A very un-american attitude....but still worth discussing.

Campanula UK Z8June 10, 2014

I want to talk about failure. I know that this giving up attitude is frowned upon in the land of bootstraps, but nonetheless, in the interests of full disclosure, I am happy to reveal my own lacksadaisical attitude towards growing stuff. Being both penniless and greedy, seeds have always been my choice of plant additions....but I am starting to wonder if I am doing myself a disservice here since there is a high rate of attrition throughout the whole process. Yep, I can often get stuff to germinate (but not always....would say it hovered around 15% fails)....but oh, those long months of caring for tiny seedlings, in a huge but untidy greenhouse and an erratic hand watering system (drip irrigation...an impossible dream given the hundreds of plants I have on the go....and have tried capillary matting - another fail). I may start the season with a nice dozen or so plantlets....but it is not uncommon to dwindle to around 3 or 4 by transplant time. Have experimented with getting plants in ground as soon as possible (where I am not confronted with death on a daily basis at least - results are spotty to say the least.
Now, although I have been a pro gardener for years, I have never worked in a nursery and feel certain there are many secrets to success which I simply do not know. Or, am I being an impossible optimist? I learned years ago to avoid looking at images of gardens in magazines and such since they never represent reality on the ground (another reason why flower shows make me grit my teeth). So, those of you who mainly grow their own.....what are your success rates (be truthful, we are among friends here). Do you have certain annoying species which evade your tender cares? Easy-peasy things to pass on to others less blessed?
Here in temperate and mild England, once plants are actually growing well, they tend to thrive (although my fruit gardens are sorry this year)....it is the germinating and raising which flummoxes me. Is this a common complaint and we just never hear about the failures? Or am I just rubbish.
I would say that, if I can get 50% of everything I have sown into a reasonable plant, I am generally OK with that....but there is always a suspicion I could be doing much, much better. How about you?

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

When I was able to retire from business I took a position with a non profit nursery as unpaid volunteer. The administration of this nursery was mostly retired nursery owners or operators with growing experience in abundance. Being able to work alongside of such experience, dedicated to evaluating new plant material, was the best learning experience for the novice gardener. Al

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:29AM
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Connie K

Now that I am retired, I am a volunteer at Hershey Gardens in Pa. Due to a back injury in early spring, I didn't start until two weeks ago. I can tell that this experience will teach me a lot. I work once a week. It's a lot of fun, and I plan to incorporate my new found knowledge into my own gardens.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:42AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I've given up on a large flower bed before. I had it probably two seasons before realizing it was too much maintenance (under a sycamore...in terrible soil that was unresponsive to amending). It difficult admitting so soon that something doesn't work out. I'm very pleased I scrapped that garden (now reseeded with clover, violet starts, and a few spring bulbs), as it was sucking too much of my time away from other garden projects.

I guess I have learned that my garden not looking 100% does NOT = FAILURE. I get as much enjoyment out of it as I put into it. Would I be happier knowing everything was in tip top shape? Probably. Does that diminish my enjoyment of what my garden looks like now, in its current nowhere-near-pristine state? Nope. It is the process, not the result that counts.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:20AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Ho yes, that phrase- 'its a process' falls from my lips with great regularity. I suspect that my poor gardens simply end up becoming the focus of all my joys and fails in life and get viewed through jaundiced spectacles when things are less than stellar....so usually, these doldrums are fleeting.

However, there is no arguing with the line-up of empty(?) pots, all of which were planted with this seed and that in a fever of anticipation. We are told to hang onto our seed trays for up to 3 years....but I swear, I wouldn't be able to squeeze into the garden if I did.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:34AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

If you haven't tried the wintersowing technique yet, give it a try. There is a gardenweb forum with FAQ and a website. I have seen people on other forums say wintersowing isn't anything new. It's true the basics aren't new, but the instructions and guidelines make it pretty goof proof. Some also say the wintersowers are cult-like... which is true because it works so well, we like to tell everybody about it!

I have grown things indoors under lights successfully, but it is a lot more work that way. Big greenhouses also are more work and unnecessary unless you are really trying to push the limits of your zone. For most plants and temperate climates wintersowing works exceedingly well. You may have to experiment with what size/type containers, potting mix, and location work best for you since everyone has their own preferences and climate to deal with. But, to me it definitely is the easiest and cheapest was to get more new plants than you know what to do with.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 12:20PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I expect failure. WOW, 50% is good in my book. I live in a harsh environment . Plants put out millions of seed and Mother Nature expects failure too. Some years she gets squat around here. I am not much better. LOL. I get a summer deadline in and everything goes to hell. I have best results putting things out in fall and letting them grow as small rosettes over our mild winters. I am not the person who jumps through hoops with germination tricks. Winter sowing to me means putting it in the ground during winter. We have mild winters. I did it in the jugs and it didn't do any better than putting it in the ground over the winter. I have been known to put an upended jar over it on occasion. I am Z8. I think winter sowing helps people in Zone 5 create a Z8 environment. Sometimes I find buying seed a waste of money where I find seed collecting much more productive.

For many plants, I BUY plants. Mark it up to laziness and also the nurseries have great choice where I am for not much money. I am better with rooting cuttings that growing from seed sometimes. I will buy one small salvia and propagate with cuttings. I get many plants with a $2 purchase of a 4" plant. Some make it, some don't. I also have more luck growing from devisions so my gardening choices seem to reflect that. I am always checking out my friends gardens and their generousity. I too am not the best gardener out there. As I have said before somewhere, we get the garden that we deserve, taking in our character proclivities, lifestyle,capabilities, environments, wishes and willingness.My choices are because of all these things. I do not have a lush garden in a well designed sense that is normal. Its not me. I have an acceptance of its failures and celebrate the unusual surprises.Ialso do not compare my garden with others because I a have different wants and needs.My garden is a reflection of me and I am often a mess of conflicting projects. My garden is also. Balls get dropped in the process. I have so many unplanted plants because I have such a problem about deciding on things for myself. I can make decisions all day for my clients, but for myself, I am often helpless with the zeroing down filtration process when I am part of the end formula. I wander in circles with my "plan" thrown out the window.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Campanula UK Z8

You coulda written this post for me, Wantonamara - we are gardening twins!

Been to collect the first strawberries on the plot so am feeling cheery (after a fortnight of them (there are bloody millions....all those free runners).....I expect to be feeling a tad sick of them (and, since we must have sugar and cream) a bit fatter too.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 2:54PM
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pam_whitbyon(6 Niagara)

Campanula, what an interesting and thought-provoking post you've made. I'm more interested in responding with thoughts about failure and success, not seeds, but I will share this first.

I've one experience with seeds and it was almost too embarrassing to discuss with anyone. So here it is, true confessions. I had collected seed packets and seeds from my garden for years, and been too lazy or intimidated to do anything with them. I finally took the plunge about 4 years ago after seeing how much the cost of plants had increased, and comparing it with my bank account, which had not increased at all. So, seed trays, lights, spray bottle, plastic covers, plastic wrap, popsicle sticks and lovely neat labels... Cosmos, nigella, 4 o clocks, sweet peas, marigolds, you name it, I was going to grow it. My husband shook his head in amazement at the new WonderWoman SuperMom. Germination was no problem, and getting the little sprouts to grow at least 4 leaves didn't seem to be a problem either. It was when I carted them outside to get some real sun. I watered gently. I even spoke to them (very out of character). I'm not sure where I went wrong after that, but we had a lot of rain and I think they got way too soaked. within a week they were all brown and mushy things. One had even grown about 3 inches, but the stem was long and pale, and kind of sideways. It wasn't a great feeling and I decided I wasn't into seeds any more, even though the idea still fascinates me.

As for being a gardener, there are times when I love my garden, and other times when I just sit back and feel like a pretender. The three things that are important to a gardener are quite lacking in my life right now! Time, money (some!! at least), and the energy and non-aching bones I had 10 years ago. lol.

I do a lot of gardening in my head. I am still seduced by the pictures in gardening magazines, and when I look at my barren "soccer field" that seems to dominate my yard more than the garden beds, I see pathways, mulch, ornamental trees, flowing grasses and benches, and I feel at peace, telling myself one day it'll look like that. Of course it won't, but the dreaming is somehow cathartic.

I take a lot of close up pictures. My FB friends and family think I have an amazing garden but they haven't seen the state of the lawn, the lack of edging, the massive thistles I try to dig out, the neglected beds where the grass has matted so thickly, the Roundup spray bottle that's lying on its side, broken, the empty two weeks in my garden where nothing seems to be blooming because I haven't done a proper analysis of what to plant when the irises are gone and the echinacea hasn't started yet.

I haven't learned how to deal with the scale of my large property yet, and am still planting "one of these, one of those" and often miss my much smaller garden where I seemed to have everything under control.

But all in all, it's still a very important part of my life at least between May and October. It's something I need, and nothing bad has really happened since neglecting that large flower bed.

And as long as I can still take close up pictures.. I'm very happy!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 3:02PM
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I get mixed results on the WS technique molanic is referring to but I do use it for some seeds. This last winter was nearly 90% failure. Some of those same seeds came up where I direct sowed them or sowed indoors.

Typically I sow seeds in fall. Shrubs I sow in gallon pots under the carport outside. I have a large window with a big drafting table where I grow indoors with good success. These are usually perennials I want a head start on or special plants I treat myself to. The success is pretty good on these.

Feather Dalea has been my biggest bugaboo. I do have 2 I direct sowed that are up after sowing this plant in various ways for 5 years now. I always keep trying but lots of shrubs fail on me however, this is one I cannot seem to give up on.

I did badly with Desert Mallow but did get one up and its running now. If I get one plant I pat myself on the back. It was one of the plants I was most excited to get started. It took 4 tries, the ones I sowed indoors made one plant.

I direct sow by over-seeding plants I want in various spots. I can thin in spring. What comes up-- comes up, what doesn't -- doesn't but since I sow so many there's plenty of success along with plenty of failures. I get lots of surprises since I forget what I planted. The key is over sowing from my point of view. Sow enough and something will make it. I have a short enough attention span that what I wanted a few months ago is replaced with the newest obsession so, I happy with whatever makes it by the time it does I forget the others.

I usually have one main obsession each year. One year it was cactus, the next grasses, the next shrubs, the next lantanas...... This year its silver foliage. So maybe it helps to only have one overriding obsession at a time. I spend a lot of time googling for whatever is currently eating up 90% of my thought or maybe its all my brain will hold.

Its a broken record I know but since I switched over to native and a nonconventional style of gardening my life has become 100% easier and more relaxed in approach, my garden looks better and failure seems unimportant. I don't have a row of this or that or a bed that needs balance or structure so this natural approach takes failure in stride. All things seem to work together in a way I never could achieve to my satisfaction before. Something always fills the gap and the plants prone to naturalizing will always fill in any gaps.

I root many cuttings I want because too much variety seems to be unnatural and repeated plants are a good way to tie things together but mostly because its free. Nature repeats itself so I do too. I let go of the having to have every plant I fall in love with and go for the overall picture, if there's a hundred of one, its actually a nicer result than a hundred different kinds of plants. So the easy stuff makes a good workhorse allowing me to concentrate on a few special plants each season.

I'm lackadaisical in my sowing & planning, I make it up as I go along. I am as big a cheapskate as you will ever meet partly because I am self employed as an artist so I am usually living on fumes or waiting for the next late check to finally come in just pay the bills. I am without scruples on gathering seeds, begging for or just taking cuttings because I am an obsessed person who always has eyes peeled for something that looks workable. Seems I think of plants all the time. Sometimes I worry about that.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 3:31PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I never worked in a nursery either and I’m sure I would have benefited from that. A situation like Al, had, would have been perfect. So I learn as I go and that means trial and ERROR. [g] Lots of them. And I’m comfortable with that.

The first few times I grew from seed, under lights, was not very successful. It was only after going back to the drawing board, and questioning everything I was doing and the materials I was using, then talking to gardeners on GW that I picked up a few tips and changed my potting soil, added a fan and that was the last piece for me. I would get great germination then I had foliar problems trying to grow in the basement. The fan solved that problem. This year I set up on the 1st floor which was much better.

I think the key is evaluating and knowing yourself and pinpointing where you are having the problem and focus on improving in that area.

I’m sure I don’t do better than an 85% germination rate, if that. And I often start easy seeds and limit the amount of difficult seeds in one season. I think if you have that high a percentage then germinating is not your problem. Taking care of them until they get in the ground is a challenge and that is where all the work is. I have to limit the number of flats of seeds I attempt, to keep up with. Which works for me because my whole property is only 1/4 acre. You’re in a different situation. I normally lose very few seedlings before getting them in the ground, and those are often the runts. But, I always fall down on the job with fertilizing and I procrastinate potting up to the next size if I have to hold them too long. So by the time they get in the ground, they need a couple of weeks to catch up and settle in. So I am always trying to do a better job at that.

I just don’t always have the energy to do it all. So I took quite a few years off from starting seed. But I could purchase what I needed, or divide what I had and skip a year or two of adding plants and just try to catch up with projects that were lingering.

Then I stumbled into the winter sowing forum and I did that for three years. I did find that I produced a whole lot more seedlings that way without having to take care of them all winter. It was just as much work to collect the containers, prep the containers, sow the seed, and label them, but once that was done and they were put outside in the cold weather, there was nothing more I had to do until the spring thaw, when I would have to start watering. But I live in a cold climate where we have at least two or three months of temperatures that are cold enough to keep the containers frozen, so no need to look after them. I don’t know if that would be true in your climate.

Maybe it is the ‘huge untidy greenhouse’ or the ‘erratic hand watering system’ that is tripping you up. I might consider taking a year off from starting seeds and instead use the time and the money spent on seeds to get your work area and materials the way you need them to tackle such a big job, instead. Another thing to try, might be to find some help to take care of the seedlings. Maybe you could mentor a young relative that could give you another pair of hands. Or take a season off and back up and go work in a nursery that you respect to see if there isn’t something they are doing that you could adopt. And it would give you some extra cash and probably a discount on plants. Maybe you're just burned out with starting seeds.

You are really lucky that ‘once plants are actually growing well they tend to thrive’ ..lol. That is a major blessing. That’s not always the case here at all.

I am sure I could be doing a lot better. I see myself as an average gardener at best. I can’t place a plant right for the life of me. I usually put it too close to something and end up having to move it at least once. I avoided roses for the longest time, because I garden organically and I won’t use chemicals but I gave in and started growing a few and now I really enjoy them, but the thrips are getting the best of me. They’re too small to catch. I have three new roses in the ground this year and half the foliage is a mess.

And I WISH I had a million strawberries!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 3:37PM
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wantanamara, very good point about winter sowing. I've thought the same thing many times. People over there talk of sowing because its going to snow or solstice etc. Our winter is up and down, snow is an occasional occurrence, 70 or 80 degree stretches are not uncommon. I cannot imagine sowing any annual or perennial not needing cold temps that way but I'm sure in colder zones its a great benefit.


The jugs make great containers for rooting cuttings outdoors -- that was the best idea born in my head after seeing them. I keep a couple empties ready at all times to stick in a broken or stolen cutting.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 4:50PM
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I've been gardening for over twenty years. I'm not one for instant gratification, so my garden has evolved over many years. At the beginning, I wanted to plant a whole bunch of things to fill in empty spaces. Sometimes that's not a good thing because you tend to get a lot of invasives when you take plants that are offered for free by neighbours and friends, and when you buy cheap small sized plants.

As my garden filled in, I started to dig out the thug plants and bought more specialty ones. I've done alright with starting vegetables and annuals from seed. Perennials I like to buy as established plants. If I can get cuttings of a plant, I prefer that over fussing with seeds.

Your garden is your little slice of paradise, there is no right or wrong about how you do things.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 4:53PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

"...I do a lot of gardening in my head. I am still seduced by the pictures in gardening magazines, and when I look at my barren "soccer field" that seems to dominate my yard more than the garden beds, I see pathways, mulch, ornamental trees, flowing grasses and benches, and I feel at peace, telling myself one day it'll look like that. Of course it won't, but the dreaming is somehow cathartic..."

Pam, I do the exact same thing! Sometimes I think I do much more gardening in my head than in my garden, lol! I think sometimes that is a good thing, because you (or I, at least) always think that that picture in your head is still a possibility!

I bring a lot of bouquets into work, and people look at the flowers and are constantly saying, "oh, your garden must be gorgeous!" If they only knew, lol......


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:05PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I do that too, Dee and Pam, I thought all gardeners do that? lol And I do always think that I will somehow get the picture in my head to be a reality at some point. Even if it doesn't, thinking that it will is a very positive thing and very motivating.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:33PM
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Delayed reaction. "The land of bootstraps". It came back to me on my walk and made me laugh, thanks for the laugh of the day. A day without a real good laugh is a dismal day IMO.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Been there too, Pam, I did actually give up on sowing anything other than directly into the ground for a few years before trying anything other than vegetables. This year, at least 20 years on, I am STILL finding myself lovingly growing a weed - admittedly, I thought I was growing a totally new plant to me....but even so, I realised fairly early on that I was not growing bupleurum longifolia.....but fell into that delusional magical thinking thing we gardeners seem to be prey to and carried on watering. Numerous plants have lost their labels (I will remember it for sure).....only for my 10 second memory bank to show that fallacy. Which sort of begs the question - do we learn from our mistakes? I would like to think I have more technical knowledge (although, shockingly, my mind goes blank where actual science is concerned and I still don't have a clue about tepals, sepals, petals blah blah).However, any shards of knowledge gained seem massively offset by the ever increasing amount of not knowing........that is, the more I know, the more I know I don't know.....or something like.

Does anyone else have a bit of a disconnect between what you know should be done....and what you actually do? I can give myself great advice (along the lines of PM's considered response, in fact).
'Less is more' I tell my customers....yet in my gardens, more is more - when it obviously is a disaster of leaning and crushed plants, a million fiddly little pots to water daily. Being orderly and organised....well I seriously try...and fail abysmally in my house where there are no pets or children and I have lots of hot soapy water....so there is NO hope when I rootling in soil and hosing hoses about amongst the many piles of stuff, thousands of pots and so on (gardeners have an awful lot of tat, I find). Worst of all, though, is looking back on earlier garden incarnations, thinking that they looked a lot better than my gardens do now............because I was not (yet) an obsessive crazy who thought about plants all day....and had to try them all. I grew a few simple plants well. You are not alone Tex - I had a co-worker also - we could while away entire 8 hour shifts talking about plants - the more esoteric, the better......well, we know the phrase, jack of all trades, master of none - wholly applicable to my gardens. Ultimately though, my best advice to myself consists of not wearing my glasses.and viewing the gardens through a distant unfocussed blur.
There is something deeply aspirational about gardening so I do think it is entirely reasonable to consider the catastrophes as well as the successes....what if we had a really great garden - would it be..... finished? And then what?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 7:08PM
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To my mind a garden is never "finished' but rather a work in progress that passes from one generation to the next. That's where the "generation gap" factors in. My parents had linear views of gardening and planted everything in rows oriented with the compass. My visits to several botanical gardens put ideas in my head that there didn't need to be so much regimentation which in turn influenced my garden design ideas when I moved here.

As a result, my little green acre has a number of French curve or oval beds as well as a free form bed on a gentle slope. I carefully considered which plants to set in each bed based on the hours of daylight that fell on various parts of the property. I stumbled across winter sowing shortly after the beds were designed (but not planted) and jumped in with both feet. All my garden beds were filled to bulging between 2010 & 2012 thanks to the WS method of growing from seed along with a neighbor who considered it such a whacked out, crazy concept, he brought me hundreds of recycled milk jugs from the local landfill every week while he howled with mirth at the idea. I WS 486 of them the first year.

My garden beds are now filled with WS perennials, shrubs & trees too numerous to mention for no more than the cost of postage for seeds I got in trades or else harvested myself from neighbors plants. One qualifier is I had no notion that some perennials are short-lived which resulted in a few empty spaces. Those spaces have become precious now that some of my perennials need to be divided. It's a relief having spaces in which to plant them.

Side note: the Kousa dogwood trees I grew via WS that first year are now taller than I am. I gave them to my laughing neighbor and they're growing in his orchard.

I'm pleased with my efforts over the last several years but have no expectation the beds I carefully designed & planted will continue to be self-sustaining in the years ahead. As I don't expect them to thrive entirely without help from me, I definitely expect that help to be minimal.

Does anyone else have a bit of a disconnect between what you know should be done....and what you actually do?

Very little since I strive to minimize what needs to be done. My goal is to have a garden that requires little more than my own admiration and satisfaction for a job well done. That the garden also provides curb appeal and admiration of other gardeners is just a side benefit.

I DO winter sow seeds and can honestly be happy with the incredibly high germination & survival rates of seeds that want to germinate as well as grind my teeth over those that thumb their noses at me. I won't bore you with the names of the latter but suffice it to say I've struggled with the same ones since 2010. What makes it that much more frustrating is the seeds that don't germinate in recycled milk jugs filled with moistened premium potting mix are the same seeds that consistently pop up volunteer plants in the cracks of my driveway and concrete breezeway. Just today I dug out of a crack in my breezeway & potted up a volunteer seedling of Persicaria virginiana/Virginia knotweed.

It is the process, not the result that counts.

Thank you christinmk. That says it in a nutshell altho' I have to confess I really LIKE my results thus far and look forward to seeing more of them down the road: many of my mature plants need to be divided.

Don't get me started on tidiness...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 8:43PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

You should see my back patio filled with plants in all sized pots. Yesterday I dumped 10-15 of them as they did not survive the winter. Some were not expected to survive but, maybe.

I start only vegetables and a few tender annuals inside as am a confirmed winter sower. For my climate winter sowing using the containers is a bountiful success. In the spring the neighborhood children come over and help me pot up any seedlings that I want to grow on. These later get placed in an area where I can water with a watering wand. Other seedlings get planted in hunks into the gardens.

Most seedlings survive but some get dug up by squirrels, some get eaten by chipmunks, some get dried up because I forgot to water or knocked the pot over or... Either way I end up with more plants than I need and want so am glad for plant swaps where I take many plants and hope to bring home only one or two.

Years ago I participated in seed trades and have several hundred varieties of seeds, many of which I had no experience with the plants. So occasionally I will pamper a weed thinking it is some new to me plant. I am getting better at recognizing those weeds though and that doesn't happen very often now.

There is the garden in my mind and dreams and the garden of reality. I agree that we get the garden we deserve. For me the experimenting part is the fun part. Once the plant is in the ground and the beds are filled my interest flags. I still water, weed, mulch, deadhead etc but the joy is what is happening with those seedlings and what they look like as mature plants.

Less is more...my gardening friend tells me this often but I am a person of excess. While I don't have lots of the same plant in my beds (3-5 works well for me), I do have many varieties of the same plant and when I like a new to me plant I find a place for it. I stopped at 90 varieties of clematis because even I see that is excessive!

For me, sure there is a disconnect. Sometimes I am just too tired or just don't have interest or just don't care what is the accepted approach. Don't get me wrong, my gardens are not a messy jumble. I get many nice compliments from friends and strangers because they are orderly and full of blooms.
But I don't garden for them. I garden for the fun of the experiment.

A finished garden..heaven forbid! Already I have thought of ripping everything out and starting something new. But DH is making noises about moving so that won't happen. When we do move I think I will have a small garden that can be changed with just a few new plants each year. Not another yard full of garden beds. Been there, done that. Will find a new challenge to be excessive with, maybe birding.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:32PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

'It's about the journey, not the destination' has been one of my philosophies as well. I think that has contributed to my current garden apathy this year. While no garden is ever finished or static, we have reached the point where there is no more space to expand the garden and we are generally happy with the layout. Plantings continue to be added and/or changed, mainly to replace things that died. Some rather tedious work needs to be done to correct/improve hastily done work of prior years. But all of that is less exciting/interesting than the myriad possibilities to contemplate when there is some quantity of 'blank slate' space waiting to be dealt with. If I was in a healthier state, I'd be itchin' to sell here and start anew somewhere else (although I fear DH would either have a heart attack or divorce me if I suggested it!) My remedy is to 'garden in my head' by imagining an assortment of properties - usually based on ones I have seen somewhere - and then imagine the garden I'd create there. Money and labour is no problem in these fantasies! The fantasy gardens are a great way to lull myself into sleep at night :-)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:47PM
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If success is being satisfied with your garden, I'm definitely a failure. My WSing was about 50% successful, meaning that I got germination in half of my jugs. For the rest - winterfat, wine cups, feather dalea, several kinds of agastache - I got 0% germination. I've had better luck with growing from cuttings so I'm hopeful these will improve things.

I've bought a slew of plants, though not as many as I'll need. By shopping carefully, I've found plenty of decent plants and haven't gone broke yet. Between these, the cuttings and seedlings, I think this place will look better than it did when I started. To my mind, that's success.

I'm in the high desert in the Southwest, the most challenging place I've ever tried to establish a garden. We moved here 3 years ago and we're still learning about the climate and what will work and what won't. We live on a acre of mostly cactus, yucca, all kinds of weeds and the occasional native wildflower and grass. I spend my weekends beating back the noxious weeds, working the miserable soil (a mixture of caliche, clay, sand and gravel) and putting in and watering plants.

To most of my neighbors, we look strange. For one thing, we're out in the heat with spades and forks, working like slaves. They hire landscapers to do the hard work. So their trees are planted with fork lift trucks and their apache plume bushes are pruned into meatballs. We're mutually entertained by our different approaches.

I'm on a 5 year plan, starting from last year. In 4 years I expect to see more of a wild prairie and less of a barren desert. But who knows what may happen? We're at least 8 years into serious drought. Everything I'm planting could curl up and die.

Strangely enough I'm having a good time. I look at my tiny green shoots surrounded by hostile thistles and tumbleweed and feel very good about the process. We're just hopeless optimists, we gardeners.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:49PM
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I'm too cheap to get as bogged down with #'s of plants, seed varieties etc that I am reading about here. My plot is a small one by comparison and I garden on the cheap and I really mean CHEAP. It takes a lot of self goading and guts to order online, of which I am extremely paranoid so I usually end up not sending in the form after spending a couple hours filling it out. I buy very few plants retail because there's not much I like thats offered. Every now and then I will actually take a chance and push the final "BUY" button as my heart flutters in my chest and I begin to worry about someone stealing my identity.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 4:40

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:54PM
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I'm unfortunate enough to have a small house on a big lot. This means that germinating things inside is pretty much impossible.

Still, when I'm feeling bummed out, I can dig in the closet for the exterior photos of my house when I first moved in 15 years ago: Nothing but grass, the walnut tree, two ridiculously huge and/or misshapen spruce (since cut down) two dying rhododendrons (one has since ascended into heaven), one camelia, and 10 billion bearded irises-- all the same color.

I contrast those pictures with what I have now, and I'm pretty pleased. :D Now if I could just afford to get the place repainted...

This post was edited by ms_xeno on Tue, Jun 10, 14 at 21:59

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:57PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

I majored in Ornamental Horticulture and Business, and owed a small nursery and landscape company with my husband. That was followed by landscape maintenance and design and research. Since college, I have never not had a finger somewhere in the field. So I have learned a few things about growing plants from seed; mainly, that I don't really enjoy that portion of the industry very much. :) So I generally don't grow plants from seed.

But I do know that professional growers, even with the liberal use of sterilization practices, fungicides, fertilizers, etc., still have their crop failures. Sometimes it is just a bad seed crop. Sometimes the plants look fine and get all the way to retail and into gardeners' back yards--then fail. Even then it isn't always the fault of the gardener when the plants collapse. So I think you are being pretty hard on yourself, campanula.

As for ".. bit of a disconnect between what you know should be done....and what you actually do?" hahaha You should see my front yard right now! It certainly does not look like the work of a professional, and it isn't in any way something that I would put into a proposal for a resort. But the yard here is terribly small, and I want to try new species and hybrids, and have butterfly/caterpillar garden that has plants gnawed to the nub. Will this plant take more sun? Will those shrubs survive deep shade? Sometimes the plant's answer is "Not without looking awful." I'm constantly moving plants around and trying out oddball color/foliage combinations; some plant companions are really odd couples (gingers with aloes---hello!). The back yard usually looks acceptable, but the front is often a mess. I could easily consider it a failure in landscape design; I choose to call it research in progress, instead.

Campanula, you sound a little burned out on seed growing. Maybe you should take a season off and try a different aspect of gardening. Bonsai a cutting, topiary a shrub or pooktre/tree shape some saplings, make some willow benches or garden sculptures, mosaic tile a patio table, experiment with grafting--whatever.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:28PM
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Cheryl, I want to drive there and shop for plants. I could easily spend wads of money I don't have on plants where you live. We'd need the truck.

Winecup seed comes up real easy especially in little cracks where seeds fall. Try direct sowing some, soak 6 to 8 hours and then sow. I've come to believe some seeds instinctively know they are in a milk jug. I've often gotten zero germination in a pot or jug but the same seeds will come up real easy in the ground or just sowed in spring. Maybe native plants act different or have other unmet needs like soil organisms, I don't know but thats been my experience.

Case in point. Not a single Turk's cap seed came up indoors, outdoors or in a jug and I wasted a bunch of seeds that way. Twice because last year I'd ordered seeds from N.A.S which was a waste of $5. This spring I took the whole rest of the batch I collected last fall from a plant I'd bought and planted them in a line in the ground. I swear, they are all coming up.

Same with agastache. Nothing at all in the WS container but they came up real fast planted in a regular pot in warm temps.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:15AM
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deleted duplicate post

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 4:37

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:51AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Campanula, I also think that you are being hard on yourself and that you might be feeling the effects of the recent theft of your tools and maybe even the recent changes with the addition of the new property. Maybe losing your tools has forced you to slow down from your usual activity and you have too much time on your hands to think. A bad combination. It may sound trite to you, but you’ve got to stop with the self criticism and try looking at yourself or your garden in a more positive way to balance out all that critical self evaluation. And really there’s no point to evaluating your garden or yourself critically unless you believe you can change it to make yourself happier. Which, of course, you can. But not if you beat yourself up to the point that you loose sight of the positives and feel defeated.

Take for instance, the photo you posted on the thread ‘Tell me about Euphorbia’. I found that to be a wonderful example of a great gardener. I assume those are roses above the Euphorbia? Wow. I’m very impressed with the color combination and the composition and the health of the plant material and the exuberant way you have pruned just in that one shot. And how the garden softens the structure behind it.

I don’t know the science. I had to look up a diagram of the parts of a poppy the other day in order to describe what I was talking about. [g] But I don’t really care. That is me. My focus is on growing and changing the property to what I want and I’ve gathered enough information to do that. Having to describe the parts of the poppy the other day, was the first time in 10 years that I needed that information. lol

You said the more you know the more you know how much you don’t know. But that is actually great. Because that tells you that you’re not going to get sick of gardening any time soon. There’s always some aspect of it to keep exploring.

Clearly something about your garden or gardening is not making you happy. Maybe you’re frustrated because you can’t accomplish what you are trying to accomplish. That happens to most gardeners along the way. It’s just a growing point, where you have to take stock, make some decisions and figure out a way to move forward in a way that makes you feel more of a connection between the goals you have and what you are accomplishing every day. Little by little. And I know it’s a corny saying, but you are making me say it lol …’Inch by inch, it’s a cinch, yard by yard, it’s hard.’ :-)

The other aspect of your situation is that maybe you need more help than you have. You have to work I assume, and you have an ‘allotment’, which from your description sounds like the size of my property, lol. Then you have a new 6 acre woodland you are trying to transform into a woodland garden, is that all correct? And this is the first season at the woodland garden, right? All of us have our strengths and our limitations. It would help you tremendously to accept your limitations and get help in those areas.

I wouldn’t be gardening at all if I didn’t have help. My DH works in the garden every week. Our three kids, all help in the garden at one time or another for projects. They all came over and helped me dig out all the shrubs in the border when I needed it, etc. And all I have is this small 1/4 acre property. I seem to remember you sharing that your boys helped you cut down trees this spring.

You’ve bitten off more than you can chew at the moment perhaps and then the theft on top of that. This too shall pass. Take a deep breath and a day off, then come up with a plan to move forward. Maybe in some very small steps to get you going. You have a BIG project going on there and it’s going to take a lot of time.

I enjoyed reading what everyone else had to say. It’s so interesting listening to what everyone thinks about their garden and who they are as gardeners. Good idea for a thread, Campanula.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:07AM
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Campanula UK Z8

yep, this has been an intriguing romp into the mindset of fellow gardeners and I am glad something interesting came out of a rather grumpy post. Very true, though, I do feel I have bitten off rather more than I can chew so it was obvious that. stretched as I am, a tiny setback was going to have dire effects...and the rather large annoyance has certainly rocked me. I have been less keen on going to the woods since I am confronted by an inability to do what needs doing....and whilst I feel OK about being a bit slack when I have a choice, it becomes irritating when it is an imposed condition - a state of affiairs all gardeners must surely be familiar with (drought, floods, fires and all things in-between).
Donna mentioned a rather key feature of gardening - the idea of instant gratification........which I do indeed suffer from. My home garden is minuscule - 36square metres, over a third of which is greenhouse. I got used to fairly swift and radical makeovers (those days when I REALLY earned a living)...while the allotment has been 12 years in the making and is fairly abundant despite bad years (something always fails but lots thrives). I think I am just having a dose of reality, moving out into a massive space which requires completely different skillsets (I had initially assumed it was seeds as usual, but expanded by 100....and yep, am really a bit burned out there (although there I was ordering lysimachia seeds).
Side note - another one struggling with winecups....but actually, out of all this verbiage, a rather useful idea did occur - the difference between growing in containers and growing in the ground......and yes (lightbulb moment) it makes absolute sense since everything is connected - plants grow in symbiosis with a whole troupe of microbial life. You can throw maccrorhizal granules in your potting mix forever.....but it often needs to be plant specific.
Wintersowing: we always do this in the UK ( I sow stuff all year round) - although we tend to use trays (flats) instead of milk containers. I have tried the milkjugs....but hated not being able to see what was happening, worrying about moisture, and ended up prising the tops off, thereby defeating the object.....
So, my plant revolution this year- and I can put it off until autumn and idle away the summer - is to build a few raised beds in the wood - small 2x6 ones - just 3 or 4, and make a direct sow nursery using the native soil. This should mitigate the effects of direct sowing (needing loads of seeds and losing track of where they are...and I have already moaned about tiny seed packets) while doing away with all that worry about tending to tiny plantlets.

Al;ready feeling a whole lot better GWebbers! A project to do, a plan in hand while I get to have a bit of time to sort out the 'kitchen' in my horsebox........or the bed skylight (it is currently like sleeping in a very small box - getting in bed feels like posting ourselves through a letter box and there is no sitting up and reading.....and we have to sort out the heating situation (again) but will be going for something cheap and tatty rather than new, shiny and tempting to thieves.
Joyously, I was sent a huge bag of white martagon lily seeds from Sweden so just after our burglary, I went all round the woods making little footscrapes and sowed over a thousand seeds. I would expect at least a few of them to grow over the next 4/5 years. White turkscap lilies!! a single bulb cost me almost 10dollars (actually 6pounds but converted for you).

So thanks everyone - I have loved hearing about your plans, styles, thoughts. I know I have been far too solipsistic and needed to look beyond my personal woes.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:21AM
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All of you are in a much higher league of gardening than I as.I have trouble growing the prolific "4 o'clock" Mirabilis jalapa or nasterium from seed!

This post was edited by rouge21 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 14:25

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:35AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Nice to hear so many others with similar thoughts. I also pretty much only take close-up garden photos to crop out the mish-mash of chain link fences, paint peeling from the house, neighbors garages on all sides, and our own lovely rusty metal shed with the tarp on top! I will probably never have the sweeping gardens with views of the ocean, forest, or countryside... but I can make my little suburban space nicer for a few dollars and some elbow grease. We are often too hard on ourselves and don't take the time to enjoy the gardens as they are.

Someone I barely knew came to my house last summer and went on and on about how beautiful the yard was. She wanted to know who did my gardening! I was taken aback, laughed it off, and thought to myself she was a little crazy. But later I thought that maybe I was just being overly critical.

I have never put much thought into design, and look at the garden through they eye of a utilitarian plant collector rather than an artist. When I first started wintersowing I was so thrilled with how easy and cheap it was I just sowed everything I could get to try it. I had a super high germination rate because they were all relatively easy seeds to grow. When I started to move to more difficult seeds my success rate did go down. Part of that though is getting seeds in swaps of unknown age that are the type that should be sown fresh or not allowed to dry out.

I am now starting primarily natives by wintersowing and I find they usually work well since the are growing in pretty much the same conditions they would be if direct sown, but are more protected from animals and being washed away. It also helps me to use the potting mix so I don't have any weed seedlings come up that get confused with the good seedlings. I don't start wintersowing on the solstice or do the special things for special meanings bit... that is not my thing. I usually start sometime in January or February with things requiring cold and keep going until spring with tenders. I also direct sow in spring. With our weather and where I have my containers located I usually don't have to water them until May or June when it hasn't rained.

With wintersowing and rampant seed collecting/ swaps I am pretty much doing some form of gardening
year round. It is a hobby that I enjoy and I feel a sense of accomplishment working on. I don't think I would ever want to be done as long as I am still physically able. I work at a leisurely pace and accept that while things may look unkempt to me, the wildlife enjoying my plants really don't mind at all. Providing food for them and my own family is the ultimate goal of my garden after all. Looking nice is just icing on the cake.

Sorry if I interjected the wintersowing conversation into this discussion. I have gotten into the habit of suggesting it whenever people mention they have issues starting seed or hardening off. I also mention it when they are trying to fill large areas on a very small budget. I take it now to be more a discussion of losing the enthusiasm you once had to keep up with all the gardening tasks, rather than a problem with starting plants from seed. When I am feeling less than ambitious about my to do list I just go out and look at the creatures that are enjoying my garden just as it is. Yesterday I spent far too long watching caterpillars munch away at dill and pearly everlasting. They didn't seem to mind the overgrown lawn or big pile of dirty pots by the back door!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:22AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Does any one out their COURT failure? I did yesterday. I planted annuals late ( for Texas) I planted seed out in the blistering sun in gritty cactus soil of the slope bed with temps forecast in the mid 90's. I had done it in the shade and in 4" pots in water retentive sweet soil and they popped up in 3 days so I thought, what the hey, I will give it a try.Arizona has their monsoons begin in mid summer and they have a whole list of seed that are opportunistic quick germinating souls. I have my reasons for doing this but , GOD, it sure feels like failure in the making. Atleast i won't blame Mother nature for the possible incumbent failure.It was all my doing and my yearly dose of summer denial. I just watered them in for the day. I will hit them agian in the evening.

Campanula, When I made my jump from urban yard gardening to gardening in the wilds , I had one failure after another. We really do not comprehend how unrelated they are. I thought all I had to do is pop in some native in a hole and go on with life or throw seed into the wind. I have fought infertile ground, drought of drought, deer, cows, 400 lb wild boars, wild fire (actual blessing), but most of all, I have fought my ignorance and my ego. I have scattered seed to the wind, I have raked them in , made seed balls out of clay and compost straw and seed. I have planted plants but the infertility has been a bugaboo. Even agave do not like this rubble.. My best effect has come from reductive gardening ., the culling out of the cedar and the protecting by cages of wanted species. Time has been my friend. I see things sprouting now, from seed that I had planted 8 years ago. This experiment is a whole new ball game. I look at what I want and what I have and realize that even with its faults, this is one damn beautiful place and whatever I do is only window dressing. I am only a helping hand and my vision of what I want is probably laughable so I should start looking at my activities (and there are a lot of activities) are only to facilitate the direction of the land. I am not going to get a brush out and paint wild flower meadow. I am going to burn and weed out invasive and maybe the wildflowers will blow in or the seeds that I put out as offerings will decide to wake up. I am not in control.

So chainsaw in hand, I trudge out there and do my dirty deed. I put my best foot forward and leave the results to the guy in thew sky and his little demigods . I grubbed out 5 acres of thistle in my front field last week and found a population of native Queen ann's lace that was not there before. I have watched horsemint expand ever year from the handful that I put out there. I think the Blanket flower started from a handful of native seed from a friends wedding and the stuff trespassing on the wind. I stop and grab handfuls of seed heads along the road and bring them as offerings to my field. TexasRanger has donated bags of seeds from her yard and I have adzed them in and we shall see. The rains were well timed this year. I expect nothing. I have learned to expect nothing.gardening becomes the act of faith that it is. Immediate gratification has long been stripped away. Ego has gone, trampled by all sorts of natural calamity. Enjoyment is amazing. Connection gets stronger every year.

Every October I take my blanket and lie down in the frost weed and let the monarchs and queens land on me. They come by the thousands. This is my reward.

People say things have changed out here. I can't always see it. I will be grabbing a lot of tick seed, and Navaho Tea this year. That seems to be what is plentiful on the roadsides this year.

In the woods, I can walk around and really see a difference. My culling has breathed life into a mono culture that was not a monoculture. It allowed the seed load that was in the soil to sprout and live. I have escarpment Black Cherry, Madrone, and red oak sprouting . I cage them to protect them from deer.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:05PM
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Chaos is a terrible state to be in and we've all been there. Most of us like to think we are likable easy going people but truth is most of us like to control. We like to think we are nice & well meaning all the time but we aren't. We try to create order and control anything that seems out of place, not to our liking or irritating. Sometimes our effort to control leaves us spiraling out of control be it with our mouth or our garden or anything else for that matter.

I kept thinking about the disconnect question & getting a bit stumped on an answer. I came up with something vague I couldn't quite put my finger on and finally realized the word I would use is schizophrenic-gardening. That state of changing my mind and swinging from one theme or obsession to the next. Jumping from one project to the next and bouncing around without direction and mostly piddling and wasting entire days only to come back and change all I changed last time, yet again. Its not always like that but sometimes I seriously lack direction. Then I focus on the ugly, the things I cannot change like the neighbors trees creating shade and messing up the backdrop to my garden. It starts to eat at me. Its about control.

I believe there is very little control we actually do have when dealing with nature. We can tend an area and believe we are in control but when we are gone it will all go back to weeds, brush or trees and be gone in a blink of an eye. As if we were never there.

The descriptions I read above of slow progress is realistic. Having too many pots, ideas, mind changes, # of plants, seeds, failures and then the feeling of being overwhelmed or in despair from our attempt to achieve control over something that has it own set of rules is perhaps because we aren't really realistic or we are coming at it all the wrong way. Frantically collecting new plants is not stewardship or even gardening. Its an obsession like any other obsession that can take over our thoughts and lives.

I think I will start working on trying to achieve balance.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 14:42

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 2:16PM
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I definitely agree with the above poster about Winter Sowing. You can have a gorgeous garden with much less work and very little $$$ with that method. AND, with proper care, your garden will look just as good as those garden magazine pictures!!!

Also, save seeds each season and trade with other gardeners on the seed exchange forum. Gardening doesn't have to cost a lot of money and the satisfaction is greater, I feel, if you do it all yourself..

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:21PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

"Wintersowing: we always do this in the UK (I sow stuff all year round) - although we tend to use trays (flats) instead of milk containers."

I'm glad you said that Campanula. When I first started frequenting these forums I spent some time trying to understand wintersowing. Kind people tried to explain exactly how special it was but I just didn't get it. Especially when people referred to winter sowing in February or April. I finally realised that the reason I couldn't get my head around it was that I was trying to find something in it which wasn't there. It's just standard practice in our climate. Growing under lights is another thing which barely exists in a domestic setting here.

As to your patch of disinclination, I can't really give any advice. I have a tiny garden, a wild wood and an allotment. The garden I deal with by that wonderful phrase someone used above (sorry, I can't find it again) 'reductive gardening'. That's brilliant - it describes exactly what I do. It relies on being able to recognise any seedling that comes up. But after that it's just a matter of pulling things I don't want. The wood is a natural wood and I make no attempt to plant anything there except the odd tree and cowslip. Once every three years or so I hire a chap for a day to keep the ride clear. I let a couple of people go in and take ash poles which also helps manage it. The allotment I do in one hour a week or so. I love gardens and I love plants and I love gardening. But I never want it to become a chore.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:58PM
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Campanula UK Z8

An enormous plus is the innate loveliness of the woods with only the merest intervention - brush-cutting and felling so you could actually get in there).... there are still parts where I have not set foot.
here they are in March

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:16PM
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Campanula UK Z8

and in May

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:18PM
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Campanula UK Z8

In the interests of full disclosure, my greenhouse

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:25PM
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Campanula UK Z8

The allotment - April

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Campanula UK Z8

My home garden

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:45PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Oh yeah - here's the horsebox

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 5:54PM
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floral, I noticed the same confusion. The concept of sowing seeds under a cloche of some sort in winter is very old. I've been sowing seeds for a couple decades, usually sowing at different times of the year. When I stumbled into the forum, I finally realized that when someone says "I'm going to winter sow these seeds in spring" they are referring to the milk jug.

Sowing in Milk Jug = WS'ing. Whenever its done.

I observed that some people believe all seeds should be sown that way at the same time for convenience. Anyway, thats what I got for feedback on the forum. Collecting and prepping 400+ milk jugs isn't exactly my idea of convenient but we are all under different time frames and climate situations. Many have fun with that.

I have never said its not a good method, I've used it for some seeds. Its that feeling of someone trying to convert or enlighten me when I mention ways I believe are better for certain seeds that I react to but I'm speaking generally, not about anyone who posted on this thread. It is a good method.

Campanula, that is totally different than what I pictured. Gee, I was expecting messier and more overgrown from your comments. Looks like a lot to keep on top of.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 19:26

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Um, those are the bits I 'cleared'. Here is another view

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 7:50PM
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Yea, thats better. Is this where you want to plant those tall perennials?? Love the path.

I think the thing you said about getting it perfect and then what would you do is a good way to look at it. When I first got all my gravel and cactus and had it all planted just so during my understated simplistic period, I quickly panicked and realized I had nothing left to do. Not even a weed to pull. I began seriously eyeballing the park up the street thinking to do some projects and planting up there if I could get permission. I remember writing to wantanamara about my dilemma. I mean, it was for real.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:55PM
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campanula: love your pics. I just want to come check out your greenhouse and help clear some more woods! I do understand it is alot of work.

texas: I wintersowed for the first time this past winter and I must say it suited me well because I needed something gardening related to do in january. The real job started when it was time to repot all those seedlings and keeping up with watering and everything. It was well worth it for me.

Noone ever told me in the beginning that gardening is an ongoing project!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:28PM
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Tex - my attempt at broadcasting seeds last fall was a total fail. That's because spring is the driest season here, and also the time of high winds and hungry wildlife. When the rains come, they come in summer. I'm going to try broadcasting seed again next month. WSing was more successful than germinating indoors because I just don't have the space. When you're ready, come with your truck and we'll hit all the native nurseries and hiking paths. We'll have a ball.

Wantanamara - I think you should have good luck seeding in summer, though I don't know much about your climate. Neighbors who live on my street have told me they broadcast when the rains come which is also the hottest time of the year, and they get germination.

Campanula - as you clear your forest, do you find interesting wildflowers? I've been discovering all kinds of natives in the wild. I only have time to garden over weekends, but week to week there's something new and different. We had average rainfall last year (about 12") which may have caused dormant seeds to germinate.

WSing has so many fans, it's hard to stand against the overwhelming majority, but this method doesn't work for everything. Of the 50% of my jugs in which something germinated, I'd guess that I got less than 10% germination. Campanula and Tex make a good point, some seeds need the microbes in native soil, at least for the New Mexican natives I'm trying to grow. At Plants of the Southwest I was told that Judith Phillips, the guru of Southwestern landscaping is the only person who can grow feather dalea from seed, and even she has entire years when she gets nothing.

Interesting discussion on all the different paths to success, however you define it.

Campanula - your pictures are very reasonable for a working gardener. I'd be too embarrassed to show anyone my dark secrets.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:01AM
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Cheryl, I was also thinking since some of these are wild desert seeds maybe they can't take being in damp cold or freezing potting mix for the extended time & they rot. Maybe they are programmed to lie dry on the ground all winter waiting for spring rains to trigger germination when the temperature warms up or at the proper time? I noticed nearly all warm season grasses do much better just sowed in pots when warm and did not germinate nearly as well when winter sowed. Some grasses I tried a couple years back like that yielded zero germination and others were pretty dismal. I'm 90% sure it was rot even though the soil was just damp.

Or, maybe some seeds need light as well in which case they should not be covered at all. Several natives have conditions that must be met to protect the seeds from germinating at the wrong time in a harsh environment. I know with several I have to scarify them with an xacto knife or give them a good 24 hr. soak in peroxide followed with sandpaper rubs to simulate a birds gut. Who knows what the missing factor is on the failures? I do know sowing some of the natives is not like sowing commercially sold seeds.

Some seeds end up coming up a couple seasons down the road so one winter wouldn't suffice. They need periods of warm followed by cold or some other set of temperature requirements.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:44AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The other reason that WS does not always work in warmer climates is because our plants can cook in the jugs during a warm spell. Our "winter" have those nice bright warm days. My experiment with WS did not turn out too well. I think rot was an issue with some of my xerics,definitely. Our winters are not wet through their entire length. They are often dry with intermittent wet spells , if we are lucky,

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 1:38AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Campanula, you have a beautiful piece of land there. Even the tall grass area is pretty to me. Much prettier than the weeds we see around here with all the invasives. And you are so lucky to have a greenhouse with a nice brick floor. A lot of people are doing hoop houses around here, I think. And I can see the TON of seedlings you are starting there. The photo of the allotment is different than another one you posted once. I thought you had a gravel garden? This photo looks like you grow vegetables? That must be where you have a million strawberries. :-)

That is an awful lot of garden space for one person to manage. I'm tired just looking at it. :-) You have gardening goals to keep you happy for the rest of your life there. lol I'm sure you will enjoy it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:06AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

I imagine WS in warmer and drier climates would be more problematic. A couple of years ago we had a freak heat wave in mid-March for almost two weeks where it even got up to 90 one day....most years we would still have snow. I was out scrambling with shade cloth to try and shade my containers and keep them watered. Then the temp plummeted back down to below freezing and we even had some snow cover. That was not fun. Most years here it works out well with very little maintenance on my part though.

I had contemplated a greenhouse in the past but don't know how useful it would be here. I wouldn't be able to overwinter tropicals and the like without some form of supplemental heat since the winter temps usually get well below zero. Then in the summer we get temps over 100. That's not even considering the high winds and hail storms. I would think in a climate with less fluctuations it could be wonderful though. Campanula to me your greenhouse just looks like anyone's would who is actually using it.

The wooded areas look beautiful to me, even the uncleared ones. It is better than chain link fencing and neighbors garages! Living and gardening in wilder areas is not something I have had personal experience with, although I hope to someday. I have been following a blog about a couple in Wisconsin who are "unfarming" 450 acres of land and doing the reductive type of gardening in the woods you are talking about. They have been working on it for over 10 years doing a section at a time. It is absolutely beautiful and remarkable what they have been able to accomplish. I had posted about it on the butterfly forum because they also document all the wildlife that has come back to the area. It might be inspiring to any of you working in large wooded areas or trying to restore habitat.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.aprairiehaven.com/

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:14AM
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"there is always a suspicion I could be doing much, much better."

If you limited yourself to caring for a much smaller number of seedlings and didn't try to grow a whole bunch of stuff in a "huge but untidy greenhouse", I suspect your success rate would be better.

As far as perennials are concerned, I plant a fair number of seeds obtained in small packets from the plant society I belong to. If some fail to germinate or mature, I haven't lost much.

And hey, simplification has a lot of fans here in the States. ;)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 12:10PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

@ Erik, Yikes, just a tad patronizing there. I am glad your life is so simple. Simplification is hard when one is dealing with acreage restoration and not a urban/suburban yard. Simplification is not always possible when one steps out of normal habitual orbits. We are talking apples and oranges. Campanula is over extended and trying a new thing and is at the beginning of a learning curve. If I buy seed , I often buy in pounds, I get shopping bags of seed sent to me from a friend on this site. I am in the States and my life is very complicated.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 2:14PM
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mara, you hit that dead right. There have been many times I hesitate to put my 2c worth in since all I have is a large yard. Another man's shoes etc....... You guys battling the wilds make me feel like a civilian talking to a soldier in uniform fighting in the field sometimes.

campanula, did you carve that stump with a face on it or lug it in? Your allotment got me thinking about John Greenlee who is a grass-scape expert, he is fairly well known so that might be old hat. GP1 brought him up once before but the notion didn't seem to appeal to anyone.

I was bowled over by the photos in his books along with the whole concept. I checked some out from the library & they were inspiring, its what initially set me on this native grasses/forbs direction I'm now on along with reading up on the destruction of the grasslands prior to the Dustbowl.

Here is one of his grass-scapes . Goggling that, I noticed he now has new book out called 'Mediterranean Meadow'. I think I will check it out from the library along with the others to get re-inspired myself. Anyway, more of my 2c worth to take or leave.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://search.aol.com/aol/imageDetails?s_it=imageDetails&q=john+greenlee&img=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cornerstonesonoma.com%2Fexplore%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F07%2FMM_1.jpg&v_t=nscpsearch&host=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cornerstonesonoma.com%2Fexplore%2Fprojects%2Fjohn-greenlee%2F&width=181&height=119&thumbUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ft2.gstatic.com%2Fimages%3Fq%3Dtbn%3AANd9GcSWe4EyCLmbyjnMNn_WNWCQ1SBGtdKiDE19asEBQcxkGGXdSC9nvXnYgtb1%3Awww.cornerstonesonoma.com%2Fexplore%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F07%2FMM_1.jpg&b=image%3Fs_it%3DimageResultsBack%26v_t%3Dnscpsearch%26q%3Djohn%2Bgreenlee%26oreq%3Dc1a0091bb8c24d76b4c0fb6be2503675&imgHeight=465&imgWidth=700&imgTitle=John+Greenlee+is+founder+of&imgSize=111710&hostName=www.cornerstonesonoma.com

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:02PM
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Here's another Greenlee design and an interesting blog. I love this natural look. Wantanamara sent me a photo of a gorgeous meadow close by her property. I went out and planted Mealycup Sage the next week in mine after seeing it.

Here is my whine of the day. I don't have a big enough piece of land to do this on. Sometimes I'm relieved but more often I'm just flat jealous of the people who do.

Speaking of American or "here in the states" I will continue my little advertisement and say: It dang sure don't get more American than this here type of garden deal. This concept takes the old European notions of gardens and obligatory lawn and tosses that clipped high maintenance control freak sucker right out the window.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://search.aol.com/aol/imageDetails?s_it=imageDetails&q=john+greenlee&img=http%3A//www.gardenrant.com/.a/6a00d83451bd5e69e20133f4d1e77b970b-pi&v_t=nscpsearch&host=http%3A//gardenrant.com/2010/10/greenlee.html&width=181&height=112&thumbUrl=http%3A//t1.gstatic.com/images%3Fq%3Dtbn%3AANd9GcS_Xu7cw8-keJez-onx1xuSqVkBjodeexLX9OLx2mLHProQ727zx-4kgFFH%3Awww.gardenrant.com/.a/6a00d83451bd5e69e20133f4d1e77b970b-pi&b=image%3Fs_it%3DimageResultsBack%26v_t%3Dnscpsearch%26q%3Djohn%2Bgreenlee%26oreq%3D05e47d81225a4625890ab3f5259678e7&imgHeight=375&imgWidth=600&imgTitle=John+Greenlee+makes+Designed&imgSize=86034&hostName=gardenrant.com

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 16:03

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:35PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Haven't read every word, but wanted to say Campanula the pics of your woodlot are great, they are actually very close to what I imagined when you have talked about your new property. Very cool!

Texas ranger, I love that natural look too.

Just a quick story, this Spring about 40-50% of my Spring sowing in cups didn't germinate, not sure why since I usually have good success. On top of that, I've gotten a slow start in the "back garden" this year, so I have been feeling a little behind and like a failure.

Then I went out to the back garden this morning and started cleaning up the trellis and annual bed. Lo and behold, I found numerous Morning glory seedings that have reseeded, and also 4 Lonicera sempervirens seedlings underneath the large vine that perished over the harsh winter.

So, mother nature is providing me with seedlings, where my sowing efforts have failed. All is not lost. :)

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 8:54PM
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Hello campanula. First, your photos are wonderful, but I can certainly see how overwhelming it all might be (at least for me). It's a beautiful property.
Second, you bring up an important notion: the question of failure. I see all kinds of successes on social media, but rarely does anyone want to discuss their "failures". I don't really get one's fear of failure. Personally, I've learned more from my failures than from my successes. When it comes to gardening, I have many dreams for the large plot of land surrounding our small house. The problem? Money. It has forced me to use my creativity in addition to constantly reminding myself to have patience. My first "garden" consisted of a few sad containers. Four years later it was an oasis of large and small containers, handmade or yard sale finds, filled with flowering plants, herbs, veggies. I force myself to remember this did not happen over one season. The devastation came when Hurricane Irene destroyed it all. I lived on a bay with the Atlantic Ocean just over the very narrow barrier island on the South Fork of Eastern Long Island. Salt water will kill everything in a blink of an eye. My oasis was gone. I now live off the Island and in a different zone, but I have SPACE to potentially create a new oasis. Do I have the energy? Questionable. Perhaps, like so many have posted, this oasis of destination gardens, secret gardens, rose gardens, etc., etc., will remain firmly in my imagination and dreams. Time will tell. Will I feel a sense of failure if I don't create what I dream? Oh, yeah. It's okay, though. Nature is so powerful and she will have her way, no matter how much we attempt to control her, although we seem to have exerted our power to change the climate.
I know your situation is different from mine. I haven't done much with seeds except some easy vegetables and a couple flowers. I don't have the space, nor the basic equipment I'd need. I hope to build a greenhouse so I can get the vegs started earlier and avoid unwanted chemicals, pesticides, etc. It does scare me a bit, but I think it would be so rewarding. I can certainly see myself here in a few years posting about how I'm overwhelmed with everything I'm trying to grow, and frustrated at my failure rate. What I have to offer you is what I've learned from more experienced gardeners than myself: just try it; if it fails, try something else. I'm well aware this doesn't solve your conundrum very satisfactorily, but it's clear something isn't working for you. An earlier post suggested something else I was struck by your post: you seem tired. A break might do you good and give you fresh eyes to the seed issue. When I'm stuck I find physical work helps clear my mind. It gets me out of my head and into my body, as well as back in touch with nature (I'm talking about clearing an area that needs attention, chopping wood, digging an new garden, cleaning out the excess stuff around the yard and repurposing what I can...). On the other hand, there are times I just need to stop what I'm doing and rest. Sometimes I write and my musings often lead to the answer.
I wish you much luck as you figure out what you need to do; I suspect you may already know. Enjoy the journey of learning new things only to find there's so much more to learn and celebrate (and share!) failures as much as successes.
Jennifer (jld65)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 12:38PM
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catkin(UDSA Zone 8)

Check out *Plantsmans Corner* on Youtube for info on propagating plants--among other topics.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 12:35AM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I understand your frustration. But I won't read 20 pages of comments, so if this is repetitive, forgive me.

I grow my seedlings in the 65 degree basement under daylight or grow-light 4 tube fluorescent bulb fixtures indoors. I get nearly 100% germination and 95% healthy seedlings after.

The benefit of growing the seedlings in the basement is that the temperature is stable and the humidity is lower. And the light is constantly just a few inches above the plants.

Just saying doing everything outside isn't always best...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 4:31AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I think quite a few comments are missing the point. Campanula is not having problems with germinating seeds. She's having problems with being human and the day having only 24 hours. yardenman - a couple of things. Most British homes do not have basements. Very few British gardeners use lights - it's just not in the garden culture here and with our long temperate growing season they aren't necessary. Even it they were, the hundreds of seeds Campanula is sowing would never fit in an indoor set up and since many are hardy perennials they need a cold period. Indoors is just not suitable. The outdoor or under glass seed sowing window here is months long. Campanula has a greenhouse, knows all about propagation and has done it successfully for years - that's not her problem. It's the quantity of different things going on at once which makes for frustration. I'm pretty sure it's not lack of knowledge causing the gloom - it's the clashing conjunction of enthusiasm and reality.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 6:11AM
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Campanula UK Z8

'clashing conjunction of enthusiasm and reality' - I truly like that, Flora.

Fortunately, having passed the midsummer solstice - a time measurement which looms large in literal, emotional and symbolic terms for me at least, I can now let go of some of the tangled strings I was vainly holding together, and slide gracelessly and defiantly, but still inevitably, into that long falling off of expectations and acceptance of reality. Practically everything is either in the ground, larger pots or destined for compost (I have no energy for continued late summer sowing or oriental vegetables, prolonging the season and so forth)....and am now back in my comfortable reality where everything is still only potential (seeds) rather than reality (plants) which require action (toil). The first bulb catalogues are popping through the door and as always, when the day to day reality becomes more than we wish to bear, we can take refuge in fantasy, future planning, greedy lists where gardening is an entirely stress-free experience done purely in our heads...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 7:54AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I like that saying too. Made me laugh. Right now, it is more side swiping with an emphasis on the sliding on by of realities and intentions. I am walking by my projects half done because my clients want me to be a worker be. I work at home so I am always walking by and feeling the onrush of guilt of dirt left un turned and uprooted dead soldiers callusing in the sun. Thank god they are Cylindropuntias! I will stop garden talking and do some gardening POSSIBLY as I walk to my shop this day of SABATH.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:27AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I came to terms with this years ago -- I stopped trying to do everything and now just do what I can when I can do it, and I try my best not to bite off more than I can chew (although admittedly it still happens sometimes). Someone wisely told me years ago that the most important tool in the toolbox is the checkbook - and I agree with that wholeheartedly. I work full time and am in grad school - those are more important than my garden and take precedence. If I have to pay to have something done that needs to be done, so be it (I am working as is my husband, and I do realize I am fortunate in this, work is most definitely a blessing).

At this point in my life I refuse to spend my precious free time fretting over things that are waiting for me to do. Of course there are seasonal chores, but if they don't get done, so what? What's the worst that's going to happen if I don't clean up the garden in the fall? So I'll have to clean up in the spring. Big deal. My annuals didn't get planted until June. So what. They got in the ground late, but they're fine. So what if you lose some of your seedlings? You can sow more.

It took me years to cultivate this attitude, and IT IS FREEING. Now when I work outside it's normally because I *want* to and I enjoy it, not because I *have* to and end up dreading it instead.

This post was edited by mxk3 on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 13:26

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 1:21PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Ah well, mxk3, this pragmatism is exactly the attitude I am hoping to cultivate (soon) but suspect the thrill of owning a patch of ground has really gone to my head (after a life as a renter)....but I confess to frequently biting off great unchewable mouthfuls and eating heaps of humble pie.
Nonetheless, I suspect we are somewhat on the same page inasmuch as I am happy to reframe 'failure' as 'learning' in order to mitigate the modern phenomenon of having to be brilliant and amazing at all times. Not altogether in agreement about the checkbook though (much as I whine)....lack of time rather than lack of money has ever been my most limiting factor (at least as far as gardening goes).

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 2:02PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

May we all be blessed with either a small garden and few wants. OR we need to be blessed with a strong back, and a horde of hard working diligent children (missed out on that one). Otherwise it is the large check book (missed out on that now too). Balance is essential. Large piece of land does mean lots of work no matter who does it. Otherwise it is large wild garden and that is not bad either. I find a certain willingness to settle for mess essential for my balance of life. I have wind torn trees facing me waiting for someone with a chainsaw. It will probably be me. Thankgod I get enjoyment out of slicing up trees. I do so like a good fire.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Fires, My Lovely Fires

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

Might as well relax about gardening everyone, and enjoy what you have, while you can- things have a way of changing! When I moved to CA from the east coast I had to re-learn what grows here and finally got the hang of N CA plants and flowers. It took me a while to realize the good sense of native gardening but after 20 years I turned to that. Now I am having to change over to drought gardening and I just hope our well holds up so I can keep a garden at all! Min

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 9:20PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Min3, start collecting the water from your roof, and any grey water you can. We designed our house to separate out grey water and it kept the vegetable garden going . The rest of the garden takes care of itself mostly. But you are probably well on the way toward this. We use olah and buried holes filled with gravel that act as water ketchments. Rain gardens are an interesting concept to , that is being explored in Texas.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 10:04PM
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wantanmara It does my soul a world of good to see people doing prescribed burns. The situation is out of hand, to put it mildly. There are burns being conducted in various places across the entire state of Oklahoma due to the alarming neglect for which we are paying the high price. I have been seeing this on nightly news regularly. We don't need another 2012, hopefully the trend will become more widespread before its too late.

Koo-doos to you!

Here is a link that might be useful: http://search.aol.com/aol/imageDetails?s_it=imageDetails&q=controlled+burns+oklahoma+ecology&img=http%3A%2F%2Ffireecology.okstate.edu%2FheaderBckgrnd%2Frndimg&v_t=nscpsearch&host=http%3A%2F%2Ffireecology.okstate.edu%2F&width=181&height=37&thumbUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ft3.gstatic.com%2Fimages%3Fq%3Dtbn%3AANd9GcRHd7dbd5lP54LWQ26ByhZBp7E5C-dHSnfI4e9QVq1kl3RjFxciS98DS6c%3Afireecology.okstate.edu%2FheaderBckgrnd%2Frndimg&b=image%3Fq%3Dcontrolled%2Bburns%2Boklahoma%2Becology%26v_t%3Dnscpsearch%26s_it%3DimageResultsBack%26oreq%3D74877841bdfd48dc842803cc4bb7d911&imgHeight=237&imgWidth=1152&imgTitle=Welcome+to+the+Fire+Ecology&imgSize=176624&hostName=fireecology.okstate.edu

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 4:14PM
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I pulled up your lovely fires. I like this one the best --I took the liberty and did a screen shot, I'll delete if you aren't OK with it. You ought to do an enlargement and hang it on the wall. That is one clean job. Congratulations. CLEAN!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 4:49PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Nice! I love a good fire (no I'm not a pyro). I see more and more burns on the east coast too, some of the local pine barrens shape up nicely after a good cleaning out of leaves and brush.

I have some time off for the next few days and I'm trying to get my annuals done. I'll probably finish in July, so if planting this late is failure then count me in! I did save plenty since most were discounted, and I know enough to pick the ones that will take off in the heat.... The only problem is I don't take off in the heat. It's slow going with lots of watering of the plants and myself but the delay will have everything looking fresh until frost. It drive my MIL nuts though, she seems to think summer is all downhill after the fourth.

I think If your not failing here and there then your not really pushing yourself.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:24PM
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