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Showing posts from 2024

Stacked Flagstone Fountain Inspiration - June 2024

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I came across some new water feature inspiration - this time it was at the Lemont Park District Rec Center - in what appears to be the Danny Rizzo Memorial Plaza .  Right before you enter the building is a water feature that is made up of stacked, flat flagstones (or something similar) that allow for the fountain to cascade down each of the layers and pool into a round, visible reservoir.  I could see this being a DIY job - the hardest part is moving the rocks.   Here, below, is a video showing this stacked flagstone water feature/fountain in a round pool.  Here, below, is a photo: I could see this being an upgrade for our current container fountain and something (with the right drill bit), we could ourselves.  Maybe even a small pond as the reservoir.  

Garden Edit (Nook) - One Month Later - June 2024

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In the middle of May, I moved ahead with a garden edit in our backyard that involved removing/transplanting hostas (hosta replacement project) and adding a few things from the Morton Plant Sale.  Here's the post showing the original look and what this new mixed perennial shade bed looked like a month ago .  Now, four-or-so weeks later, the area has filled in a little bit.  Below is a photo showing the current state: The Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' at the front of the border has filled in, the Dark Side of the Moon Astilbes have put on some size, as have the Summer Beauty Alliums.  Mixed in there are three Soft Touch Japanese Hollies and three Autumn Moor Grasses that I've moved around a few times.   At the back of this little garden pocket - brightening up the space - are the Sun King Aralias.   This is working - for me.    As I think about finishing up a few other spots of edits in the backyard, I'll revisit this combination - in particular the Alliums and Aralias.  

Cardoon About To Bloom - June 2024

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After battling a vast aphid invasion on our Cardoon plant (planted IB2DWs last Fall and came back this year), appears ready to burst with a couple of big, spike-y blooms.  I planted it on a whim late, late last year based on seeing this in the Fragrance Garden at the Morton Arboretum and didn't know what to expect.  At the time when I bought it, the sign at The Growing Place called it a "Biennial" - which I think means that it won't bloom the first year - so this is the bloom year.  This piece from the University of Wisconsin talks about how you don't normally see a bloom in cooler climates (like ours), so we might be in for a real treat.   See below for a look at our Cardoon buds/blooms as they grow up/out before they open: I went at the aphids pretty hard with both Neem Oil, our hose with a high-pressure setting (just to try to blow the aphids off) and then, ultimately with a insecticide dust.  I'm hoping the aphids didn't get these to a place where t

Rainbow Blend Carrot Seeds Planted in Greenstalk - June 2024

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Yesterday, I posted a photo of our first broccoli crown that has emerged and talked about our vertical vegetable garden container called a Greenstalk.  I put six Lieutenant Broccoli plants in one of the deeper rows in the middle of the tower.  In this earlier post , I covered a few of the other things in the vertical garden including herbs and a bell pepper plant.  In a few of the rows/levels, I also planted some Zinnia seeds as cut flowers, but that left one deep row (third from the bottom) empty.   Because it is one of the deeper Greenstalk levels, I thought we'd try something new (to us) in container gardening:  carrots.  In our previous, raised-bed garden in Elmhurst, we grew plenty of carrots from seeds.  My problem was NEVER getting the seeds to germinate, my problem was always in thin-ing them out enough to grow good-sized carrots.  Here's a post about the time I used carrot tape (went very well) and here's a series of posts from 2012 that shows the Touchon carrot

First Lieutenant Broccoli Crown Appears - June 2024

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Our kids eat broccoli all the time.  I'm a baby carrot eater.  Somehow, they've become a raw broccoli crown eater.  That's why we're trying to grow our own in the Greenstalk this year.  Last week, I posted an overview of what is in the Greenstalk tower - including six Lieutenant broccoli plants in one of the middle rows of the unit.   This variety is supposed to be suited for warm weather, so we're hoping that they will perform over the Summer.  And, early signs are positive - with an early crown emerging on one of the plants.  See below for a look at one of the broccoli crowns: In our previous garden, I grew some broccoli, so I *somewhat* know how to recognize when a broccoli crown is ready to harvest.  I also know that if it starts to flower and go yellow, it needs to be cut off immediately.   It seems like it might also be time to feed the tower with a food-grade fertilizer like Miracle-Gro.  

Four Cornell Bronze Dahlias Planted - Sideyard + IB2DWs - June 2024

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The last of the Dahlia tubers are in the ground:  I planted four Cornell Bronze Dahlias that I bought this past winter from Longfield Gardens.  I started them in nursery pots indoors, then moved those to the patio to get acclimated.    I've put in six Melina Fluer dahlias - three in the sideyard and three in the front porch bed .  Then, I put in four Orange Nugget dahlias in the new sideyard bed .  And, now I've put in four (2 in sideyard and 2 IB2DWs) Cornell Bronze dahlias.  13 total plants for the season.  Cut flower season. These are behind the others, but with a little water and a lot of sun, I'm thinking they'll close the gap quickly. 

Nicotiana alata 'Perfume Deep Purple' Planted IB2DWs - June 2024

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More flowers.  That's a big breakthrough for me as a gardener in 2024.  Last week, I posted photos of the Zinnias and Dahlias that I planted IB2DWs and in the new seed bed.  Today, I'm sharing the details of another new (to me) flower:  Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple'.  I bought just one and planted it in the conifer garden - IB2DWs.  Below is the sign from The Growing Place that talks about the dark purple blooms and the smells that come with this flower: I've had Nicotiana Jasmine before , but it didn't reseed.    This new one is purple (vs white) and it is also in full sun.  Below is what it looks like at the time of planting: Below is a photo that provides a little context - this is in the new (as of last Fall) conifer garden.  

2x8 Forms for Hearth Concrete Pour - Wood-Fired Oven Build - June 2024

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Busy week with the pizza oven.  First, the bottom trays and supports were put in-place .   Then, I cut, bent and placed some rebar into the top of the stand - via the bond beam blocks .  I also cut most of the grid of rebar.   That meant that I could move-on to creating the hearth forms.  I used 1/2" trays and I'd like the hearth to be 4" or so thick, so that means I need 4.5" of height on-top of the stand.  Because of the Bond Beam blocks and their openings, I also need the forms to cover 1.5" of the stand.  That's 6" of form - which means I can't use a 2x6, but had to upgrade to 2x8's. I cut the 2x8's to length, then affixed a 2x4 to the face of them to stiffen them - and prevent bowing.  I used various pieces of lumber to create legs that were just a tiny bit short.  I put the forms together, stood-it-up on the legs and then shimmed in one side for the final height.   Moving around the stand, I leveled up each side using shims to get the

Cutting and Bending Rebar for Flow-Thru Bond Beam Blocks in Pizza Oven Stand - June 2024

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Earlier this week, I updated my wood-fired pizza oven build progress with some photos showing the bottom trays and their supports/bracing cut to size .  I have a couple of things that I need to do (I lifted eight steps - bracing for trays shimmed, rebar to bond beam blocks, fill gaps, cut rebar for grid, set up 2x8 forms, wire them, add drainage pipes and fill remaining cores with sand ) and most of those can go in any order.    Once I had the trays in place, I decided to see if I had enough rebar on hand to complete the job.  That started with bending some of the 1/2" steel rebar for around the bond beam blocks.  Then, I cut the rest for across the top in a grid pattern. Below is a photo showing the rebar bent and laid into the bond-beam blocks.  I'm doing curved rebar at every corner and doubling-it-up with 90-degree corners on top of those curves.   On top of this will be a 4.5" thick hearth, so the rebar you see running across the top of the stand will be stood-up wit

Pruning A Pagoda Dogwood Tree - June 2024

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For the second growing-season in-a-row, I've pruned the small Pagoda Dogwood tree in our backyard.  Planted in Fall 2021 , this native tree has just quietly grown into something about the size of a medium-sized shrub.   It has horizontal branching, so I've been careful to prune it - while making it more tree-form while not taking too much off the tree.   Last year, I pruned back the bottom layer of branches.  Not removing branches, but just cutting them back .  This year, I'm doing the same thing - but a layer higher.  Below is the pre-pruning look at our Pagoda Dogwood tree.  The second layer is reaching out wide.   And, below is the 'after'.  I cut a segment down on each of the second-tier of branching.  Hoping for even more vertical-growth from the leader this season.  

Adding Bottom Tray Support Under Hearth Pour - DIY Wood-Fired Oven Build - June 2024

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The next step after filling every-other-core in my DIY wood-fired oven build is to create the support that goes *under* the hearth that can support the concrete pour.  I've made three areas for storage in the stand, so each of those need a cover (or lid) and some support bracing to keep the concrete from sagging through the openings.  I opted to use 1/2" DensShield board and various 2x4's and 2x6's to create the supports under the openings.  Below are a few photos showing how I cut the board (1/2" thick) and then used the legs to support/span the openings. Below is a peek at the INSIDE of one of the storage bins and you can see the legs/supports laying this-way-and-that.  Why?  Because...I cut them just a little bit short of the length needed.  My plan is to use a bunch of wood shims under these so once the pour is complete, I can pull the shims out and the supports will fall away.   Without the shims, the supports might not come out so easily.   Also, I'm us

Disneyland Roses Are Struggling - June 2024

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Last year, we had three established Disneyland Roses and three bareroot plantings.  All three of the bareroot floribunda roses didn't come back this Spring.  And, the three established ones - while blooming very well this year - are showing signs of struggle with their foliage.  Last week, I gave them their second feeding of the season and used a 'combo' fert + systemic treatment granular that is billed to handle both insect/pests and fungus/diseases. Last year, I saw the foliage of these roses start to decline and while I'm PRETTY sure I had some sawfly larvae (lace-like foliage), I don't know if that was ALL that I was dealing with out there.  Fungus?  Other disease?  Perhaps. Last December, I posted about my Sawfly Larvae experience and that's how I was thinking of approaching this season :  combo fert+insect systemic and periodic spraying with Neem Oil on the leaves.  As I mentioned, I've applied two treatments of fert+ this year.  And...  I also spraye

Vegetable Plantings for 2024 - Container and Tower - June 2024

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When I think back on my gardening journey, I really started as a vegetable gardener.  Tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, herbs and more.  When we moved, I really leaned AWAY from vegetables and into perennials and foliage.  Why?  Shade vs. Sun.  Our old garden had ALL Sun.  Our new one has almost ALL Shade.   But, I began to solve that by building a patio vegetable garden set-up over the years.  First, with a raised planter box.  Then last year, with a Greenstalk tower. #19 on my 2024 to-do list is to 'do more with vegetables' .   How am I going about doing that?  By planting a couple of bush tomatoes and some other things. First the tomatoes.  I've mostly settled on ONLY planting bush tomato plants.   This year, I bought one at the Morton Sale - Tiny Tim Cherry.  I also picked up two others at the big box store: Little Napoli - which is a roma in bush form (kinda neat) and Little Bing - also a cherry.  Below is a look at the three in the raised box: I normally grow basil an

Cut and Come Again Zinnia Seeds Direct Sown - June 2024

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Day four of Zinnia-mania - but now we move from beyond IB2DWs to the new cut flower bed that I carved out on the side of our house.   For 2024 plantings with Zinnias, I first  posted the details of some common orange Zinnias that I planted as bedding plants .  A day earlier, I planted a larger, further-along  Uproar Rose Zinnia  from the nursery.   Then, yesterday I planted a Zowie Yellow Flame Zinnia in the conifer garden IB2DWs .  I pinched off all the blooms on these to try to get them to grow a bit more bushier.   But, I'm also going full-on Zinnia Chaos Gardener with the new bed on the southside of the house .  I bought a couple of packets of Cut-and-Come-Again Zinnias and decided to direct sow them in the bed.  Did I evenly space them?  No, just kind-of scattered them.  Here's the bed recently planted - you can see anything but loam/dirt/mulch/compost/biosolids of course: I also put some in the Greenstalk tower.   But, that's not all.  Last Fall, I collected some Zin

Planting A Zowie Yellow Flame Zinnia IB2DWs - June 2024

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Day three of Zinnia-mania IB2DWs.  Yesterday, I posted the details of some common orange Zinnias that I planted as bedding plants .  A day earlier, I planted a larger, further-along Uproar Rose Zinnia from the nursery.   I have been trying to push myself past the discomfort around flowers and this new Zinnia from The Growing Place certainly is there: out of my comfort zone.   As I walked around the nursery, this Zinnia jumped off the bench.  Zowie Yellow Flame Zinnia.  See below for the sign.  It reads: "This stunning cultivar will stand out in any setting with its 3' - 4' bicolor blooms of golden yellow and magenta orange."   This was the MOST expensive Zinnia that I have bought, but it was a 6.5" nursery pot: And, that meant that I really bought TWO zinnias.  After having them sit on the driveway for a couple of days, I noticed the foliage was drooping.  That evening - after work - I dug them in to the conifer garden.  Below you can see the immediate look - wi

Orange Zinnias As Bedding Plants - IB2DWs - June 2024

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 For Mother's Day, the kids and I bought a couple of flats of ordinary orange zinnias from the big box store that we planted in some pots for the Moms (and God Mothers) in our/their lives.  I ended up having a few extra and put some in our back patio containers (more on those later), and decided to plant four as bedding plants near the driveway in the original IB2DWs bed.  I picked orange because I like orange and it is the Illini color (of course).   Yesterday, I posted about the one Uproar Rose Zinnia IB2DWs - and that one is much larger/bushier than these.    Below the first photo shows what these orange zinnias look like after a week or so in the ground: I have limited experience with flowers (as I've said in the past), but what I've read and watched online, you can pinch off blooms to (try to) get bushier plants.  So, naturally...I decided to sacrifice these early orange flowers.  I cut them all off - you can see the result below.  I left the flower heads there on the

Uproar Rose Zinnia elegans - Planted IB2DWS - June 2024

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#2 on my priority list for 2024 is to 'keep going with flowers' .  That means...pushing through my discomfort around blooming perennials and annuals and planting things that I haven't in the past.  This year, that means that I am expanding a little bit out from what I *do* know and what I *do* like.    Last year, I had a small patio container that mixed some salmon-colored zinnias and Euphorbia .  It was great and I was able to cut from the Zinnias all through the late Summer/early Fall.   This Spring, I cut out a new bed on the southside and planned to spread some Zinnia seeds around (more on this soon) to serve as a sort-of cut flower garden bed.   But, I also went further with flowers this year by planting some dahlia tubers.  So far, I've planted six Melina Fleur Dahlia tubers (that I started indoors) .  Three in the sideyard, three in the front porch bed (where the Disneyland Roses were last year).  And, I put in three Orange Nugget Dahlia tubers in that Zinnia b