Grasscycling

Grasscycling is the practice of leaving grass clippings on the lawn or using them as mulch. Grass clippings are over 80% water, so they decompose quickly and release nitrogen and other nutrients back into the lawn and soil naturally, thereby improving lawn quality. Grass clippings add water-saving mulch and encourage natural soil aeration by earthworms. Advantages to grasscycling include:

  • No bagging or raking the lawn
  • Plastic lawn bags don’t wind up in the landfill
  • Fifty percent of your lawn’s fertilizer needs are met, so you reduce time and money spent fertilizing
  • Less polluting: reduces the need for fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides
  • Non-thatch causing, thus making a lawn vigorous and durable

Not only does it make caring for your lawn easier, but grasscycling can also reduce your mowing time by 50% because you don’t have to pick up afterwards. Leaving clippings on the lawn also slows water loss through evaporation and reduces the needs for fertilization. To grasscycle properly, cut the grass when it’s dry and always keep your mower blades sharp.

More tips to help maximize the advantages of grasscycling clippings on your lawn:

  • Remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf surface area with each mowing.
  • Mow when the lawn is dry.
  • Use a sharp mower blade. A dull mower blade bruises and tears the grass plant, resulting in a ragged, tarnished appearance at the leaf tip.
  • Aerate your lawn. In the spring, rent an aerator which removes cores of soil from the lawn. This opens up the soil and permits greater movement of water, fertilizer, and air by increasing the speed of decomposition of the grass clippings and enhancing deep root growth.
  • Water thoroughly when needed. During the driest period of summer, lawns require at least one inch of water every five to six days.
  • Make sure you follow the proper lawn care schedule for your type of turfgrass.

Rain Garden Clay Soil

People around the state are experimenting with how to best prepare clay soils for rain gardens. Though there are not yet any hard and fast rules on site preparation for clay soils, here are some tips recommended by those who have tried it.

In designing your garden dimensions, increase the surface area of your rain garden and correspondingly decrease the depth, to spread water out and allow a greater infiltration area. Try using a 2:1 ratio of the drainage area to the surface area of your garden (most rain gardens in better soils use approximately a 4:1 ratio). For instance, if your garden will be draining a 200 sq. ft. of rooftop, plan the surface area of your garden to be 100 sq. ft.

Complete all site preparation when the soil is dry. If the clay is damp, your shovels or excavation equipment will seal the pores of the soil and create a barrier to water infiltration. Excavating while dry maintains soil pores to a greater extent. After digging, rough up the bottom and sides to allow for more infiltration.

If an initial percolation test shows that water does not drain properly from the site, excavate the site from one to four feet deep and fill the garden with sandy loam soil. Mix in 2 to 3 inches of compost near the surface.

Remember, as the roots of your native plants grow, they will help to break up the soil and provide infiltration channels. You should expect to see better infiltration as your plants become more well established year after year. Certain plants may be better suited for clay soils than others, be sure to consider soil type when choosing plants.

For newly planted rain garden, young plants may be more susceptible to drowning if they are immersed in standing water for several days. You may want to create a notch in the berm of your rain garden to allow excess water to drain out if this happens. Once your plants become better established and the garden is draining more quickly, you can fill in this notch to restore your berm.

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. – Abraham Lincoln

Firecracker Bloody Mary

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 tablespoons beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons dill pickle juice
  • 2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Ice cubes

Directions:

In a small pitcher, mix first 12 ingredients; serve over ice. Yields two servings.

Patriotic Perennials

Some of these perennials are old standards, others brand new.  Consider, for instance, the Dianthus ‘Spangled Star’ with its red flowers with white blotches.  Or you could include the new Coreopsis ‘American Dream,’ an improved variation of rose with dark pink flowers that bloom most of the summer.

Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria) is suitable for a patriotic garden is ‘Freedom.’ Developed at the University of Connecticut, this garden variety has pink flowers, is about 30 inches high, and makes a great cut flower.  Since it is only hardy to about USDA zone 6, it must be thought of as a tender perennial in the north and will need to be grown as an annual.

Consider the tea roses ‘Mister Lincoln’ and, of course, the most popular of all time, ‘Peace.’   Although not reliably hardy in the north, these grow well if treated as annuals and planted in warm, fertile, and well-watered soils.

Hostas are a good choice for shady spots.  These include ‘Revolution,’ ‘Patriot,’ ‘Minuteman,’ ‘Pilgrim,’ ‘Loyalist,’ and ‘American Dream.’  Siberian irises with flag-waving spirit-evoking names include ‘Manhattan Blues’ and ‘Over in Gloryland.’   Do you like daylilies, try adding plantings of  ‘Beloved Country’ and ‘American Revolution.’

For red flowers consider many of the daylilies, New York asters, speedwell (Veronica) ‘Red Fox,’ or dianthus.  These require sun, so if your garden is in the shade, you might plant some of the many red astilbes or the lungwort (Pulmonaria) ‘Red Start.’

Think about the red clematis cultivars for vines, either climbing a trellis or weaving through shrubs like hardy roses.

White flowers look at some “near white” daylilies, asters, speedwell, dianthus, and clematis as above.  Or how about peonies, bee balm, phlox (‘David’ is a vigorous and disease resistant one), Siberian iris, foamflower, and Lamium ‘White Nancy,’  The latter, as well as, many hostas, have a lot of white in their foliage as well, and are good for shade.

Blue usually is a harder color to find in flowers, but Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium), Russian sage (Perovskia) and many of the Siberian irises are possibilities.  For shade, plant the ground covers bugleweed (Ajuga) and periwinkle (Vinca minor).

Hydrangea Not Blooming

When your hydrangea won’t bloom, it is because of the species of hydrangea you have planted. Some of them grow flowers off of new wood and some of them will grow flowers off of old wood. If your hydrangea won’t flower, then you need to figure out if this is the variety you have planted.

Hydrangeas that flower off of new wood usually never cause a problem. In fact, you don’t hear people who have this particular type of hydrangea having a problem with hydrangea not blooming. There are other types of hydrangea, however, and these might be the culprit.

The most common hydrangea purchased is the Bigleaf hydrangea. This particular species of hydrangea is called Hydrangea macrophilia and they get blue or pink flowers on them. However, they produce a lot of cultivars and these cultivars can die back to the base of the ground in the winter, particularly if you have had a colder than normal winter.

Since these hydrangeas bloom on old wood, this creates a problem. If the old wood dies back to the ground, your hydrangea won’t bloom when it grows back the following year. This is because it’s growing new wood and the new wood doesn’t produce flowers on this particular variety.

You may also have planted a variety that does not do well in your zone. Protecting your hydrangeas in the winter may help these varieties bloom better in the summer.

Another problem when your hydrangea won’t flower is that you may have pruned it the year before too far back. A lot of times if these particular hydrangeas are pruned in early summer or late winter, you will have on your hydrangea no flowers to speak of. This is because, if they are over pruned in summer, they tend to die back farther than they normally would and you will end up having to wait a year for hydrangea blossoms once more because the hydrangea won’t flower. If you’re having problems because your hydrangea won’t bloom, it is best to avoid pruning your hydrangeas any time but early spring when you can see where the dead wood is and will not accidentally over prune.

So, if you find your hydrangea not blooming, pay attention to first, the type of hydrangea you planted, and second, how far back it died the year before. You might not want to prune it, and if you do prune it, you shouldn’t prune it back too far in case it needs old wood to bloom.

Finally, if your hydrangeas are not flowering and none of the above apply, you should have your soil tested or think back to the last time you fertilized. Too much nitrogen or a lack of phosphorus in the soil could be the reason. Too much nitrogen produces lush green growth, but little to no blooms. Phosphorus is responsible for the flowering and fruiting in most plants, so the addition of a phosphorus-rich fertilizer may be all that is needed to correct this. Bone meal is also a great way to add phosphorus to the soil.

Vanilla Rain

Ingredients:

  • 4 Parts Absolut Vanilia
  • 1 Part Lime Juice
  • Lemon-Lime Soda
  • 1 Wedge Lime

Directions:

Fill a chilled highball glass with ice cubes. Add Absolut Vanilia and lime juice. Top up with lemon-lime soda. Garnish with lime.