Archive for the organic gardening Category

2017 Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS)

Posted in flower show, green gardening, How to, my garden, organic gardening, product review, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2017 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

 

img_2272A beautifully designed display decorating the MANTS booth of one of my wholesale suppliers.

Last week Michael and I attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery and Trade Show (MANTS) at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.  MANTS is a yearly event in early January with over 960 exhibiting companies covering 300,000 square feet (seven acres) of the convention center and hosting 11,000 attendees.  We go to MANTS not only to get ideas about new products and plants for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, but also to discover potential new suppliers and renew acquaintances with existing suppliers.  I thought you might enjoy a quick peak at what goes on at a trade show of this size.

Nursery News:  The 2017 Winter Interest Plant Catalogue has been emailed to all local customers.  Please email me at carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net if you would like me to send it to you.  For announcements of spring 2017 events, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Let us know if you are local or mail order only and if you are particularly interested in snowdrops and/or miniature hostas so we can put you on the right email list.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

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Helleborus x 'Molly's White'I am very excited about this new hellebore that Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be selling in 2017.  It is called ‘Molly’s White’ and is a sister plant to the best-selling ‘Penny’s Pink’.  I already have it in my garden, and it’s doing quite well.  My ‘Penny’s Pink’ plants have lots of buds showing right now.  to read more about this newer type of hellebore, click here.

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img_2262There are many beautifully displayed plant exhibits at MANTS like the one above featuring an edgeworthia, camellias, and hellebores. It is difficult with the odd lighting to get a good photo though.

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img_2264If you start flowers and vegetables from seed, you can’t go wrong with Hart Seed Company, a 100-year-old, family owned and operated business, specializing in untreated and non-GE (genetically engineered) seed.  They support independent, local nurseries by refusing to sell to big box and discount stores.

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img_2270Colonial Road, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, makes very comfortable, recycled plastic Adirondack chairs that come close to looking like the high maintenance wood version (at least if you buy it in the white shown in the poster instead of the kaleidoscope of colors displayed here).  I loved my wooden Adirondack chairs but was constantly replacing rotted slats, and have you ever tried to paint one?  Let me know if you are interested in seeing mine or buying any as Carolyn’s Shade Gardens can get them for you.

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img_2280It is tempting to turn to harmful chemicals when confronted by the possibility of Lyme disease or Zika virus.  Thankfully you don’t need to.  Here’s Mark Wilson, President of Natural Repellents LLC, holding his ground-breaking product Tick Killz, a natural insecticide made from 100% organic ingredients and safe for children, pets, beneficial insects, and the environment.  It controls deer and other ticks, mosquitos, fleas, mites, and aphids, among other insects.  If you spray your property, this may be the product for you, 1 oz. makes 5 gallons.

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img_2268I wouldn’t consider using anything but organic potting soil and mulch to grow vegetables for my family (and even in my perennial gardens).  Coast of Maine makes 100% organic products using predominantly lobster and crab shells mixed with seaweed and blueberry bush trimmings.  I have used their potting soil for containers at my family’s house in Maine with great results.   Their website has a store locator to help you find local nurseries carrying their products, click here, and Whole Foods carries them.

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img_2279Unlike most nurseries, I mix my own potting soil using compost with ProMix added to lighten it.  ProMix has a high proportion of sphagnum/peat moss, which cannot be sustainably harvested.  Ground coconut hulls or coir is a sustainable product, and the condensed block above, which yields this wheelbarrow-full when water is added, reduces transportation and storage costs.  However, the product is made in Sri Lanka so I am not sure where I come out.

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img_2284The folks from Jolly Gardener have just introduced a new line of organic soils and mixes.  I always want to support companies who decide to take the organic route!

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50601438057__5a52bfc7-9c6c-4098-ad06-d5e92ecab530Given the trend towards legalization and what a big business this is becoming, I was surprised there wasn’t more marketing to this specialized segment of the green industry.

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img_2278Another fun aspect of MANTS is seeing the lengths exhibitors go to attract attendees to their booths.  This tree touched the roof of the convention center, and the holly and evergreen next to it are huge too.
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img_2273Michael standing next to the biggest tree spade I have ever seen.
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img_2281Amazing boxwoods
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downtown-baltimore-1-12-2017-5-28-05-pmBaltimore is a fun city to visit.  We had a delicious dinner at Woodberry Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant located in a charming re-purposed factory.
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Fort McHenry, BaltimoreWe visited Fort McHenry, a late 18th century, star-shaped fort guarding the entrance to Baltimore Harbor.   Francis Scott Key composed “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814 about the flag flying at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore against the British in the War of 1812.
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orpheus-statue-fort-mchenry-1-12-2017-2-51-48-pmOn the grounds of Fort McHenry, you will find this somewhat startling 24 foot statue of the Greek mythological figure Orpheus on a 15 foot tall base and clothed in nothing but a fig leaf.  It was commissioned in 1914 to commemorate Francis Scott Key for the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore even though “The Star-Spangled Banner” did not become our national anthem until 1931.  Click here to read the rather humorous background of the statue.

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Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are mail order only.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Strike a Blow for the Environment in your own Yard

Posted in garden essay, green gardening, groundcover, landscape design, my garden, native plants, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2016 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Senecio aureus

Golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, is the best native plant for ground cover.

I write a lot about the things we do at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens to support the environment: gardening organically without herbicides and chemical fertilizers, doing little supplemental watering, composting, mulching with ground leaves, getting rid of our lawn, landscaping with large quantities of native plants, and promoting natives at the nursery.

Nursery News:  You are welcome to shop at the nursery any time by appointment.  The 2016 Mini Hosta Catalogue is now on line here, and we are taking orders.  Our third open house sale, featuring hostas, miniature hostas, ferns, and hardy geraniums, will be held on Saturday, May 7, from 10 am to 3 pm.  Customers on my email list will get a detailed email.   For announcements of spring 2016 events, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Let us know if you are local or mail order only and if you are particularly interested in snowdrops or miniature hostas so we can put you on the right email list.

Carolyn's Shade Gardens Woodland

Our native white-flowered redbud surrounded by native plants.

You can read more about these practices in these posts among others: 

Your Native Woodland: If You Build it They Will Come, how to create your own woodland filled with native plants

My Thanksgiving Oak Forest, the importance of native plants to our survival

Your Most Precious Garden Resource, step-by-step guide to mulching with ground leaves 

Letting Go Part 1: The Lawn, the dangers of lawn chemicals to ourselves and the environment 

Do You Know Where Your Mulch Comes From?, toxic substances in shredded hardwood mulch

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Carolyn's Shade Gardens woodland

Our woodland in April with Virginia bluebells, wild ginger, golden groundsel, and mayapples—all native.

My guide to creating a native woodland has been especially popular.  However, most gardeners don’t have vast areas of woods to convert to native plants but still want to make a difference.  And I am sure that most people realize that planting three milkweed plants, though admirable and to be encouraged, is not going to save the monarch butterflies.  So what can you do? 

.Viola striata

Native white violets, Viola striata, used in quantity as an edging along the front of a border.  The violets spread rapidly by seed, filling in empty areas and preventing weeds.

One solution is to find ways to include large quantities—a critical mass—of native plants in your garden, no matter what size.  You can accomplish this by replacing non-native ground covers like pachysandra, vinca, ivy, euonymus, and turf grass with native ground cover plants.  It is easy to do and you can start small by using spreading native plants like the violets above as edging for your existing beds.  Soon you will be eliminating whole swathes of your lawn!  Here are some more ideas of plants to use:

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Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'
Native ‘Purple Beauty’ moss phlox, P. subulata, used as an edging.
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Phlox subulata 'Emerald Blue'

This patch of native ‘Emerald Blue’ moss phlox has been in place for at least a decade and requires no maintenance at all.  It is evergreen so is present year round like pachysandra but provides you with beautiful flowers and the native insects with food.  Its mat-like habit excludes all weeds.

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Phlox subulata 'Nice 'n White'

Native ‘Nice ‘n White’ moss phlox used to replace non-native vinca, which you can see behind it.  This location is quite shady and the moss phlox thrives.  All it needs is good drainage.

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Phlox subulata 'Nice 'n White'

Our original planting of native ‘Nice ‘n White’ moss phlox is filling in to create a solid blanket while we continue to move down the hill adding new plants.

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Iris cristata 'Tennessee White'

Native ‘Tennessee White’ dwarf crested iris, Iris cristata, used to edge our raised beds.  I expect these clumps to double in size by next spring.

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Senecio aureus

Native golden groundsel, Senecio aureus, the yellow flower in the photo above and the first photo, makes the best ground cover of any native plant.  It spreads aggressively and is evergreen and mat-forming like pachysandra but also produces beautiful, fragrant flowers suitable for cutting.  Like pachysandra it is too aggressive to be mixed with other plants, but unlike the pachysandra in our area it is not subject to alfalfa mosaic virus.

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Chrysognum virginianum 4-26-2016 11-47-39 AM

Native goldenstar, Chrysogonum virginianum, is another creeping plant that makes a good edger.

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Chrysognum virginianum 4-26-2016 11-47-51 AM

Because the goldenstar was working so well at the edge, we decided to replace a whole section of our lawn with it.

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Phlox stolonifera 'Sherwood Purple'

Two years ago we replaced another section of our lawn with native ‘Sherwood Purple’ creeping phlox, P. stolonifera.  This phlox grows in part to full shade and forms a flat, weed-choking mat that stays green all winter.

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Aster cordifolius

Native blue wood aster, Aster cordifolius, replaced another section of lawn at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens that surrounded a gigantic black walnut.

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Aster cordifolius

Native blue wood aster blooms in the fall and grows in part to full shade.

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Doug Tallamy explains in his amazing book Bringing Nature Home* that we can make a difference for the environment and the plants and animals (including us) which are struggling to survive there, by planting native plants in our suburban gardens.  I hope I have given you some good ideas for accomplishing this laudable goal.

*Profiled in my blog post My Thanksgiving Oak Forest.

Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Camden (Maine) Garden Tour 2014: Part 2

Posted in garden to visit, Garden Tour, landscape design, Maine, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen at the beginning of September.  If you would like to receive emails notifying you of events and sales, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Sales of miniature hostas described in the 2014 Miniature Hosta Catalogue are also suspended until the fall, click here for details.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-44-14 AMThe Avena Botanicals apothecary and shop

This post is the second in a series of posts on the Camden House and Garden Tour put on annually in July by the Camden Garden Club.  To read the first post, click here.  This year’s tour was the 67th annual event, quite an impressive history.  Next year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the garden club.  To honor the occasion, the tour will feature “the most-loved homes and gardens from our annual tour dating all the way back to 1948….[including] grand summer ‘cottages’ and gardens, so iconic to the Maine coast.”   It will take place on July 16, 2015, and I hope to be there!

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-28-53 AMThe Avena apothecary and barn

The second garden that we visited on the tour was also in Rockport in an area of fields and farms.  However, this property is a working farm used to produce the natural remedies and body-care products sold by Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary. Avena is a 32 acre certified biodynamic farm of which three acres are intensively planted with over 175 varieties of medicinal herbs.  It was begun in 1985 by herbalist and author Deb Soule and moved to its current picturesque site in 1995.  Over 100 hand-crafted products, sold there and by mail order, are produced on site almost exclusively from plants grown on the farm. 

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-29-23 AM.

Although not a typical garden tour garden, Avena’s working farm is planted with design as well as practicality in mind.  It was a wonderful change to wander through the peaceful and relaxing areas surrounding the farmhouse and see all the well-labeled medicinal plants covered with butterflies, honeybees, and native insects.  The apothecary shop and gardens are open to the public weekdays from May through September, 12 to 5 pm.  If you are traveling in the Camden area, Avena is well worth a stop.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-37-49 AMAvena founder Deb Soule and her mother greet garden tour participants.

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Verbascum olypicum, Greek mulleinThe flowers and seeds of Greek mullein are used medicinally, but it also makes quite a striking addition to the garden.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-59-14 AMMexican sunflower

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-23-01 AMThis circular garden surrounded by a gravel path is filled with many kinds of thyme and lavender.

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Camden Garden tour Avena 7-17-2014 11-22-49 AM.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen in early September.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Row Your Way To Color Revisited Again

Posted in annuals, annuals, container gardening, container gardening, containers for shade, How to, landscape design, organic gardening, product review, shade annuals, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen at the beginning of September.  If you would like to receive emails notifying you of events and sales, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Sales of miniature hostas described in the 2014 Miniature Hosta Catalogue are also suspended until the fall, click here for details.

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DSCN4634The dinghy planting this year is a disappointment.

Those of you who follow my blog may remember the posts that I wrote in 2013 and 2012 on the creative use of annuals in a dinghy (small rowboat) at a Maine marina.  You can find those posts here and here.  I used the dinghy planting as an example of how the imaginative and thoughtful use of annuals can produce an elegant and striking result.  Unfortunately, the planting this year is not up to the former standards.  Normally I wouldn’t feature it, but I thought it might be illuminating to think about what went wrong.

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Handy Boat dinghyThe dinghy planting in 2012 was gorgeous.

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Handy Boat dinghy 32013 was not quite as sophisticated but made up for this with its exuberance.

When comparing the three plantings the first thing you notice is that the colors for 2014 are too subtle.  I love chartreuse and purple, but in a container planting you need some plants that cause passers by to stop and look.  But the bigger problem is that there are not enough plants.  As I pointed out before, containers generally last for one season only and need to be filled to bursting from the beginning.  There is no time to let them fill in as you would with perennial plantings in the ground.

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Handy Boat dinghy 22013 packed with plants

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Handy Boat Dinghy 12012

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DSCN4630This year’s planting shows a lot of bare soil.  The photos for all three years were taken in early July.

Another mistake the designer made was to ignore the classic filler-spiller-thriller formula of planting containers.  The heucherella flowers in the back just don’t provide the necessary height that you need, especially in a container this big, and will be done flowering shortly.  The sedum, coleus, and plectranthus (I think that what it is) will not fill in the middle, and the fibre optic grass and the two sweet potato vines are not spilling over the side enough.

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DSCN4633 A close up of 2014.

Despite my negative comments, as you can see from the photo above, the habit and colors of the plants go well together.  They would look great crammed into a smaller container situated for close up viewing.  I also always encourage the use of perennials in containers, like the sedum and heucherella here.  In late fall, you can transfer them into the ground and enjoy them in your perennial garden for years to come. 

Looking closely at this dinghy planting in good years and bad has given me a lot of ideas about my own containers.  In fact, I had never seen fibre optic grass and purchased some for my window boxes.  I hope you too will find inspiration for your own containers.

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the summer and will reopen in early September.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Do You Know Where Your Mulch Comes From?

Posted in green gardening, How to, landscape design, organic gardening, product review, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News:  Your final chance to shop at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be during our open hours on Friday, June 13, and Saturday, June 14, from 10 am to 2 pm.   We close on June 15 and reopen around September 15.  To get all the details, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Our 2014 Miniature Hosta Catalogue is on line, click here.  Our last shipment of the spring will be mailed June 23, and we must receive your check before we ship.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-13-29 PMA pile of freshly ground mulch, but what’s in it?

My friend and longtime customer Caroline Moriuchi invited me for a guided tour of her family’s mulch production operation, M&M Mulch in Moorestown, NJ.  I jumped at the chance because I always wondered how mulch was made.  What I learned from my trip plus subsequent research is that if you don’t know what your mulch is made from, you should.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-07-43 PMAs you can see in this photo, M&M Mulch accepts only wood chips and brush for grinding into their high quality mulch.

M&M Mulch, which is run by Caroline’s son Seiji with the help of his father and brother, has a company policy of using only wood chips from tree services and brush from landscapers for grinding into mulch.  They will not use wooden pallets, scrap lumber, or parts of demolished buildings to produce mulch, although this is common practice in their business.  For this reason, they do not produce red-dyed mulch because it can only be made from processed lumber like pallets.  I am going to show you the Moriuchi’s mulching operation, but first I want to outline some of the dangers from pallets.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-36-19 PMMulch being ground at M&M Mulch

You should do your own research, but, after reading many articles, I would never use commercially produced mulch without knowing what it was made of.  The best article on the subject is in Natural Life Magazine, to read it click here

Basically, a lot of mulch is made from recycled shipping pallets.  If you drive down Interstate 95, you can see the huge pile of pallets waiting to be ground into mulch near Wilmington, DE.  A high percentage of pallets are contaminated with bacteria, including e coli and listeria, from the food transported on them and from improper storage.  They are often made from “engineered wood” which is treated with formaldehyde.  The pallets themselves are often treated with dangerous chemicals, although this is being phased out.  If they come in from abroad, they are fumigated with toxic fungicides and pesticides, and toxic substances often spill on pallets during transportation.  Wood scraps and demolished buildings pose similar dangers from toxic applications like lead paint and pressure treated wood. 

Now we get to the fun part, how mulch is made:

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-03-23 PMThe mulch production process starts with this very big machine, the grinder.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-04-43 PMThe grinder is moved around the production yard using this remote control.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-26 PM  A front end loader is a crucial piece of equipment.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-34 PM The loader scoops up the wood chips and brush from the giant piles waiting to be ground.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-35-54 PMThe raw material is deposited into a hopper on the grinder.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-06-46 PMConveyor belts inside the grinder feed the grinding teeth.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-37-13 PMThe grinder produces a giant pile of mulch, but the process isn’t over because most consumers demand that their mulch be dyed.  I am not sure how this process started or why dark black mulch is considered more attractive than natural brown.  I personally think black-dyed mulch is hideous.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-16-29 PMThe dyeing machine

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-24-42 PMThese paddles mix the ground wood with carbon black to make it black or iron oxide to make it brown.  M&M does not produce red-dyed mulch because it can only be made from pallets.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-22-27 PMBlack-dyed mulch emerges from the dyeing machine.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-22-54 PMBlack-dyed mulch on the right, brown-dyed on the left.

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Moriuchi compost 5-25-2014 5-23-41 PMBrown-dyed mulch on the right, un-dyed mulch in front and on the left.  I think gardeners should question why they need dyed mulch.

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Thanks so much to the Moriuchis, especially Seiji who answered all my questions, for the fascinating tour.  If you live near Moorestown, New Jersey, you are very lucky to have a safe source of mulch nearby produced by the fourth generation family farmers at M&M Mulch, 400 Hartford Rd, 856-234-2394.  They deliver free to the Moorestown area and for a fee to other parts of New Jersey.  Who knows maybe they can be enticed to cross the river to Pennsylvania!

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: The 2014 Miniature Hosta Availability for mail order and pick up at the nursery is here.   Your final chance to shop at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be during our open hours on Friday, June 13, and Saturday, June 14, from 10 am to 2 pm.  We close on June 15 and reopen around September 15.  You can sign up to receive notification emails by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Your Most Precious Garden Resource

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, green gardening, How to, organic gardening, sustainable living with tags , , , , on October 25, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Yes, the sky is really this blue and the trees are really this red during fall in the northeastern US.

Fall in Pennsylvania (mid-Atlantic US) is a big picture time of year.  For a good two months, everywhere you go there are gorgeous vistas like the one above as the leaves change color before dropping.  The show is long-lasting because the leaves turn at different times, starting in my garden with the American hornbeam’s golden yellow hue, progressing through the bright red tones of maples and native dogwoods, and ending with the burgundy and orange of hydrangeas and viburnums.


The soil is deep and very fertile in my area, allowing trees to grow to gigantic size.  And after the color show, the leaves fall and create what I consider my most precious garden resource.  Those leaves are what nature supplies for free to protect and improve the soil year after year.  That is why it is so disturbing to see many area residents collecting their leaves and putting them by the side of the road to be removed by their municipality.


Here at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens we use every leaf that falls to improve our soil either by leaving them in the beds or by grinding them and using them as mulch.  A detailed description of our methods can be found in Shade Gardening in Fall: Fall Clean-up.  In addition, up to 18″ of leaves can be ground up and left on the lawn with beneficial results as described in Shade Gardening in Fall: Leaves on the Lawn.  There is a video by the Scott Lawn Care Company in the second post to show to your doubting spouse.

In early October, about 35 Carolyn’s Shade Gardens customers attended two Low Maintenance Gardening Seminars given by my husband Michael during which he demonstrated how to grind leaves for mulch.  For the benefit of my far flung readers  and in the hope of converting more gardeners to this practice, I thought I would show you step-by-step photographs of the process.  Michael is the reluctant star of the do-it-yourself guide below.

Step One:  Gather the leaves from an area where they can’t be left to decompose on their own.  Michael is removing leaves from the pine needle paths on our back hill using a tarp.  All leaves in the beds will remain in place as mulch and eventually compost.

Step Two:  Take the leaves to a level area like your lawn or driveway.  Our driveway is closest to the back hill so Michael took the leaves there for grinding.

As you can see in the photo, we use a standard lawnmower to grind our leaves.  We recommend wearing steel-toed footwear, ear protection (see photo below), and, if appropriate, eye protection when using a lawnmower.


Step Three:  Grind the leaves to the required consistency.  Michael usually goes over them twice, but you can make them as fine or as coarse as you want.


A large amount of leaves becomes a manageable pile after grinding.


Step Four:  Gather your free mulch into a container for easy transportation and application.  Michael is using a township recycling barrel.



Step Five:  Spread the mulch in your garden.  Here Michael uses it around the base of newly planted viburnums.

I hope I have made this process look as easy as it really is.  Once you try it and see the beneficial results for your soil, you too will be a convert.

Carolyn

 

Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

 

Havahart® This Holiday Season

Posted in How to, organic gardening, product review, sustainable living with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The woodchuck we caught was a lot cuter than I expected.  He looked and acted like he was trying out for a part in Wind in the Willows.

Last spring Havahart®, the manufacturer of live animal traps, contacted me regarding a potential product review.  Their representative expressed an interest in having a review appear on my blog because I advocate gardening  organically.  He thought my customers would be interested in their humane traps and other products.  Havahart® would send me any of their products for free, and I could try it out and say anything I wanted about it.


Never one to go half way, my husband baited the trap with a whole cabbage.

We had previously used small Havahart® traps to catch and release chipmunks, which were tearing down our 10 foot stone walls with their tunnels.  We were very pleased with the results, but our current cat has the chipmunk problem well under control.  Now we were being plagued by a woodchuck (AKA groundhog)—the most persistent animal pest I know.  For the review, we chose the Havahart® One-Door Groundhog & Raccoon Trap.

The trap is set with the door open and the cabbage behind the trigger pad.

Our current woodchuck was living under our deck so we placed the trap near his entrance and exit hole.  The trap door is held open by a trigger rod attached to a trigger pad and snaps shut when the woodchuck presses the tilted trigger pad on his way to the bait.  We didn’t have to wait long—two days later a sad little face greeted me when I checked the trap.  I expected a vicious varmint, and what I got was Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.  You will notice that he ate the whole cabbage.

Success occurred immediately.

I felt so sorry for the little guy that we decided an immediate transport and release was necessary.  It was easy to carry the cage to our van and place it on a tarp in the back.  The woodchuck remained passive during this ordeal.

As recommended by Havahart®, we drove to “an isolated location five to ten miles away,” insuring that the woodchuck would not return to our property.  We stopped the car, unloaded the trap, and prepared to release our little friend—that was when the fun began.  The fat little woodchuck sat firmly on the trigger pad preventing the door from being released into the open position.  Even when my husband manually opened the door and held it open, the woodchuck would not leave the trap.

While my husband holds the trap open, the woodchuck resolutely faces the back of the cage refusing to vacate his new found home.  Thanks to my customer, Ben Hayward, for pointing out that my husband should not have had his fingers near the cage opening without wearing protective gloves.  See my reply to Ben’s comment about why the gloves didn’t make the trip.

I wish I had a video of what happened next because it would be hysterical.  Without warning me, my husband picked up the whole trap, tipped it perpendicular to the ground, and shook the woodchuck out right at my feet.  If only I could say that I stood my ground like a brave photographer, risking an angry woodchuck to get THE photo.  But instead I turned and ran for the car as fast as I could, convinced that the woodchuck would climb the nearest upright object, which was me.  I regained my senses just in time to get this photo of the little woodchuck fleeing for the hinterlands.

Overall I think Havahart® traps are very useful for humanely removing unwanted animals from your property.  And upon reading the manual to write this article, it does recommend inserting a stick through the cage to prop the door open.  That would have solved the problem with our unusually passive and docile woodchuck who seemed happy to live in the trap indefinitely as long as we fed him cabbage.  However, I do not think I would want to get my hands that close to the cage (see photos above) with a more aggressive animal inside it.

If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide, discounts available with the proper code.  For details, click here.

Happy Holidays,  Carolyn


Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.


Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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