plants and other fruit bearing plants. Also instead of growing the forage plants away from the house we grew them closer. By doing this we were able to hydrate them with soaking hoses in the early morning on our assigned  watering days. We also invested in water retention mulch by Scotts. The cost of this mulch is higher than others but it is well worth it because it does help you to save water.

Initially our plan was to grow forage for the wildlife in our area, but with the changes to climates that idea became costly and one we could not afford to maintain.  Know that the wildlife habitat has changed to native plants that are maintained with the special water retaining mulch, soaker hose system that provide the plants at the soil level a slow and steady drip of water. We set these soaker hoses on a timer and water every other day for two hours in the early morning.

We continue to save the spring rain water but instead of waiting for the water level in these barrels to empty out before recycling, we started a water recycling system that we do constantly throughout the growing season.

By implementing the ongoing water recycling we found that the water barrel watering system does not deplete and has allowed us to continue to water our wildlife habitat during the hottest month of the summer.

Do you recycle water for your outdoor gardens?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Vinegar Weed Killer Tips and Warnings

Recently I published a post about using the vinegar and ultra dawn dish soap formula to kill the weeds and grasses growing in between my garden path stepping stones. I shared this post on Facebook and many of my gardening friends asked questions.

I will be answering these question here.

Why use vinegar and dawn ultra dish soap and not roundup?

White vinegar is an acid and the dawn ultra dish soap is what holds the acid on your weeds leaves and stem. The acid kills the weed but does not kill the earth worms. Roundup is a chemical and kills the weeds to the root and every good garden insect that crosses its path. In addition roundup is not safe to use around pets.

How often do you have to apply the vinegar weed killer?

The white vinegar weed kill formula should be used on a hot sunny day. Spray the weed by saturating it with the vinegar.  You will see the weed dying back in a few hours, the leaves and stems will turn brown. 

 Now provided your summers are dry then you will not need to reapply, you may have to spot check the area for new weed grown once a week and treat any new growth with the vinegar.  Now if it rains or and the are that was treated with the vinegar formula gets wet from sprinklers, then the formula will be weakened and the weeds will grow back quickly.

Can I use in my flowerbeds are around trees?

I would not recommend using any weed kill in your flower garden areas for fear that it might come in contact with a plant that you do not want to kill. Know that I have used this weed kill on weeds growing close to a mature Oak tree and had no problems but I would net use in the same area as a young tree.

This vinegar and ultra dawn soap weed kill does work if used as directed and is not weakened from rain or otter water source.

Do I have to buy a brand name for the distilled white vinegar? No brand name is needed in fact I would recommend that you buy Great Value which is the store brand and is always less then other top brands. Buy whatever is on sale as long as it is distilled white vinegar you will be in good shape or transplanted tree or shrub. 

Does the vinegar smell last long?

When the vinegar is mixed with the dawn ultra dish soup the smell is weakened and is not as pungent as straight vinegar. I noted that the smell was gone within a few hours.

Those are some of the questions that I was asked, if you have any further questions then please leave a comment and I will reply.

Here are some other products that I have used for controlling weeds in flower beds' learn more here

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Weeds Growing in-between Stepping Stones

Removing the weeds that grow in-between the stepping stones has been my  garden project this week.  Know that I started this task by using a hand tool to dig out the roots but soon realized that to complete the 40 foot paths that I would need to work several days.  A hand pull on a project this large would be really hard on the body.

Here are a few photographs of my many garden paths.  All needed to be weeded last week.
Stepping stone with pea gravel and edge stone

Dry set flagstone walkway with pea gravel
Pea gravel path with stepping stones
Cement capstone garden path 

First I thought I would use the lawn trimmer as a quick fix to my problem.  It looks good until it rained two days ago and now the weeds have grown back and the stepping stone path looks awful.

My husband suggested that I use roundup to kill the weeds and I refused to do the chemical compound being harmful to the wildlife.  I realized that I needed something strong to take care of my obnoxious weed problem so I inquired about a formula at my garden club and they gave me a mixture that consisted of plain dawn dish soap, Epsom salt and water.

I followed the instructions given; mix well spray on the weed liberally on a sunny day and it should start to die off within a few hours.  Well I waited two days and the weeds did not die off.   

I went back to digging the weeds out by the roots, and had accomplished several feet when my husband tells me to mix 2 gallons of distilled white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of Dawn ultra (original Dawn the one that is blue color) mix the formula and spray on the weeds on a sunny day.

Husband  said the vinegar is an acid and it is what kills the weeds, the soap is what keeps the vinegar on the the weeds.  I followed his instruction and mixed 8 gallons of vinegar with the dawn ultra dish soap, sprayed on the weeds in-between the stepping stones and within 2 hours they were turning brown.