Visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh

After a long bout of being stuck at home with sick kids, Jonah and I finally got a chance to go out on a date on Thursday! We visited the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. This garden is one of my favorites! There’s such a wide variety of things to see there. They have SO MANY different garden zones:

  • Rooftop Terrace
  • Asian Valley
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Color Trial Garden (for testing new annuals and tender perennials)
  • Elms
  • Roses
  • Geophytes (bulbs/corms/tubers/rhizomes)
  • Japanese Garden (My FAVORITE!)
  • White Garden
  • Lath House (shade garden)
  • Mixed border
  • Model Gardens
  • Paradise Garden
  • Perennial Border
  • Scree Garden
  • Southall Memorial Garden
  • Winter Garden
  • Xeric Garden

Check out some of the photos below for a virtual tour (hover over the photos for descriptions)! I highly recommend a stop if you’re in the Raleigh area. Since they are affiliated with NC State University, they always have fun programs, classes, and educational opportunities going on for all ages. Jonah and I joked that there must be a rule that academic lectures must include a pun… our favorite from their list this month was “Plant Parenthood: From Planting to Pest Management” (insert groan/eye roll here). You can see a full list of upcoming events on their site. I hope you’ll pay them a visit when you’re in town!  

 

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The Colors Duke, The Colors!

Remember this gem?

Today the Assistant Garden Manager (my oldest daughter) and I, saw a really cool sight – we watched a Green Anole change color right before our eyes! The only reason we noticed this little guy is because we were watering some plants and he hopped right onto our hose reel. When we saw him the first time, he was a brown color, blending in nicely to the compost. When we finished watering, we came back, looking for him and saw a bright green Anole in just about the same location and figured it must be the same one. 

A Green Anole right after he hopped out from some daffodil foliage.

Sure enough, as we continued to watch him, he started to get darker as he did a split on our brick siding. So cool!

Will we see this guy participating in the 2024 Olympics???

I see you, boo! He’s a regular old Sally O’Malley. What a neat little creature!

A Green Anole peeking out from under our siding.

 

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Wild Card Wednesday – a good laugh + Dahlia Cuttings

Dude Dad, one of my favorite YouTube channels just released this video and it’s so on point. Do you identify, too? Hope your spring is going well and that you’re getting elbow deep in dirt! I’m adding more pictures of the garden to the “photos” tab as I plant things, and I hope you enjoy! April 15th is the average last frost date in our area, so I’m in full-on planting mode. On the docket for today… taking dahlia cuttings to propagate! This is my first time trying it, so I’m following the method below. Wish me luck! 

 

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Who is the King of Glory?

Every time I’ve thought about writing a devotional lately, my mind keeps going back to a song from Third Day – maybe you’ve heard it:

David asks the question in Psalm 24, “who is the king of glory?” The answer is “The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.”

Let’s take a look at the entire Psalm for some context:

Psalm 24:1-2

First, David establishes the theme of this Psalm – that the earth belongs to God and He is in control.

Psalm 24:3-4

God alone is holy. Ascending the mountain (temple mount), standing in his holy place would have been the High Priest’s duty one time a year, on the Day of Atonement. The priest would have to make a sacrifice first for his own sins, then for the sins of the people before entering. It was so holy, that the other priests would have tied a cord around the high priest’s waist so they could drag him out if he died while in the holiest place. Yeah, pretty crazy.

The rhetorical question here is pretty interesting, because we see that no one really fits the bill. Does anyone really have clean hands and a pure heart, not trusting in idols? No… except one person (spoiler alert it’s Jesus). Hebrews 7 explains Christ’s unique position as both the high priest who intercedes for us with God AND also the actual offering. Hebrews 7:23-28.

Psalm 24:5-6

Since we now have Christ who has purified us to come close to God (Hebrews 10:19-22), we can receive this blessing and vindication! This is a result of seeking Him out.

Psalm 24:7, 9

I was a little confused about this – the NIV says “lift up your heads, you gates,” which begs the question, how can gates lift up their heads? Do gates have heads? New Living Translation to the rescue! “Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.” Ooh, such a beautiful picture! Can you imagine some rusty old gates being thrust open to let Jesus come through? I love that entry! Reminds me of this scene from Harry Potter:

Harry Potter World on Twitter: "Happy 66th Birthday to George Harris! He  portrayed Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Harry Potter films.  https://t.co/5LmqK4ve5i" / Twitter

Psalm 24: 8

We get the answer here… the King of glory is The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle. I don’t know about you, but an invincible king is the one I want to serve. 

Here “The LORD” is YHWH (phonetically “yeh-ho-vaw”, which we English-speaking folks often say as “Jehovah”). The root word of YHWH is “hayah”, which means “to become”… AKA “I Am”. Isn’t that cool? God’s name (as he tells Moses at the burning bush) is “I Am”. He just is! Check out Strong’s Concordance for more info on this name for God. 

Psalm 24:10

Reiterating this again – with a different name for God… the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – he is the King of glory. Again “the Lord” is YHWH, but Heaven’s Armies is “tsaba“, meaning army, war, warfare.  Our God is a warrior!

In this Psalm, we see clearly that God is in charge of the earth and everyone in it. He is holy, he is our priest, and he is our warrior-king. In light of all that’s happening in the world today (Ukraine, especially), I’m especially thankful for this reassurance. God is good! 

I hope you all rest in this truth today! God is in control – He is our King of glory!

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Worship with me!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a devotional, and given that tomorrow is Sunday, I’m thinking it would be great to just worship together. What do you think? Here are some songs that really help me focus on Christ and praise His name. Join with me today in blessing Jesus’ holy name! He is worthy of ALL our praise!

 

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NC Planting Calendar & What to Plant This Week

For those of you who are growing in NC (zone 7B), this planting calendar from NC State Extension is the bomb dot com. I’ve printed mine out to keep with my seed packets for a quick reference on what to plant and when.

Based on the calendar, here’s what you can start planting this week!

Sow outdoors:

  • Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Lettuce – wave 1
  • Green onions
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips

Sow indoors for later transplant:

  • Eggplant
  • Peppers

Get out there and plant those spring crops! Happy planting!

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Seed Starting 2022

As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch, surrounded by seeds, garden books, a vomit-inducing amount of kids toys, while watching “Gardener’s World” on Amazon Prime. 

Hi from the wasteland!

Can I just say the Brits really know their gardening? Monty Don is my garden hero, and if you haven’t read his book, “The Complete Gardener“, you should. It’s chock full of great gardening info and beautiful pictures – pretty much his gift to all mankind.

The King himself, Sir Monty Don.

Why isn’t it spring yet???

This is the time of year for daydreaming, planning, and watching/reading all about gardening. It’s also the time of year for starting your first seeds! 

I’ve got the bug, so I rearranged all my seed packets and started my first four seeds – Chinese String Eggplant. Here are the steps for starting your seeds indoors:

Determine if you ACTUALLY need to start your seeds indoors. 

    • Rule of thumb is to start brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts) and anything in the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers) indoors. Why?
      • 1) brassicas are frost hardy, but they’ll bolt once it warms up, so you want to give them a head start indoors to optimize your short growing window before the heat gets here
      • 2) nightshades are slow to grow and they’re frost tender. If you wait until after the last frost to sow outdoors, they’ll do just fine, but you won’t get a harvest until much later
    • You can check this nifty list for more recommendations on what should be direct sown vs. started indoors.

Sort your seeds by sowing date and mark your calendar.

  • First, know your last frost date. Here in Zone 7B, it’s April 15th. You can do a quick google search for this by your zip code.
    • Look at seed packets for sowing dates (i.e. 8 weeks before last frost). Do a google search to determine what date that equates to in your zone. Then mark your calendar and sort your seeds accordingly!

Google tells me that 12 weeks before April 15th is January 21st. Because I **cannot** count. Also, tea boxes make great seed packet storage.

Make your seed-starting mix.

    • I use coconut coir with perlite mixed in. Nothing scientific here, just make it so that there are some specks of the perlite in there. The coir holds moisture and the perlite prevents compaction and keeps everything light and fluffy.
    • Pro tip: get your coconut coir in small bricks. Chiseling into a rock hard, 10 lb slab is NOT fun.
    • NOTE: You don’t need compost or anything with nutrition in it yet… seeds have enough energy in them to carry them along until they start making true leaves. Once you see true leaves, you can add a little dusting of compost on top.

One pound block of coconut coir, rehydrated + itty bitty bit of perlite + old nursery pot (scrubbed clean)

      • Mix it real good
    • Get your seed starting mix damp like a wet sponge, fill up a container that has drainage (old nursery pots, yogurt cups with holes in the bottom, etc), put your seeds on top, and dust with more of your mix. Since you’ve pre-dampened the mix, you don’t need to water.

Itty bitty eggplant seeds

Here are the seeds.

Rather than poking the seeds down into the mix, lightly dust some mix over top.

Label and Put your plants in a clear bin (AKA mini greenhouse).

  • Keep the lid on to encourage germination. Most seeds don’t  need light until after they’ve germinated, so as long as it’s relatively warm, you’re good for now.

The Germination Station

Check your seeds for germination. 

  • Once they’ve germinated, take them out of the bin and give them lots of good, strong light (grow light or shop light with broad spectrum output). Water them as needed (bottom watering – submerging the container in a tray of water- is best to prevent fungal problems)

January brings a lot of cold and icky-ness, but I hope this has brought you a little ray of sunshine. Spring will be here soon!

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Seed Comparison Shopping

I was raised by a shopaholic mom. No joke. We would drive all the way from our house in Cary to as far as Greensboro just to get a deal. It was pretty fun as a pre-teen… my sister and mom and I would make a day of it and go all day on a Saturday. Our poor dad probably needed to eat an entire bottle of Tums when he heard mom say we were going shopping. I’m glad I never had to see those bills :-/.

Even though I’ve slowed down a bit now that I’m paying the bills myself, the thrill of the hunt runs strong in our family. Put my sister, mom, and I in a TJ Maxx and we can do some serious damage, unearthing amazing finds hidden in racks and behind throw rugs for dirt cheap. 

So, when it comes to buying seeds, it should come as no surprise that momma didn’t raise no fool. I look for the deals y’all. 

I am going to go big or go home this year in the garden, and a cut flower bed is GOING TO HAPPEN. See? I already laid out the bed shape! 

New L-shaped flower bed is happening!

Here are some thoughts as you’re doing your seed shopping:

Consider Free Seeds First

  • Did you know your local library *probably* has free seeds? They do! At our library, we can get up to 4 packets of free seeds from the “seed library” per season. They may not be the sexiest varieties, but hey, they’re free!
  • Also, ask other gardeners if they’d like to split seed packets or have any old seeds they didn’t like or don’t want to plant. 
  • Sometimes seed companies will give you a free packet of seeds if you spend over X amount of dollars with them. It’s a crap shoot, but you might get something for free. At Baker Creek, you get a free packet for every $35 you spend on seeds.
  • Now is a great time to look for free seeds in nature/your garden/public gardens! Spent seed heads may still have seeds in them at this time of year (my fennel certainly does!). If you know what grew there, it might be worth taking a gamble. 

Consider Unit Price

I’m finding that sunflower seeds are cheaper from Seed Saver’s Exchange. Though the price per packet is a bit higher, each packet contains more seeds. Take these identical varieties of Torch Sunflower from Seed Saver’s Exchange and Baker Creek, for example:

Torch Sunflower from Seed Saver's Exchange

VERSUS…

Initially the Baker Creek one looks like the better deal because it’s cheaper per pack. But look at the fine print… you’re only getting 35 seeds. Seed Saver’s Exchange gives you almost triple that amount for only slightly more money. Let’s so some math…yes, math.

$3.75/100 seeds = $0.04 per seed @ Seed Saver’s Exchange. Whereas $3.00/35 seeds = $0.09 per seed @ Baker Creek.

Math Memes | Memes

Now, does that price difference really matter all that much? No, it’s not a huge deal if you’re only buying a few seed packets. But me? I’m about to buy A LOT of seeds and sow A LOT of seeds at once (see shopping cart – Lord help me).

I’m not done here… this will get whittled down (likely by Jonah)

Jim Carrey The Mask - Imgflip

Please. This is my cry for help!!!

Generally speaking, I’d rather buy a greater quantity of seeds AND Fewer varieties than A Smaller QUANTITY of seeds AND MORE varieties.

Why? Because it’s better to plant SWATHS of plants than a bunch of individual plants.

Frankly, an individual plant looks kind of dumb all on its own, and it’s also more likely to get overlooked by pollinators and YOU, the gardener. Give it a friend! Or maybe 10 friends! When it comes to something like sunflowers, it’s also good to hedge your bets with more seeds because birds, squirrels, bunnies, and e’erybody else WILL go to town munching those newly planted seeds and seedlings. When you plant more of the same, you can afford to lose some to predation and bad weather

An exception to shopping by the unit price rule would be if you’re buying something kind of experimental. Like you aren’t sure it’s going to work in your zone or you’re not sure if you’ll love it or not. In that case, get the cheaper seed packet, even if there are fewer seeds. That way, you’re not wasting seeds if you decide not to grow it in future years and you’re not out a lot of money on seeds you hate.

Consider Varieties Available

Baker Creek and Johnny’s have WAY more varieties to choose from, so if you’re looking for a specific color or growth habit (i.e. for containers), you’re more likely to find it there than SSE. Take Hollyhocks, for example:

Baker Creek’s options don’t wow me… they don’t offer a packet that has a mix of colors:

But I’d LOVE the Outhouse variety from SSE for the combo of colors:

 

Consider Shipping Costs

Unless you’re buying seeds in person, rather than online, that is. Free shipping covers a multitude of sins. If you only want a few seed packs and the company does not offer free shipping, it might be best to find them at a local nursery instead.

Consider Hybrids

These will cost you a pretty penny, but they might be worth it for some plants. For instance, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to grow zucchini or yellow squash ever again (squash bugs and squash vine borers have gotten them almost every year), but if I did, I would DEFINITELY pay for an F1 that is resistant to powdery mildew and that pests might not like as much.

Hybrid vigor is a thing (hybrids produce more than open pollinated), but any seeds you save won’t be like the parent plant.

Here’s an example comparing zucchini varieties (not exactly apples to apples, since it’s different companies, but you get the picture):

An F1 from Johnny’s:

VERSUS

An open-pollinated from SSE:

I hope these tips help as you’re thinking about seeds for this year! For more on this subject, check out my entries from last year. Happy shopping!

 

Where to Start? Nursery Transplants vs Direct Sowing vs Indoor Seed Starting

All About Seeds – Part 1! Deciphering Seed Packets

All About Seeds – Part 2! Seed Lingo Decoded

All About Seeds – Part 3! Selecting Varieties for Planting

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2022 Goals: Carpe(t) Diem?

It’s that time of year again… time to evaluate how I did on my goals from the past year and make plans for the year ahead!

So how did I fare in 2021? SURVEY SAYS…. Meh.

2021 Goals revisited

As a reminder, here are my goals from last year (with updates in blue):

Verse: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

I didn’t quite memorize this verbatim, but I have the gist of it in my head. This verse turned out to be very fitting for me this year. Over the past few years, I’ve been having a tough time with my mental health. Thanks to encouragement from friends and family, I finally did something about it and sought out therapy and medication to treat my depression. I am so thankful for the gift of a better state of mind and working towards wholeness and health. This was the biggest win of 2021 for me. Hooray! Thank you Jesus!

Personal Goals

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform  Your Understanding: Tverberg, Lois: 9780801017155: Amazon.com: Books

        • These books made me think (because injustice is so angering, but these women overcame)

      • Prayer & kid journals daily – Yes! I did this! Now starting on year two of my journaling 🙂
      • Phone free mornings & offline day – Nope. But I have a new strategy for this year!
      • Daily one on one quiet time with God – Meh. Not really. I’d like to do better at this in 2022.
      • Less meat – For the most part, yes. I’ve subbed in beans for meat in a lot of dishes this year and I’ve been doing better at buying better quality meat when we do partake (certified humane, organic when possible).
      • Be fully present at meals – I’ve been doing somewhat better, but again need to do better at this in 2022.

Family Goals

      • Read a parenting book together – Technically we did this! It was a book about potty training (“Oh Crap! Potty Training”) and we listened to it as an audiobook, but I’m counting it!
      • Gave me the kick in the pants I needed to start potty training our oldest.

      • Visit more state parks/hiking – We did hike a fair amount, but didn’t make it to any new parks. We’ve enjoyed exploring our local parks a lot this year, though!
      • Hiking with friends at Horton Grove Nature Preserve

      • Farmers market once a month (post-COVID) – We still aren’t living in a post-COVID world, but I have been able to do this since getting vaccinated. I want to continue doing this in 2022.
        • Doing some apple variety reconnaissance at the state farmer’s market in November

Financial Goals

      • Open college accounts for baby 2 – We did this!
      • Save towards down payment – Yes! By automating our savings from our checking account to our house account, we were able to sock away a significant amount!
      • Dollar Dollar Bill Yall GIFs | Tenor

2022 Goals

This year’s theme is going to be Carpe(t?) Diem! The year of carpet (we need to get floor redone BADLY) and the year of seizing the day. This means not putting things off, taking full advantage of opportunities, praising God for all He has done, is doing, and will do, and living fully

Scripture for the Year: Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Personal Goals

  • Snacking after dinner no more than 3x/wk
    • My appetite is non-stop (maybe from nursing a baby?), but I’d like to have better self-control
  • Post on this blog 2x/mo
  • No phone in bedroom (to avoid endless scrolling and promote reading/better sleep habits)

Family Goals 

  • 1000 hrs outside in one year (we started this in November and are just 5 hours away from our first 100!). I’d love to have you join us! 
  • Carpet diem – new flooring in our house
  • Trips to Glacier National Park, Michigan (to visit my grandmother – we missed her 90th birthday last year), and a romantic weekend for me and Jonah without kids
  • Grinnell Peak reflects in the calm waters of Swiftcurrent Lake on a beautiful sunrise at Many Glacier

    Glacier National Park – I want to go to there!

 

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Tips on Planting Fruit Bushes & Notes on Leaf Hoarding

FRUIT!!!!!

My idea for adding fruit to our garden has come to fruition! Since my last post, the Jubilee Garden has grown by 144 square feet for a 4 ft x 36 ft blackberry and blueberry bed! There are 4 Osage Blackberries and one each of these blueberry varieties: Blueberry Buckle (a self-pollinating, dwarf hybrid), and Brightwell and Powder Blue (rabbiteye types that need another variety to cross-pollinate and produce fruit – does best in the south). This is my pipe dream of what I’ll be snacking on in about a year and a half…

Vaccinium Ashei Brightwell Rabbiteye Blueberry | SiteOne

Here are some things to consider if you’re planning on adding fruit to your landscape!

  1. Choose Fruits that are Suitable for Your Climate
    1. I love raspberries, but they don’t do well in NC. Blackberries do better, and I happen to like them, too.
    2. A garden retailer at my local farmer’s market told me that for my area, Apples and Peaches should be left to the professionals because we don’t get enough chill hours for most apple varieties here (do better in the NC mountains) and peaches have A LOT of problems that need to be heavily managed to yield a good crop (spraying). She probably shouldn’t have told me that, because now I sort of consider that a challenge (I’ll show you, farmers market lady!), but I’m going to prioritize the easier fruits over these.
    3. I’d love a grapevine, but bunch grapes require a lot of work, while muscadines are native to this area and basically don’t need any help.
  2. Pick the Best Varieties
    1. NC State has done all the hard work and figured out what works best and what’s most disease- and pest-resistant. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of planting, hedge your bets and listen to the experts! 
  3. Research the Best Time of Year to Plant
    1. Usually it’s fall/spring, but check your state’s cooperative extension website to see what they recommend for your area. Here in NC, either one works, but preference is usually for fall plantings for perennials and trees since our winters are mild. In areas with harsh winters (lots of sub-freezing temps), it may be better to wait until spring so the plants have a better chance of surviving.
  4. Consider Your Soil
    1. Blueberries need acidic soil, other fruits prefer neutral. You might need a soil test (link to my county’s testing site) to determine what you’re starting off with. I’ve never done a soil test, but I’ll probably do one this year because I learned it COSTS A MEASLEY $4 (I mean c’mon, so cheap!). AND if you do it during the growing season (April-Nov) it’s FREE!
    2. Free? free? free? free? - Nemo Seagulls | Meme Generator

      YUPPPP

  5. Determine the Right Planting Location
    1. Most fruits want full sun (6-8 hrs+ unfiltered light). LET THE SUNSHINE IN! They also need water, especially in the first year to get their roots established.
  6. Resist the Temptation
    1. The first year or two, you probably want to pick off any flowers you see on your plants, thus eliminating any fruit from being produced. This forces the plant to focus on root and vegetative growth. Sacrifice now means bigger, healthier plants and larger harvests later! I hate this so much, though! 
Cry Sad GIF - Cry Sad Meme - Discover & Share GIFs

My feelings about not eating fruit the first year after planting…

ALL THE LEAVES

Now a note on leaf hoarding. Initially, I started digging out a bed, but realized quickly that was a HORRIBLE idea. It’s labor intensive, time consuming, and completely unnecessary. Enter: SHEET MULCHING.

What is it? Essentially, you lay down something biodegradable to smother your grass and any weeds (I chose cardboard) and HEAP on the mulch (like 8+ inches worth).

In my case, I chose leaves because they’re plentiful AND FREE (can you see a theme here?). AND at this time of year, my wonderful neighbors have handily raked and packaged them for yard waste pickup – saving me labor and dolla dolla bills, ya’ll. So, yes, I creepily took rescued bags of leaves from my neighbors and family (most of the time, I asked first ;)). I definitely got some weird looks from people walking in the neighborhood as I fished leaves out of yard waste bins and hauled bags of leaves into the back of my SUV (sort of like a yard-waste hobo).

Leaves are worth their weight in gold as compost fodder and mulch. DO NOT LET THEM LEAF (ha!) your property! In fact, we got rid of your yard waste altogether and have never been happier!

Precious rescued cargo from my neighbor Brittany! Thanks girl!

For the new bed, you could use compost, leaf mold (composted leaves), or wood chips. Just don’t use something gross that could leach chemicals into your soil (dyed mulch, shredded rubber mulch). You could even build your beds using Hugelkultur (mounding sticks and other yard debris as the base of your bed as filler, leaving them to decompose over time… you’d still want to add some sort of finer mulch over top). 

Ideally, prepping beds should be done before planting, BUTTTTTTTTTTTTT…I was in a hurry, so I made do.

First, I figured out my spacing based on the mature size of the plants. It looks sparse now, but there’s room for them to grow. I can also plant annuals in the beds (flowers or veggies) these first few years to fill in the gaps.

Here are the steps for planting a new small fruits bed (if you haven’t prepped the bed in advance):

Measure how far you want your bed from existing plantings

Use stakes and string to define the bed area

Place plants with their full-grown size in mind

Dig holes 2x as wide and just as deep as the root ball of your bush. Plant away!

Check out that beautiful blueberry! And the great photography skills (sorry for the finger in the image!)

If planting in spring, you can add soil amendments if needed (acidifier for blueberries, for example). If your climate allows for fall or winter planting, don’t add anything that would spur new growth or bring the plant out of dormancy (fertilizer) until springtime.

add cardboard and your mulch of choice around the plantings

Here’s the final product!

Happy planting!

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