Monday, July 29, 2013

Rooftop Gardens for the Everyday Gardener

No effort required.

Pluggers at

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Defense of Daylilies

When it comes to daylilies, it seems that you either hate 'em or love 'em.  Okay, so this is one plant that you can both love AND hate, depending on the season.  Honestly, how can you not love the myriad of colors and forms that these easy perennials come in?  When they're in bloom, they can be absolutely breath-taking, complete with fragrances that range from subtle to intoxicating.  Some aren't fragrant at all, but each has something positive to bring to the garden palette.

I've got exactly 50 different daylilies here and I imagine I'll acquire a few more over time.  There are a couple that I'd like to take out for various reasons.  Some have that awful issue of yellowing foliage once they've bloomed and I hate that.  A couple of them aren't that outstanding in color or form and they don't hold up well when it rains, so I think that out they'll go.  With over 60,000 different daylilies out there, I don't need ones that have "issues."

Here are some of the daylilies that have bloomed or are blooming at Our Little Acre:

'Frans Hals'


'Hush Little Baby'

'Toy Cameo'

'Primal Scream'

'Prairie Champ'


'Czar's Treasure'

'Selma Longlegs'

'Flore pleno'

'Buttered Popcorn'

'Siloam Double Classic'


'When I Dream'

'Cherry Chapeau'

'Swirling Water'

'Wild One'

'Cherry Lace'

'El Desperado'

'Big Smile'

'Alabama Jubilee'

And my very own, that I registered and named (and Lana Wolfe hybridized):

'God Winked'

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dramm to the Rescue

Last summer was hellish here in Ohio.  We experienced record-breaking heat with no rain for weeks and it was one of the worst droughts in history for us.  It rivaled the summers of 1934 and 1936 and records from those years were broken.

This is what our yard looked like at the end of June last year.  We don't water our grass, only the gardens.

2012 was actually the fourth summer in a row that we have experienced that lethal combination for gardens of high heat and little rain. The Midwest isn't supposed to be a desert, but it seemed that xeric plants would be the way to go if this was the new normal.

Since a great deal of our gardens depend on a normal level of rainfall to do well, supplemental watering was a must.  With us having an acre of property and with large gardens scattered over the property, good watering equipment is a must.

Several years ago, I reached a level of frustration with our watering products and I was on the search for something better. Our hoses constantly kinked and were springing leaks at various places, at which point Romie would buy couplings and splice parts of the hoses together.  You should have seen our patchwork of hoses.  It was pathetic.

Dramm Oscillating Sprinkler
I was also pretty disgusted with the oscillating sprinklers we'd tried.  None of them had lasted more than a summer or two before breaking.  Wasn't there a company that made a hose that didn't kink or a sprinkler that wouldn't break?  Wasn't there a company that made quality watering products that were affordable to the average homeowner?

That same summer, I attended my first OFA event (trade show for the horticulture industry) in Columbus, Ohio, and I came upon a company that looked like they took garden irrigation seriously.  They did it in style, too. (Read: COLORFUL!)  It was at the very end of the trade portion of the event and I frantically engaged a company representative in a conversation about hoses as they were packing up their display.

The company was Dramm and although I'd heard of them, I wasn't all that familiar with their products.  The representative was kind and indulged me, even though he was probably thinking to himself, "WHY on earth didn't she come by sooner, rather than as we're trying to disassemble our booth?"

I don't remember everything he talked about in regard to their products, but what I do remember was that I could tell just by picking up the various sprinklers that these were in a class by themselves, compared to what we'd been using.  If I could break their metal sprinklers, then I was ready to put on my WonderWoman outfit and wear it down High Street.  (Where I would not likely even garner a glance, but that's another subject.)

I like the hose protectors they make too, which provides
extra protection where the hose attaches to the spigot.
The other thing I've never forgotten was that he told me there is NO hose that is kink-proof.  They can be kink-resistant and that's what Dramm hoses are.  They're made of  high-quality rubber and they don't have memory, meaning when they kink (and yes, they will kink on occasion), they won't continually kink in the same place.  This is important, because with many other hoses, once a kink has occurred, that place has been weakened and it will kink all that much easier in the same place, and this is where eventually the leaks happen.

I've been using Dramm hoses ever since that summer a few years ago, and here are my observations:

  • Because they're made of good quality rubber, they really don't kink as much as any other hose I've ever used.
  • The brass fittings have remained in good shape, which is a small miracle in and of itself, because we have very corrosive sulfur water.  The threaded ends still work smoothly when screwing and unscrewing them.
  • They're heavy.  When you make your hoses out of good quality rubber, they're going to have some heft to them.  But these hoses are made to last. It's a trade-off and I consider the advantages to far outweigh the heaviness of them. 

Now that I had my hose situation settled, it was on to the watering wands and sprinklers.  I've only used the oscillating sprinkler, but wow, what a difference compared to what I'd been using.  It's heavy-duty and we've never had any problems whatsoever with it.

Dramm One Touch Shower and Stream in Berry
What we use mostly are the hand watering tools. I LOVE the new thumb control that's available on many of them.  My favorites are the 16" Sunrise Rain Wand, the Revolver, and the One Touch Shower and Stream.  I could probably get by with any one of them, but I do like the myriad of watering patterns on the Revolver.  You can go from blasting stream to gently shower and everything in between, depending on your needs.

Dramm Revolver

I'm not saying that Dramm makes the only quality watering products, but they've worked very well for me and gone are those frustrations I talked about earlier. And this is just a bonus - they come in a rainbow of colors! My favorite color is red, so all of my Dramm things are red, but they tell me that berry is the most popular.

I know this blog post sounds like an advertisement for Dramm, but I really do love their products, so I thought I'd give them a shout out, as I have done with other products that I've purchased and use because they work so well.

I did have problems with one hand held wand - the Touch and Flow Pro Rain Wand.  The trigger part failed on me with the first one I got and I couldn't turn the water off.  They replaced it free of charge (because their products come with a lifetime warranty), but the second one did the same thing a short time later.  In talking with them, they think it might be because of our corrosive water.  We have hard water with a fair amount of sulfur content and they think that might be corroding the little stopper that controls the water flow, but that's not the official verdict.  I will be taking the second one to them and they'll have a look at it since I had problems with two of the same thing.

I'm required to tell you that Dramm has provided me with my hoses and watering wands at no charge over the last few years, but I love their products so much, they would be my first choice when buying them.  I decided to share my opinion here because maybe you're looking for some good quality watering products, too. You can find them at local independent garden centers and hardware stores, as well as Walmart and several online sources.  You can take a look at all their products here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Outstanding in the Field

This has been the ideal year for growing many things here in Ohio because we've gotten regular rains just when the plants needed them.  I can't remember the last time we had a "normal" year like this and to be honest, I don't think this is normal anymore.  For the last three or four years, we've had hot and dry, hot and dry, and more hot and dry - complete with a bonafide drought last year.

Because of those hot and dry years, and because this year has been a wet one, the corn has been drawing a lot of attention around these parts.  Why?  Because it looks like it's on steroids.  Because it's so dang TALL!

Max's Garden here at Our Little Acre has a field as its backdrop and what is grown in that field varies from year to year.  The crops are rotated as a matter of good farming practice:  beans, wheat, corn - in that order. Beans fix the nitrogen in the soil and the corn that grows there after that takes advantage of it.

There was either a whole lot of nitrogen fixing going on or we've had good, nourishing rains.  Maybe both?  (Anhydrous ammonia helps, too.)  In any case, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye. You could actually stack two of five-feet-four-inch me, top-to-toe, and the top of the tassel would be at my eye level.

I'm not kidding.  It's that tall.  And no one is trying to break any records.  We're just trying to grow corn.

The tassels are washed out by the bright sunlight in this photo, but that's me with a
yardstick on top of my head.  After Romie took this photo, I measured the corn and
it measured more than 10 feet tall!  Last year's corn was lucky if it reached six feet.

I don't know if it will grow any taller, but we're going to watch it and see.  According to the Guiness people, "the tallest sweetcorn (maize) plant measures 10.74 m (35 ft 3 inches) and was grown by Jason Karl of Allegany, NY, USA. It was measured on 22 December 2011."

"Oh What a Beautiful Morning"

*Edited due to repeated comments (published and unpublished) from a reader regarding my earlier version of this blog post implying ambiguity over who holds the world's record for the tallest corn.  I have chosen to simply go with the Guinness report and will not edit again, nor will I publish any more comments regarding the issue of who has grown the tallest corn on record. It was not my intent to stir up trouble.  A lot of people grow some pretty tall corn and my point was that the corn behind our house is taller than any I've ever seen in the 56 years I've lived here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rock 104: Music to Repel Raccoons By

Rock 104 (Ft. Wayne, IN) might not consider this to be a ringing endorsement and maybe it won't turn out the way we're hoping, but we've just got to do something before the raccoons decimate our first sweet corn crop in three years.

All tasseled out and heavy with pollen!
We haven't grown sweet corn for the last few years because it takes a fair amount of room to grow it, if you want a crop of any size. But this year, we planted it over in Neighbor Tim's yard and thanks to wonderful and regular rains, we've got a great stand.  Some of it will be ready in a week or so and I'm already drooling, just thinking about slathering it in butter and salt and making a meal of it.

When Romie informed me that our sweet corn patch had had visitors last night, I knew it meant the raccoons had found it.  So much for my bragging just this week that in all the time we've grown sweet corn here, that we'd never had a serious problem with coons.  A few ears here and there, but no big deal.  Until now.

As cute as they are, I'm not willing to share my sweet corn with the raccoons.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons/D. Gordon E. Robertson

With all the rain, unfortunately, we've let the grass get out of hand in the corn, but that allowed us to see just where the coons had been.  They were fairly picky about what they wanted to snack on and all told, they got about 10 ears on this go-round.  They also knocked over a few stalks that still had intact ears on them, which I uprighted.

He didn't even finish his meal!

What a waste...

So we pondered what to do about it.  There are various methods for keeping raccoons out of the corn, and we decided to put a radio in the middle of the patch, along with a light, and we're blasting Rock 104 all night long. We'll see if our raccoons are headbangers or not.

The radio and a trouble light are both hung from shepherd's hooks in the middle of the corn patch.

Ironically, "Midnight Rider" was playing on the radio when we first turned it on.

Next year, I think we'll invest in an inexpensive electric fence for the corn patch to keep the thieves out. All this corn be OURS!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Finding Time in Columbus, Ohio

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Different Angle on Vertical Gardening

On my recent trip to San Francisco for the Garden Bloggers Fling, I saw a piece of vertical gardening artwork for sale in the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  It was a whole lot out of my price range at $4000, but it gave me an idea for something I could do in my own garden at a fraction of the cost.

Using gutters for gardening isn't new and I've often thought about doing one here.  I didn't know exactly where I'd put one, nor how I would construct it, but as we all do, I stored ideas away in the back of my mind and finally, it all came together.

The theme for this month's Lowe's Creative Ideas project was vertical gardening and here's my take on it - using gutters!

Vertical Trough Garden


The first thing we did was to have the pipes and the gutter cut in half while we were still at Lowe's, and special thanks to Chris, the plumbing department manager at the Findlay Lowe's store, for so cheerfully doing this!  That made it easier for us to get things home in our vehicle.


Figuring out the logistics of this was a little difficult, because I had a vision in my head, and knew what needed to happen to get things to come out the way I was seeing it, but executing it was another matter.  Friend Julie Kroske spent the day with us and provided valuable input on the project, as well as being a calming influence when frustrations ran high. And three heads are better than two!

Existing plantings and a window determined the length of the trough garden.  The longest piece of gutter was cut to a length of 42" and this was the bottom one of the three pieces.  The next higher gutter piece measured  36" long and the third and topmost piece was 24" long. After cutting these to the proper length, we put the end caps on.

We cut the PVC pipes into lengths of  56", 49" and 15".  A PVC cutter makes short work of that task and luckily Romie had purchased one a few years ago when he had to do some plumbing. Two ¾-inch holes were then drilled into the bottom of the bottom gutter piece, four inches from each end, for the PVC pipe "legs." 

The tricky part came in when it was time to drill the holes in the top two gutters.  These are angled and we wanted the angle to be the same degree off parallel on both of them, so I cut a template out of cardboard that matched the angle of the middle gutter.

I'm sure there's an easier way to do this part, but this worked for me.

I then placed the bottom straight edge of the template an equal distance from the top edge of the bottom gutter and matched up the angle for placement of the top gutter.  This then dictated where the holes would be drilled for the top and middle gutters.  It worked out to be 7" from each end of the middle piece, and the top gutter had holes drilled at 7½" from the left end and 6" from the right end.

Smaller holes were then drilled in the bottom for drainage.

Now it was time to put it all together.  To keep the gutters from sliding up and down on the PVC pipe and securely where they needed to be, we cut the seven ¾-inch couplings in two across the middle so that we ended up with 14 of equal size. These were then placed on the PVC pipe above and below where they went through the gutters.

These were not made to slide all the way down a pipe - only on the end - so they were super tight.  This was a good thing when it came to anchoring the gutters for this project, but it made it difficult to get them to the spot on the pipe where we needed them to be.  So Romie used an adjustable wrench, holding tightly onto the coupling and he hammered the wrench until the coupling was in the proper place.  Julie and I secured the pipe so that it stayed in place while he hammered.

I forgot to take a photo of the placement of the "T".  This was used at the bottom of the short piece of pipe, inside the bottom gutter.  It was orientated so that the bottom of the T was perpendicular to the sides of the gutter.  Romie then secured it in two places with deck screws that we already had here from another project.  This helped minimize torquing of the gutters.

Now it was time to paint!

Photo by Julie Kroske

I used Rust-oleum Universal spray paint in Hammered Brown.  This can be used on plastic and it gives whatever you paint the appearance of being made of metal (if you don't inspect it too closely).  I'd wanted to make this project out of metal to begin with, but we couldn't find appropriate metal pipe or gutters at Lowe's for the three planter parts. The vinyl worked well though.

Once the paint was dry, I used our post hole digger to dig holes for the legs, which ended up being in the ground about 15 inches, give or take.  We used some scrap steel rods from Romie's work and drove those into the ground first, then slipped the legs of the planter over them.  You wouldn't need to do that - you could just put the pipe directly into the ground - but I like the idea of being able to lift the planter off and storing it inside for winter.

In the ground, ready to plant!

Time for planting!  I used some plants grown by the Berry Family of Nurseries - Variegated Lilyturf (Liriope muscari 'Variegata') and English Ivy (Hedera helix 'Natasha') - as well as Proven Winners Supertunia® Red petunias.  I also used some white vinca (Catharanthus roseus).  Then, since it's July and we just celebrated our nation's birthday, I added some blue glass balls that are supposed to be watering aids, but I use them as accents in the garden and in containers.


For more Lowe's Creative Ideas for your home and garden, visit their website.  And here's the bloggers' page, where you can see what other Lowe's Creative Ideas team members are up to:

The Lowe’s Creative Ideas Creator and Influencers Blogger Network

Very happy to see my May project, "Dress Up a Dry Bed," as one of the current featured projects!

Lowe's Home Improvement provided me with gift cards for the purpose of purchasing the materials needed to complete this project.The total cost, including plants, was approximately $85.00.

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