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by stone

A step beyond

05/09/2013 in native plants, pet peeves

The Problem:

Plants that sulk and need constant attention to keep alive…
or plants that take over the garden, and then move in on the neighbor.

Plants that the pollinators don’t recognize, which fail to attract birds and butterflies to the garden.

The Solution:

Plant native plants.

Native plants are able to tolerate the climate, don’t die during a hot spell,
or get crowded out by the other plants, if we get busy and forget to weed…

Native plants are recognized by the pollinators, and provide fruits n seeds for the birds,
plus the butterflies are able to raise their families.

The Problem:

There’s some confusion about natives…

For instance, trying to grow a plant adapted to the cloud forest in the Smoky mountains down here in middle Georgia… In the heat and constant droughts… the plant might grow this spring… But the heat and drought is coming, it always does.

The Smoky mountains are one state away… In Tennessee! Those plants could reasonably be considered southeast regional plants, and it is a death sentence to bring them here.

The Solution:

Garden with Naturals…

go that extra step beyond regional natives…

Every time I start a new personal garden, there is a ton of new plants that I have to learn.

From 1 county to the next, there may be entirely different plant communities… Or even from one city lot to the next.

Even coming into a freshly scraped lot I’ve seen wildflowers…
In one small scraped lot, I discovered patches of butterfly weed, liatris, asters, and, I’m positive that Ida found a lot more, if the homeowner hadn’t been in such a hurry to get a lawn sodded… At that, she showed a bit more wisdom than the average home buyer who comes in and has the turf put down first and then asks for a garden in the areas where the sod people didn’t get anything done… If the soil is too poor for sod… Must be a good spot for flowers…

The thing is..  a bit more patience reaps greater rewards… There are very nice grasses that come up when allowed… Much nicer (in my opinion) than those nasty invasive turf grasses… They can be mowed, and if left alone, will bloom! Grass blooms among the wildflowers…. A garden, just like God would grow…

love-grassLove grass in bloom

It takes time to identify all the plants that are on any one spot of ground… We can take the time or nuke it all out of existence… And there are a lot of rare and endangered plants being lost by this rush to have a yard just like next door…

Has anyone considered that if they grew a garden like God’s, the neighbors next door might be interested in getting shut of his ugly turf and formal hedge in favor of something a bit more wildlife friendly?

The Problem:

Personally, I don’t think anyone should pull a weed that they can’t identify.
I’ve heard horror stories about people pulling an entire row of seedlings that they didn’t recognize…
As heart-breaking as that can be, I think that spraying round-up is much worse.
It’s so easy… There’s a big patch of weeds… Quick! Spray em…

I’ve been observing round-up in the wildflower garden, and it hasn’t been good.
I have a garden where the homeowner runs out and sprays the chickweed with absolutely no thought about the plants that might be hidden under that big patch of weeds.

She’s killed 3 big patches of bloodroot, but the chickweed hasn’t been affected.

My observation is that while the sprayed patch of chickweed does turn yellow, the new (chickweed) seedlings emerge as soon as the light reaches the ground under the weeds.

And… The round-up lingers… Killing the desirables when they eventually breaks dormancy.

In another yard, I discovered gonolobus being mowed with the rest of the vegetation. Gonolobus is a rare milkweed vine, it isn’t offered anywhere…


Yet, before I could take action to showcase this rare plant in a garden of mostly rare and endangered plants, one of the turf crew sprayed round-up over the entire patch… looks like a war zone. dead loss…

If your aim is to reduce the complexity of the plant community, round-up seems to do that…
If your aim is to remove undesirable plants and keep the desirable ones, I just don’t see that happening…
You’ll have less species of unknown plants, but you’ll end up with a lot more of the weeds that aren’t bothered by the round-up.

We all know about the pigweed in the Midwest… I’m seeing a ton of winter annuals, like the chickweed, and the dead nettle, plus henbit.

Now, these weeds do have a place, I like them fine in those horrible Bermuda lawns, they give the bees and butterflies a nectar source that is otherwise missing…. But in a wildflower garden?

When we’re busily trying to kill everything that we don’t recognize, we aren’t learning anything.

Our yards don’t have to be a dangerous expanse of poisoned green where the children and pets dare not go… Where birds die… Where the yard service comes every week and runs those noisy mowers and blowers, disrupting your peace in a vain effort to achieve an unobtainable goal of the perfect green lawn… Which doesn’t even exist without monstrous outlays of money for irrigation, and constant fertilization and herbicide regimens… Just so that the lawn crew can come every week… Seems like they’re the only people getting any use out of the lawn… Getting their exercise… While the homeowner vegetates inside…

A solution:

In my current personal garden, I’ve discovered patches of clasping heliotrope, Carolina rock-rose, amsonia, coral honeysuckle, southern indigo… The southern tumbleweed… White liatris, Sandhills ironweed, and many others…

clasping heliotrope

 Clasping heliotrope with American painted ladies and buckeye butterflies

In my previous garden, 90 miles away or so… there were native azaleas, buckeye bushes, wild blueberries, grancy graybeard, royal ferns, ostritch ferns, among others… green n gold, penstemons, wild geranium, atamasco lilies, wild phlox, plus tons more…

In between, I had a garden in Tennessee that had those rare and endangered lady slipper orchids, tiny crested iris, native azaleas, sourwood trees, rhododendrons…

It should be obvious that it would’ve been a tremendous loss to spray round-up and put in turf over these gardens…

In wildflower walks at state parks and arboretums, you will often see where a natural patch of flowers has been designated as an attraction, and a path leads to the beautiful patch of naturally growing wildflowers…

How often does the homeowner recognize the value of what they have?
I once saw a yard that had this large patch of bloodroot… Gorgeous! But… The property owner had pathways through the flowers, and was using the area to pile the weeds and brush from other areas of the property!!!

I once asked some lady why her woods weren’t full of flowers… She said… We’ll get you to plant some… That was no answer… I wanted to know about the naturals… The ones that should’ve been there… before I got there.

I’ve since seen a similar patch of woodland turned from a patch of flowers to a weed patch…. The home-owner paid the turf crew to clear out the saplings, and spray round-up on all the natural woodland vegetation, and to add insult to injury… They mowed up the leaves to mulch them down, and left bare denuded soil… No surprise that the weeds filled in…

How about we stop spraying round-up, and planting turf for the benefit of the turf maintenance crews, and instead enjoy patches of natural beauty in our own front yards… where we won’t have to drive for hours?

Comments? Complaints?

I’d love to hear them… Please use the form provided.

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by stone

The front yard

08/08/2012 in political

Neighborhood czars are attempting to force free spirits to plant turf, and you may end up in court for growing wildflowers or vegetables.

Ferguson MO

In a recent case in Ferguson MO, one of those neighborhood nazies claimed that growing turf in the front yard was plain common sense.
lizard among the carrots
Apparently the fact that everyone plants turf in the front yard means that it’s become common sense to plant turf.

The elder generation had something to say about that…
It went… If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you also jump off the cliff?

Seems to be a city of lemmings up in Ferguson Missouri.

Karl won the right to have a vegetable garden this year, but it looks like this battle has only just begun.

Tulsa Oklahoma

A war has been declared on vegetables, There was that sickening debacle in Tulsa Oklahoma, where the code enforcers took it upon themselves to raze Denise Morrison’s yard, trees, herbs, flowers, everything… and they didn’t even wait long enough to do this through the legal system!

Memphis, TN

Adam Guerrero and a few of his students broke the law by gardening and making bio-diesel, operating bee colonies, making soap, and building a small greenhouse.

I don’t know man, seems like something to admire, when a math teacher has the initiative to help his students develop outside interests and skills.
This is the kind of thing that they could put on their resume, or in their college entrance essay.
Used to be kids would learn these skills on the farm, but in an urbanized world, I think that we should applaud their resourcefulness.

Drummondville Quebec

This insanity isn’t limited to the US, there was a couple in Drummondville, Quebec ordered to take out part of their garden in favor of turf. While Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp got a reprieve, the city council is apparently working on an ordinance banning vegetables from being grown!

This is America! We can go down to the gun store and purchase military grade weaponry, but we can’t remove the turf out of our yard!

Oak Park Michigan

Last year, Julie Bass was threatened with 93 days in jail for growing vegetables in Oak Park Michigan.

Chattanooga TN

Lana Sutton has been going round and round with planning and zoning up in Chattanooga TN for yanking out kudzu and planting native wildflowers!


In 2006 I was cited to Chattanooga City Court the first time for:..
A) Trying to remove the kudzu on about half my yard. The kudzu is considered by the city to be the legal half of my yard. ..
B) Attempting to replace the kudzu and other invasives with a tall-grass, wildflower meadow, food gardens and a native-habitat reforesting project that has been challenged in court no less than three times in three years…

The case against turf

Growing turf isn’t even a desirable thing to do! There’s a drought going on, and grass requires a lot of water!

Then there’s all that noisy equipment. Have you ever tried to visit a friend out in the garden on the day when the turf crew came through the neighborhood? Oughta pass some ordinances about that….

Those mowers, strimmers, edgers, and blowers put out a ton of air pollution, use up our gasoline reserves, and the spilled fuel goes directly into the local waterways…

Turf has other run-off problems, those chemical fertilizers and pesticides end up in the local streams and rivers….

There’s also the the problem of how little capacity there is for soil penetration by rain fall, due to the hard-pan that underlies the majority of lawns.
Rain water runs off into the storm drains, and is a flooding hazard similar to a hard-surfaced parking lot.

I’m always devastated by the loss of native plants and butterfly habitat every time that I see another patch of wildflowers mowed.

Advocating turf removal

It isn’t unknown for that turf to be replaced by something a lot more eco-friendly and useful.
A quick search on lawn removal turns up dozens of articles.
Like this 2008 post from the LA Times which out-lines 4 methods for successful turf removal.

Here’s a post from last week which discusses the drought, and techniques for turf removal, and includes suggestions for alternative uses for that space.

What reasons could there be for these people being harassed?

I posted a discussion of this article at the I-Dig forums to get a deeper level of discussion.

Some ideas for why people might be getting harassed, included concerns about property values, street appeal.

A look at the photographs posted in the articles linked above, quickly dispels that concern.
These yards added character to the neighborhoods, none of these yards were of the expected problematic type… IE: where a home-owner puts in a few vegetables and then loses interest.

These are all well maintained, high-effort, attractive, productive uses for other-wise wasted space!

My own suspicion for why someone would call the law on their neighbor for growing vegetables… is a jealousy issue, on the order of: those people are always out in their yard, call the police, make them go back inside…. They make me feel lazy…

One person posting (Nastarana) thought that the reason that these cases weren’t simply dismissed as wasting city resources, persecuting people who are minding their own business, exercising their freedoms, pursuing happiness by growing a garden on their own property… might be understood by “following the money”.

How many people on these city councils had involvement in the turf maintenance industry?

I hate to say it, but this seems likely.

With new voter-fraud laws recently in the news, taken to court, and the defendants stipulate that there’s no actual cases of voter fraud…
Suggests that people are passing laws to promote their own agenda, without regard for the appropriateness of those laws…. The lawmakers are merely human, using their positions to advance their own self-interests.

A time for action

Julie Bass up in Oak Park Michigan believes that it’s time to contact our local representatives, and bring this turf problem into the political arena.

In her pursuit of the liberty to decide for herself what plants to grow in her own yard, Julie has composed a description of the issue, and requests that everyone who cares about our rights as gardeners use her template as a jumping off place.

She imagines that it could be attached to petitions, and printed up in drives to liberate neighborhoods from onerous garden ordinances.

How about you?

DO you believe in freedom?
Do you want your neighbor to dictate that you grow something that actively harms the ecology of the planet?

What are your ideas about regaining the right to garden according to our own aesthetic?

Do you have other stories to add?

Please use the form.

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by stone

Too good to be true

07/18/2012 in gardening

Freebies for the garden

At the risk of offending your local garden supply center, I’m going to let you in on a secret…
When we’re getting the mulch and compost free, there’s some extra money for those cool new cultivars.

wood-chip pile

A pile of mulch is a good thing to have

Woodchips block sunlight from germinating those weed seeds…
Mulch also prevents the sun from burning the organic material out of the soil, and helps the soil to retain moisture and tilth.
Eventually the wood chips add nutrients back to the soil, and build humus.

Purchasing wood chips by the bag, or even by the truckload can run into some real money, and cause us to try to get by without.

This isn’t necessary.

As the video demonstrates, all that is really needed is a place for the pile, and we can get the chips delivered for almost nothing.

if the video doesn’t play, visit this link:

There are a number of links to providers of free woodchips/mulch in the Atlanta area on the above link, it’s probably worth visiting just for those.

Relevant text of video:

Mary Jo Paris is spending a lot of time making her landscaping look beautiful. But she’s not spending a lot of money. She gets a huge pile of wood chips, absolutely free.

“There were a couple of trees being taken down in the neighborhood and the tree removal service came by and they were canvassing for places to be able to dump it. I happened to be home so I said sure; I’d love to have some mulch. It helps them not have to pay to remove it and I get some free mulch,” said Mary Jo Paris.

Paris estimates that she’s saved hundreds of dollars. And you can do the same thing. An internet search shows several companies in metro Atlanta offer free wood chips.

But be prepared to wait until a tree service company is working in your area. And you’ll need to have a lot of room for a whole truck load of wood chips. You’ll need to have somewhere to keep it or have lots of friends who want to share. Paris also suggests sharing another popular mulch material: pine straw. Just ask neighbors who have more than they need.

Also visit this link for additional mulch resources in middle Georgia:

While the video suggests searching “wood-chips”, “free mulch”, you shouldn’t stop there, I’ve gotten very good results by searching “tree service”, and found people that hadn’t yet made the connection that their chips were a desirable commodity.

Besides using the internet, I’ve followed the woodchip trucks around until they stopped…
Have a favorite method for getting these great freebies? tell us!

Soil amending

big pile of manure
Manure, compost, barn scrapings or whatever you want to call it… can also be had inexpensively, with just a bit of research.

Searching “stables” and “horses boarded” can produce valuable leads. Adding the name of your town provides more focused results.

I’ve found that talking to people at one stable often produces leads to several other stables. Horse people know each other, through visits to the vet, and going to barrel races and rodeos, bridal trails.

While I usually end up loading the manure myself, some stables have a loader and may offer to load your truck.

I haven’t ever found anyone to deliver the poop inexpensively, so… you’re gonna need a pick-em-up truck.


Cindy asked: Do the chips need to “season” before you put them on the beds? I know you have to let sawdust age, right?

Donna said: WAIT to use the wood chips. Freshly cut and deposited on the garden, the decomposition of the chips draws much nitrogen from the soil in processing the chips.

My experience is that I can use wood chips as a mulch as soon as they are delivered,

Wood chips are great in the perennial bed, in tree islands, and around the shrub border.

Wood chips are less than ideal on the vegetable garden. Hay is much better in the vegetable garden… but woodchips can be used for weed suppression and moisture retention when it’s the chips or nothing… I’d avoid turning them under for a year or two.

In Georgia, sawdust is often added to the ‘barn-scrapings’, to absorb urine, and to help contain the smell.

The sawdust takes a while to break down and can absorb nitrogen away from the garden plants if used fresh. Fresh horse manure is better used as a mulch…

I discuss the importance of adding soil amendments to the garden in some detail on my soil page.


Do you have a favorite gardening freebie? I’d love to hear about it!

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