Saturday, August 8, 2015

New Home - New Gardens, Soon!

Okay, so here are the screen shots from the original Zillow listing for our new home - and new landscape.  The previous owners were quite a bit older, and you can tell that they had turned over all the landscape maintenance to a lawn service.  

See the "hedge" in front?  Well, those are actually rose bushes. Yep. Flat-top pruned like an evergreen hedge. Bottom of each is bare (you can't tell that here) and the blooms are minimal.  Never thinned. Pruned with hedge shears!

Here's the back of the house.  Pretty pedestrian and bare. This was a spring photo - I can tell you that the  shrubs in the kind of horrible pots were nine-tenths dead when we arrived in August. The little garden bed has landscape fabric (Lord, how I hate landscape fabric!) with mulch over it. Gah!  

Tree, however is a little redbud (Cercis canadensis) - healthy and in need of just a tad of pruning out down low.  Will be lovely next spring. And if I can get out the strings of tiny white lights embedded in it after years of being left there.  PS That is NOT my  lawn furniture. Just letting you know. And I did NOT pick out the pots - but I will do something constructive with them!

Love the little lawn. We don't have a traditional Back Yard with this house. Because of how it sits between two lanes, we have TWO front yards!  Although this is technically the back of the house, most of our traffic (car, bike and foot - mostly the last two!) comes by this view. Evening walkers - and there are many - stop and chat with the puppies when they are down near the fence. (Which of COURSE they are, knowing they are going to get to see people and doggies!) 

The Crape Myrtle in the corner (you can just see the edge of it) is a lovely pink now and the roadway Myrtles are white. Really nice.  Kind of ratty KnockOut roses in the far corner, begging for a decent pruning.Okay, so that's my record of the lawn even before we arrived. Yes, it looked worse than this. More photos will follow as I take on the challenge of a new (new! new!) gardening site.  We've gone Small  Scale and I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Looks like Our Farm is Sold!

A few folks have asked what happened to my erratic blogging.  It was just too sad to try to blog while we "shut down"  the farm in preparation for moving on.

Well, now I'm happy
and sad
to say our darling farm is sold.
Barring paperwork catastrophes, of course.
Lots to be signed and signed and initialed and signed and initialed.....
Amazingly complicated.

(Who said there was a paperless society in our future? No one told the realtors and attorneys!)

We are moving to smaller, in-town digs and starting over as small space gardeners!
No chickens (sob).
No orchards (sob).

No huge areas to weed and mow and landscape,
fewer mad fights with bugs, fungus and...

For years, I've been talking and teaching about urban, small-space edible gardening - knowing that very few folks have acreages to play with as we have.  Finally, I get to really walk the walk that I've talked - managing good looking edible landscapes within a dense, HOA regulated, neighborhood.

It's hard for folks to believe that when we moved here, this farm was nothing but bare field and dirt.   Everyone tends to assume it was as beautiful as it is now.

"How can you leave this?" They cry in dismay.

But, you know, the fun was in the creating.
It always is.

And then you love and enjoy it all for a few years.
And then it's just maintenance.

Time to start over.
Time to create in a new place!

It will be fun to blog about our new
urban adventures!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Keep an Eye on Those Spuds!

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four!

You really know that you've become an obsessed  gardener when the plant-specific catalogs begin to arrive. Tomato catalogs. Pepper catalogs.  The today's arrival is The Potato Garden Catalog.*   
Yep. All potatoes.
Over 50 kinds. I love the names:

 Austrian Crescent.  
Russian Banana. Green Mountain. 
German Butterball. Beauty of Hebron.
Red Pontiac. Yukon Gold. Colorado Rose.

All of this poetry to describe what is at best just a root-like lump. (A potato, for the botanically minded, is technically a tuber, which indicates it's modified stem, not root, even though they form underground.)
Soon I won't have a tractor and a field, so I'm weighing veggies for potential container growing. Potatoes actually work quite well. The "old" method was to plant the seed potatoes in soil or dense hay in tires. Truck tires, if you're really greedy.

As the plant grows, you stack on another tire and backfill with more dirt and hay (or just hay, if you swear you'll keep watering regularly). And another tire. And another tire.  I don't remember anyone going beyond four but I suspect the possibilities are endless. Come freeze time, you knock the whole thing over, frisk about in the hay and dirt and find your harvest of potatoes, right down to the marble-sized ones.No mud, no muck.

You can see the last of my container grown potatoes from an garden experiment about five years ago right here: Last Garden Harvest 2010

For inventive (and hilarious!) potato container ideas, just hop over to Pinterest and waste an hour or I did.

Look at these glorious (former)  tires! And... here's the tutorial: Turn Old Tires Into New Garden Art
C'mon, you know you want one. Or more. Think of how happy the neighbors will be.

For all the good info on growing your own potatoes, check out the Michigan State Potato Growing Guide, a downloadable .pdf guide. Lots of good info - not much on container gardening. Bear in mind that U. northern, too - there's lots more humidity, heat and critters here in the south.

*(For those who have been gardening a while, this is a "new business", part of which used to be Ronninger's.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fig Cuttings for Everyone!

Once again, we're taking fig cuttings, hoping to get as many fig trees started in different locations as possible.  It's been two years since we last did a major pruning on the fig trees here at the farm and I suspect this will be the last one - the farm goes up for sale this year.

(Yearning for a lovely five-acre farm loaded with fruits and ornamentals, just a short drive from the beach?  Send me an email!)

This year, I'm going to try something new: I'm gradually putting the fig cuttings up on eBay.  Look for "vbgarden" as the seller - it's us, Paradise Nursery, in our easy going retirement mode.

Among the healthy, sturdy cuttings I'll be sharing are ones from our Battaglia Green FIG TREE. Just so you know, this is THE Battaglia Green, the mother fig from which all genuine Battaglia Green figs originated. I know because we, Paradise Nursery, introduced it to the trade because we were so smitten with it. Battaglia Green is named for my friend, Sandy Battaglia, who insisted that we save the tree when the house and lot where it was located was being destroyed. It is a Strawberry Verte type fig - one of (if not THE) best we ever found.  Can't take it with me, so this is it, folks. Go find the eBay listing!

SPECIAL NOTE! This year a percentage of any money we make from auctioning the cuttings is going to help the Fig Foundation, an impressive effort by Jon Verdick, one of the outstanding fig collectors here in the U.S., to establish a fig arboretum near  San Diego, California.  Jon created the website, chock full of good fig info!   Please do check it out!

Need help and hand-holding while you root your fig cuttings?  The tab for our page on Propagating Fig Trees is  right up at the top of the page.  Leave me a comment there or here if you have questions that aren't covered or send an email to sybilmays(at)  Love to hear from you!