Friday, June 12, 2015

Annoying Ants and Astonishing Blooms

A beautiful garden in the Irish countryside. (From my travels, last month.) Great inspiration for what I'd like to do with my own garden. Of course, I need a centuries old farmhouse to complete the picture!
In the last, exciting episode of the Long Neglected Garden... :) I was weeding and weeding... and weeding some more. Not much has changed.

Though, I have moved onto the murderous activity of evicting ants from the property!
A pretty Iris graces my own garden (planted many moons ago.)
Ants, despicable ants. Depending upon where you live, ants are either a minor nuisance or a majorly painful experience. My [red] ants are aggressive and, most of the time, quite secretive.

Yet another gorgeous Iris I don't remember planting. Probably a rhyzome from my Mother's garden.
I uproot a large perennial, or move a big rock, and bam! In an instant! Both arms and both legs are covered, literally covered, hundreds of ants scurrying up my arms and legs. Doing battle with the human who dared disrupt their living quarters.

I keep the hose handy, spraying myself off before they bite. Then I flood their anthill.

Blissful blues. A drift of Penstamon at my 'other' garden. I'm planning to steal a few of these for the new garden, once they have finished flowering.

Okay, fine, that sounds terribly mean spirited, but I want those freeloading ants gone! ['Tis true they don't harm your garden, but if they are so plentiful, and aggressive, that they begin harming me, then it is time to serve the eviction notice.)

Once their home becomes a lake, those vicious ants will pack their bags and head to drier ground.

In between rain showers, Bob & I hopped on the horses and went for a ride. Our near constant rains are rivaling Oregon's wet climate and the wildflowers are going bonkers!

We rode our horses through a vast meadow, filled with wildflowers.

I spotted the Tansy flower growing out in that meadow.

For one, evil, moment I contemplated harvesting the seeds, adding it to my arsenal. Did you know that Tansy flowers will kill ants? Yup! Plus, ticks, flies, you name it. It's very toxic.

That's probably how it got out there. Someone looking for a 'natural' way to rid themselves of these infernal ants. But, Tansy grows so well that it is now deemed a noxious weed in 47 states.

So, I shall stick to drowning those infernal ants. Much easier than uprooting Tansy, from my gardens, for the rest of my life.

* Most people recommend using boiling water on ants but it doesn't seem all that necessary. They hate water, at any temperature. Periodically flooding their anthill generally sends them packing. If you have a neighbor you don't particularly care for... consider guiding them in that direction. :)

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Hello Old Friends

Jacob's Ladder brightly blooming in a thicket of weeds.
This summer's delightful task is to reclaim The Long Neglected Garden ~ my term of endearment for the garden I planted 12 years ago.

And, subsequently abandoned when I turned the house into a rental property.

Sassy little Columbine says: Hell no! We won't go! (Refusing to accept defeat from the weeds.)
The garden is, of course, a disastrous bed of weeds. 

So thick and gnarly that it was just overwhelming in the beginning. I roto-tilled a lot of it.

But, before I did that, I hand dug around all of the green shoots that I recognized as ''Friends" (aka welcome perennials) vs. "Enemies" (aka nasty ass weeds.)

Heirloom Bearded Iris
I'm kinda thinking that's one of the greatest gifts of becoming a savvy gardener. When we learn to recognize our old friends, long before they flower.

One glance at the leaf structure and I can tell... Hey! You're not a weed! You're a Columbine! Or, Jacob's Ladder... Or, Centaurea... All of whom have survived, for 12 long years, without one ounce of TLC from me.

Montana (Centaurea)
Visited Home Depot yesterday. Their nursery now contains about 90% annuals vs. perennials. So, naturally, I couldn't find a single thing to buy. (I only plant perennials because I enjoy watching them re-bloom every year.)

I suppose they did that because our weather has been freakishly hot, then cold, with a few hellacious hail storms thrown in for good measure. And, HD doesn't offer a money back guarantee on annuals. As they do with perennials. At least in my town.

Dame's Rocket: popular with Swallowtail Butterflies

What a shame! This garden is a total testament to the tenacity of perennials! Plant 'em once. Love 'em forever.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mantis Rototillers and the Long Neglected Garden

Don't ya just love it when the world works in such wonderful ways ~ that it's hard to count up all those lucky stars?

Take last night, for instance, when my awol farrier (horse shoe guy) finally paid his disconnected phone bill, returned my call, and agreed to give the girls a long overdue pedicure.


Or, this spring, when I got an email from Steve, asking me to demo a Mantis Rototiller.*  

At that precise moment I was gazing out the picture window, at deep drifts of snow, wondering what nightmares awaited me in The Long Neglected Garden. Saying yes to this goodie was a no brainer.

Revisiting this garden has been so exciting! Beneath a pile of weeds, I found these Heirloom Iris ~ still going strong 12 years later!
Spring has finally arrived in the mountains (we're months later than those of you in the valley.) And, with it a weed problem considerably worse than anything I had imagined. The nerve of those weeds! Growing, unchecked, for 12 blissful years, thinking I'd never return.**

Red Feathers [Echium] don't seem to care if they ever get watered.
So, I've been rototilling like a crazed woman with my spiffy new tiller and I gotta say... it's fabulous.

Here's why I love the Mantis:

It's the right size. 
  • I actually own a rototiller from another company. (I have no idea where it is... I loan it to anyone who asks and the last person never gave it back.) Fine with me. It was a huge beast, too heavy to lift, I found myself opting for a garden fork when creating new beds.
It's quiet as a mouse.
  • Well, maybe not a mouse but the other one roared like a jet engine and that made me nuts.
It was easy to put together.
  • And, I'm the kind of gal that is stumped by nearly every set of directions ever handed her.
It will last a long time.
  • Because I'm not loaning this one out to anybody! :-)
And, they're affordable.

Why Till?
There are two schools of thought, when it comes to rototilling.

Some say it's the worst thing you could possibly do to your garden ~ they say it messes with the soil structure and inspires more weeds to grow. {I emphatically disagree.}

Other swear by it. Claiming that it's fast and effective and works like a charm. I'm in this group; I swear by 'em. They eliminate a lot of back-breaking labor and those buried weed seeds are gonna get ya anyway.

This high up in the mountains, we're stuck with hard as rock alkaline soil and every inch of it requires soil amendments in order to produce a beautiful garden.
Amending Utah soils with a Mantis Rototiller.
  1. First I break up the soil with the tiller. 
  2. Then I add lots of organic matter (aka horse manure) + compost and till it a second time.
What's that you say? You don't have any horse manure?  My CFOs (Chief Fertilizing Officers) will happily help you out with that.

All kidding aside, I've been using the Mantis Rototiller for the last couple weeks and I love it so much I might have to marry it.

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They have lots of different sizes.
* Mantis Rototillers gave me this product to use and review. I am not compensated for this post. It's just one gardener's glowing review of a very good product. I personally feel they're a screaming deal, and well worth the money.

** If you've been on this blog before, then you may know that I moved back to a rental property that I've owned for many years. The Long Neglected Garden is my summer project. And, so far, I'm having a ball!

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