Most people want to wait until it's summer to prepare their garden, but actually you should take advantage of winter for planning your garden's layout and reading books about the right flowers, trees and shrubs to grow in your space; February should be used for improving clay packed soil, of which NC has an abundance. These are the following amendments you will want to buy at Home Depot, Lowe's or an area garden center to add to your raised bed annually:
Dept. of Agriculture Soil Testing Lab in Raleigh, 4300 Reedy Creek Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: (919) 733-2655
• No direct charge April – November; peak season fee $4/box December-March
• Funded through the fertilizer tax
• Results are posted online – turnaround time depends on the time of year
BELOW: Raised bed you can put on our patio made by The Carpenter Craftsman with a potting table attached. Move to where you want them, then fill with quality soil and your amendments!
My husband knows I love to grow tomatoes, so despite our being in a rental home this year, he made certain I could grow Italian Roma's, Big Beef, and Cherry tomatoes [plus green peppers, basil, cilantro, dill, and thyme]. Her built huge abaove ground gardening boxes for me. The skins of home-grown tomatoes are thinner and the tomatoes are twice as juicy and flavorful. A store picks them yet green and gases them into ripeness and though they may look good, they taste terrible. Isn't it time you started a garden of your own? How will you know if you have a green thumb if you have never tried?
Every place deserves an identity. Why just own a home on "such and such street" in the middle of "such and such development" when you can call your home by a name. We call ours "Turtle Cottage on Hoadley Pond". When it goes up for rent a year from now, it will not be one of many on the market, but a boutique home on a pond with ducks, turtles, a view of the bridge and more. Think of your home in the same manner, as a special place that cannot be duplicated, and you will feel even more special when you return to it each day. Make it a family project to claim it and name it!
During our brief residence in SC, I discovered the notorious " fire ant." There were huge holes in the front and back yard of the home I and Chuck rented, which I originally thought were from moles. I was told I could go into anaphylactic shock if they ran up my leg, but I was not told they could also remain discreetly underground and build an unseen nest around rose bushes, under the mulch and along fence lines. So, I am here today to warn you about that. A fire ant bite is 10 times more obnoxious than a Florida "sand flea." It not only gives you a red bite, it poses a potential health danger. Chuck found a product that works well in the garden: Bifen I/T made by Control Solutions. It can only be bought online and will run you about $50 plus tax. Once the area is sprayed, the ants charge up out of the hill and die quickly. This is one pest you simply have to get rid of by chemical means. If you rent, be certain you write into the lease that your landlord MUST put the home on a pest plan and then, make them do it!
My husband is a "dog person" and I am a "cat person" but both of us AGREE that a garden must be a safe place for pets & yet be ATTRACTIVE. A dog run can be created behind a latticework fence, so it is not a smelly eyesore. Citrus and mint plants can be planted around areas they are not supposed to go, so your flowers are not trampled; cats also dislike those scents. Hardscape should have smooth flagstones, not chipped rock, so it will not hurt their paws. They need a place to rest in the sun and a place to get away from the sun when it is too intense. Since they love to mark their territory, give them a few pieces of driftwood upon which to do so. If you plant shrubbery closely your pets will stay out; consider this for areas around a vegetable garden. Thorny and spiny plants can cause eye injuries, so plan your garden so these are not used as edgers, but are surrounded by other plants, if you use them at all. Marigolds, peppermint and lavender repel mosquitoes and fleas, so plant them liberally. Marigolds, as I've stated in an earlier post, also repel snakes. Lemon Balm does the same, but it should be put in its own pot on your deck, for it can become an invasive plant that takes over the garden. Echinacea has a pretty daisy head, and if your dog or cat chews its leaves, it will boost their immune system. Avoid daffodils, elephants ears and yew which are all highly toxic to dogs, along with jade plants and aloe vera! Agility play equipment should be out in the yard; this is what will entertain your pet instead of digging up your garden. Some of the most common equipment is a high jump, a hoop through which they can jump, a plank to walk, a pet house, a tunnel to climb through, platforms to jump up to and off of, and hurdles to bound over. If you PLAN your backyard to include a PLACE for your pets to play, they will become disinterested in the areas you have intended for yourself, your spouse and your children. [Boomer & George sells the dog houses shown; I think they are adorable. The platforms are elevated, so your pet stays high and dry regardless of the weather.]
When you are considering where to plant spices you want to use in your evening meals, consider a "gutter garden" that is elevated. This one is six feet across and has two side elements for hanging decorative plants you don't want eaten by rabbits! I like to use thyme, basil, cilantro, parsley in my cooking...and I prefer to pick it within a few minutes of its use. Chuck used reclaimed wood to cover the framework on the one shown, and it's angled out, sturdy but movable, should we want to change its location at a later date! The open air flows through and keeps away white mold, black spot and bugs, even on the most humid days, and it cannot be considered a "fence" requiring potential HOA approval, which is another blessing! Consider planting vines growing up it, like nasturtiums, which are edible, have a peppery taste, and make a beautiful presentation in a summer salad.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species in the onion family. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion. All are useful companions to roses. They eliminate aphids and beetles by confusing them with their strong scent. They also help roses combat mold and "black spot." Two herbs deter aphids best-- Parsley and Thyme. Strongly scented geraniums also repel Japanese beetles and aphids quite well. Trim rose branches and leaves that have been eaten as soon as you notice them, as they use up vital energy to help other branches grow. I have never had to hand pick bugs off my roses, using this process. For this purpose, the garlic should not be purchased from a grocery store; you need to buy the variety sold at a gardening center and plant it as follows:
Separate cloves. Space the cloves 4-6" apart. Rows should be spaced one foot apart. The cloves should be planted with the pointed end up and the blunt end down. Push each clove 1-2" into the ground, firm the soil around it, and water the bed if it is dry.
In sum, there is no need to spray heavy chemicals on roses, potentially impacting your pet's health and your own, to keep roses healthy in South Carolina. Protect my namesake an BE ITALIAN. Use garlic instead!
Did you know that marigolds [Calendula Officinalis] repel snakes? The plant has a smell that irritates their senses and corrodes their skin; it may also cause blindness if it contacts a snake's eyes, disorienting the serpent. It is a great idea to plant marigolds along the perimeter of your home, along a fence. Marigolds also repel the mosquito! Get rid of pine needles; that's where snakes like to build their nests!