June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Inexpensive Water Saving Soaker Hose System For Summer

With this crazy heat wave in the South east, I have been forced to think of some creative ways to get the life saving water to our landscape. Now, I work for a living so I don’t have as much time as I would like to watering.  With this in mind, I set out to find some inexpensive watering solutions to beat this 100+ degree weather.

I’ve been using soaker hoses for a few years now and I really like the deep watering action you get from them. If you aren’t familiar with soaker hoses, they are nothing more than a special hose that weeps/drips water throughout it’s length.  They come in various lengths with the 25 and 50 foot being the most popular. They can also be linked together to form a long run. On the downside however, is the amount of water that is wasted on areas where there are no plants. Also, if you link several together, the last sections do not get much water due to the decreased water pressure.

The solution, get creative! Here’s what you will need:

1. Soaker hose or hoses

2. Standard rubber hose, an old one woks well

3. Water timer.

4. mender/connectors, 3/4″ female for the rubber hose sections and 1/2″ male for soaker hose ends

The first thing you want to do is to layout your soaker hose. For bushes , shrubs and trees I like to coil it at least once around the base to get good water distribution. For perennials and the like, just run it parallel to the base, no need to coil.

Once you have it laid out, time to get some scissors. We will be cutting out the sections of the soaker hose that are not watering anything. Next we, we cut a regular rubber hose section the same length as you cut the soaker hose. We will use this to replace the section we cut so that the soaker does not soak areas we don’t need.

Finally, using our hose mender/connector, we install these on the four ends so we can connect it all up. Install your water timer, be sure to get a decent one because we don’t want water leaking at the faucet. Also use teflon tape for added leak protection.  Now it’s just a matter of connecting your regular garden hose up to our improvised soaker hose and voila, instant automated watering system!

Growing Sarracenia Carnivorous Pitcher Plants Easily in an A/C Bog

This Article is all about growing Sarracenia Carnivorous Pitcher Plants the easy way in Zones 6,7 and 8. If you know anything about temperate pitcher plants, then you know they require constant moisture.  Constant moisture is no problem, surely they can be watered every day right? Right, but you probably also know the kicker, they require pure water with low dissolved solids. This pretty much rules out most people’s tap water because guess what? Tap water is NOT low in dissolved solids.  Whether you know what total dissolved solids is or not is not important. What is important is that Serracenia require water with less than 100 particles per million (ppm).  Most tap water is between 150 and 300 depending where you live. Sure, there are some lucky few whose water is less than the prescribed 100 ppm. If that’s you, congrats!

So how do you grow these wonderful plants if you’re in the unlucky majority with “bad” water?  The answer, right next to your Air Conditioner!  Surely you’ve seen the water overflow spout on your air conditioner.  Guess what? This water is EXTREMELY pure. So pure in fact that its close to 0 ppm in dissolved solids! That’s right, that AC water is 100x+ purer than your tap water. That’s because that run off water is water vapor in the air that’s collected and condensed into liquid water by your AC.   Water vapor has no dissolved solids by nature, this condensation water run off provided by your AC is the perfect water source for your Sarracenia!  As you know, the hotter it gets out the more your AC runs which in turn the more water it makes resulting in more water for your Sarracenia!

Not that you know why your AC is such a great water source for your Sarracenia Pitcher plant it’s time to make us an AC bog. An AC bog is nothing more than a bog near your AC.  The only requirement for an AC bog is that your AC be located in full sun.  If so, congratulations, you have a fully automated bog to grow your Pitcher Plants in.

Bog Building Materials

Building the bog is easy, first you need a few materials

1.Pond liner. This can be found in the pond section of your local Home Depot or Lowes.

2. Next, we need some peat moss. Be aware that we need UNFERTILIZED peat moss, sorry Miracle Grow peat moss will NOT work! I say again, DO NOT USE Miracle Grow or any other fertilized peat moss.  Carnivorous plants need to be grown in nutrient free media so we need plain old peat moss.

3. Peat Moss makes the perfect moisture retention media, too perfect perhaps which is why we need to mix it with something that will let it drain of excessive water. We want a moist bog, not a pond!  There are a few choices for this, the best is Perlite, again UNFERTILIZED perlite. Sand  is the next best option and is easy to find, paver sand or play sand found at Home Depot or Lowes will work well. You could also use pea gravel or the like but I don’t like to use it because it tends to settle to the bottom after a period of time. Lava rocks could also work but they may be a little too big.  You can try other things so long as it is something that is nutrient free and won’t break down to provide said nutrients, this means no wood mulch or anything like that.

4. Finally, we need some sand, if you’re using something other than sand to mix with your peat, you will need sand anyhow.

Building the Bog

Now for the fun part, building the bog.  We need to locate it such that we can channel the run off condensed water to it.  Only requirement here is that your selected area get a minimum 6-8 hrs of sun. With our area selected it’s time to set the bog up!

1. Dig your selected area. You don’t want a huge area such that the AC can’t provide enough water.  My bog is relatively small, about 3′x2′ and in the summer it overflows  so you could probably go twice that safely. Dig to about 6″-8″ deep.  Sarracenia have rather small roots since they are only used to absorb moisture and anchor the plant so we don’t need a very deep bog.

2. Once you’ve excavated, it’s time to line our hole with pond liner.  This will keep our bog moist and prevent it from being contaminated with soil which of course contains nutrients which we don’t want. You will want a 3″-4″  lip along the perimeter of the hole. You can then hide it with decorative stones , rocks,  concrete pavers, etc.

4. Once you have your liner down, it’s time to make some slits at the bottom. Make several going full length and width of your bog.  You don’t want to shred it completely though.  We need the slits to drain excess water.

5. Now we lay about an inch of sand at the bottom of our bog to cover the slits. This will act as a filter of sorts and prevent soil from contaminating our bog.

6.  Next, it’s time to make our peat mos and whatever else you are using (sand, perlite, etc) mixture.  A 50/50 peat to sand or perlite works well. If you are using gravel or something much coarser you will want much more peat than gravel. Use your judgement but remember that we need plenty of peat to keep the bog moist.

7. With your mixture all set, we now want to get it thoroughly moist.  Dry peat much harder to get fully moist than you might think. You may want to let it steep for some time.  Another trick that works is kneading the mixture as you add water.  Basically, we want the peat to be fully moist.

8. Add your peat wet mixture into the pond lined hole.

9. Plant your Pitcher plants.

10. Finally, channel your AC water into the bog.   No need to get fancy here. Remember to use something that won’t restrict the water flow because we don’t want to back up our AC. I used a piece of channel iron found at home depot. I covered it with pond liner as to not get rust into the bog.  An oversized hose or pvc pipe will also work well. Be sure to angle it so that water can flow freely. Again, we don’t want our AC to back up or our bog to not get enough water.

And there you have it! A  self sustaining self watering bog that will keep our Pitcher plants watered even on the hottest of days.

Maintenance

Since for the most part our bog will be self watered, there will be little maintenance required on your part.  All you need to do is check up on it from time to time to be sure water is running free and that your AC drain is not clogged.  You also want to check that your  channel that carries the water to the bog has not been  knocked out of place by critters or what have you. Finally, you will need to provide water manually during rain free periods where it’s not hot enough to use your AC. This means in the Spring and Fall, pitcher plants will tolerate tap water fine for a period of time.  For winter, be sure to mulch your bog with pine needles once it starts getting in to the 20′s or lower at night.  Unless you have a super dry winter, there will be no need for winter watering as the cold wet conditions will maintain the bog moist throughout the winter. Finally, you will need to replace your peat mixture about every 3 years. You will its time to replace when the peat does not stay moist very long during those periods of manual watering.

Conclusion

So there you have it,  your very own perfect little bog for growing Pitcher plants and other temperate carnivorous plants like venus fly traps.  I have been growing 3 different species of pitchers this way for well over 4 years and they thrive in the AC bog. In fact all were quite small with only a couple of pitchers when planted and now they make tons of pitchers and flower every spring.  Please leave any questions in the comments section..

Elephant Ear Colocasia Planting Tips for Survival in Zone 7

Zone 7 Black Magic

Zone 7 Black Magic

Elephant ears (Colocasia) are wonderful perennials but many are marginal her in Zone 7. With some careful planting, you can prevent the dreaded winter rot that occurs when planting.  The first thing to keep in mind is to select the type that can survive here in Zone 7 because they don’t all make it here. Even the marginal variety can rot mid way through winter if not planted in the proper place. The Black Magic Colocasia are a great example of such variety.

Other than selecting the proper variety, the most important thing for success is to select the planting location.  The ideal planting location for assured survival is next to structures, side walks, driveways,  concrete patios, etc.  Such structures are a source of warmth that  help keep the soil from freezing thus preventing the cold wet rotting conditions.  Planting in a wide open area without this source of warmth is a sure fire way for your Elephant Ear bulbs to turn to mush.

Elephant Ear Bulb Climp

Elephant Ear Bulb Climp

The next key, is to plant them at the correct depth.  Planting them under a minimum depth of about 4″-6″  will help greatly in preventing rot.  One thing you will discover is that these bulbs multiply rapidly! New bulbs will grow attached to the original and become larger in time.   These new offsets begin to push up and after a while, some will start growing on the soil surface and become susceptible to rot.  At that point, you want to dig up the clump and break some of the offsets off to prevent rotting.  This is a great way to make more or to store for insurance in case your main planting doesn’t make.  You can a rather large clump even after just 1 growing season!  The clump you see here got this size from a single bulb in just 1 growing season. There are at least 5-6 offsets here that you can break off to create new plantings.

The correct soil type is also important.  In the summer, they like lots of moisture but in the winter, excess moisture is what’s sure to doom your bulbs. With this in mind, you want something that will retain moisture yet not be soggy.   I’ve had good success with a mix of the inexpensive Evergreen garden soil from Home Depot/Lowes along with our native clay soil. You can also add some pea gravel or sand to aid in draining though that’s not absolutely necessary.  Selecting an area that doesn’t collect a lot of water goes along way here, so this one kind of goes along with placement.

Finally, you want to mulch well in the fall after the top growth has died which is usually after  a frost or two.  Do not use leaves for mulch! They get too wet and will surely rot your bulbs. Pine needles work well. I’ve also had great luck with pine bark. The key here is to provide insulation without excess moisture.  A couple of inches is more than enough here in Zone 7.

That’s it, with these few simple tips you can successfully grow marginal Elephant Ears here in zone 7 for many years!

How to Plant and Grow Dahlias in Zone 7

Unique Dahlia Zone 7

Unique Dahlia Zone 7

If you’re reading this, it’s because you want to grow Dahlias right? Good news, because they are extremely easy to grow! The first thing you need to know about Dahlias in Zone 7 is that they are not hardy here. If you want to grow them, then they will be grown as annuals if left in the ground. If you’re ok with that, keep reading.

It’s best to plant Dahlias once all danger of cold wet weather is out of the way. Wet weather is ok, just not cold and wet. This means planting in May for zone 7.

If you’re like me, however, you don’t want to grow them as annuals because you want to grow them again the following year. For that, you must dig them out of the ground after the first frost or two. Basically, when the plant looks like cooked cabbage is a good time.

If you know nothing else about Dahlias, know that the tubers rot extremely easy. In fact, they can rot in mid summer heat if you have them in a spot that remains moist. So rule number 1 is, don’t plant in soggy soil! I repeat, don’t plant in soggy soil! You may get a stem and even a flower or two but your tuber will rot even in the summer. Now that you know where not to plant, do plant in a fairly rich soil in full to half sun for best blooms. Planting in May will yield flowers around July or so. They will continue to flower up until the first frost. You may be thinking what if you leave them out to overwinter under a nice layer of mulch. To that I say, don’t even bother. They will rot for sure! The tubers do not like to be under constant moisture doubly so in the winter. So, if you want to regrow the following year and believe me, you will, then you must dig them up for safe keeping.

Now that you have your Dahlias all dug up, next comes storage. Before you store them, however, you need to let them dry for a period of time, perhaps 2 weeks. After that, put them in a container with some sort of drying compound like saw dust or peat moss to protect from rot. Store in a cool dry place to be ready for the following spring planting.

So there you have it, now you have no excuse to not grow these beautiful flowers!

How to Grow Dragon Arums AKA Dracunculus Vulgaris

Dragon Arum in Full Bloom

Dragon Arum in Full Bloom

Dragon Arums are one of those plants that make you say, “wow, that is beautiful but there’s no way I can grow that!”.  I am here to tell you that Yes you can!  When in bloom, these things are simply amazing! They look like something straight out of an exotic botanical garden.  So now for the million dollar question, how the heck do you grow these things? Surely they need tons of special care and/or growing techniques right? The answer is absolutely not! The two images you see here is the one growing in my yard purchased from Direct Gardening.

Patience is Key

The key to growing Dragon Arums is patience, patience and more patience.  The first think you should know is that these like many bulbs,  have a short growing season. They grow for about 2-3 months out of the year  and flower for only about a week. So the first thing note is that this will be more of an oddity in your garden , be it a beautiful one.   This is where patience comes into play, given their short growth cycles, don’t expect to plant this in the fall and have it flower in the spring because chances are it ain’t goan happen, unless you are very lucky!  These bulbs need a lot of energy to produce their magnificent flower. What happens when you plant is that they can take up to TWO growing seasons to recover before producing their first flower or foliage for that matter. So if for example you plant in the fall, don’t expect to see anything the first spring. You might even think they are long dead because chances are you won’t even get any foliage the first go round.  So it’s best to set it and forget it . Now don’t completely forget about them so that you end up planting over them because you will be rewarded with growth their second spring.

Their growing season begins in late winter here in Zone 7. You will first notice the stalk growing in  late February early March.  You may have even forgotten all about it so don’t mistake it for a weed! The stalk then proceeds to grow for about 1 to 1.5 months when it then starts to produce a very distinctive growth from the base. This will become the wonderful flower you’ve been waiting for.  The bloom takes about a month or so to become fully developed.  By mid May, the flower begins to open up. After a couple of days,  the glorious flower you’ve been waiting for is ready!    Now you don’t want to be away on vacation or anything when this happens because the flower will only be around for a week or so.  That’s what happened to me its first growing season, so in my case it took almost 3 years from planting until I first saw my first Dragon Arum flower in full glory!  Remember, patience is key here.

Dragon Arum Flower Up Close

Dragon Arum Flower Up Close

How to Plant

Purchase these from Direct Gardening or the like. Don’t expect to find these bulbs at Home Depot. Now that you know what to expect, here is how you plant them. First, they will need a partial shade spot. They will grow in full sun but you may not get a flower because the foliage will not last long in full sun.  Second, the hole needs to be deep, much deeper than a regular bulb.  They will require a 6″-8″  hole with maybe the same in diameter as the bulb is larger side.   Another thing to note is that they will be difficult to transplant once established. The bulb seems to burrow deeper and you may have a hard time digging deep enough to get it out so pick your spot wisely.  Much is made about the rotting flesh odor though you really need to get up close to smell it so it should not be a concern planting by a door. Their odor is strongest for only about 1 or 2 days anyhow.

They don’t seem to be particular about soil, an average soil will work fine. Add a bit of nice garden soil to the hole in full clay situations.    The bulb looks like a round fat disc so you may have a hard time identifying which way is down on the bulb.  This will be the flat smooth side. The top of the bulb will not be as smooth. If in doubt, plant sideways.  Cover the bulb, again, you may want to amend a little with good soil.  Now comes the hard part, wait and wait and wait!

Growth Habit

This bulb has strictly vertical growth. The stalk grows straight up and spreads out a bit though not much. The flower emerges from the base of the plant once the stalk gets to about 2 feet. The flower may add another 6″ to 12″ of height for a total of maybe 3 feet. After a few growing seasons you may get offshoots. These are not invasive in anyway.

Planting Care

Once growing, these will require no care on your part.  Just wait and watch the amazing showing every spring. You can water them along with neighboring plants  or none at all. Since they grow in the spring,  mother nature will probably provide all the water they need.  The stalk will persist for another few weeks after the bloom fades.  It will proceed to die back to the ground once summer comes along at which time you can forget about it until the following spring.

Hardiness Zones: 6-8
Sun exposure: Part Shade
Height: 24?-36?
Width: 12″
Bloom time: Late Spring
Bloom Color: Burgundy/Black
Foliage Color: Attractive, tropical looking. Attractive tiger stripped stalk.
Watering: Average to None, let mother nature provide.
Soil: Average
Availability: Direct Gardening