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Showing posts from February, 2024

Late Winter Biosolids Top Dressing Application In Perennial Garden - February 2024

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Late last Fall, I found some time to head over to the mulch pit to pick up a couple of loads (in 5 gallon buckets) of municipal biosolids and brought them home.  I dumped the biosolids out and scattered them across a number of the perennial beds in the front/back/side yards .  A top dressing of sorts.   And a dormant application of organic material with the goal of improving the soil conditions.  I also thought that by applying them in early Winter/late Fall...there would be ample time for them to 'age in place' during the dormant period.  With the return to the garden in the past few weeks to begin to prune back/remove old stems and lightly begin to clean up, I've noticed some areas where the naked soil is 'showing'.  What can fix that?  Mulch!  Oh...I guess that's true.  But, I also thought...biosolids could do the trick.  And...off I went to pick up a load.  Here, below, are a few spots where I spread the material out.  I think I have 8 five-gallon buckets. 

DIY Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Construction - Initial Excavation For Foundation - February 2024

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This past weekend, I posted a list of 'early potential priorities' out in the yard and garden for the upcoming 2024 growing season .  That list featured a number of projects/ideas/areas that *could* be something that I'm going to prioritize in 2024.  But, it also featured one item that has certainty when it comes to being a priority:  the backyard wood-fired pizza oven construction. The location/site of the oven has been an open question for me ever since we moved in back in 2017.  I wrote about a couple of final options in the backyard in early January where I narrowed it down to two locations :  built into the berm/closer to the patio vs. down on the drywell, lower-elevation. With the run of warmer temperatures this week, I got out one night after work and just got busy:  digging the foundation.   I went with the drywell location.  Further from the house, but anchoring a secondary, lower-tiered patio.  Below is a look at the site - annotated to show the outline of the fou

Parkway Tulip Tips Shoot Up - February 2024

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We've had a VERY mild Winter.  There was a span of about three weeks when it was brutally cold and it seemed like it snowed every.single.day.  But, overall...it was mild.  And that's likely turned a number of gardening variables on their ears.  Emergence.  Bloom time.  Exposure to late Frosts.  And, more, I'm sure. One of the 'mild Winter' related change that I saw VERY early in January was that the tulip bulbs that I had planted around the parkway tree had ALREADY come up, out of the mulch.  By January 5th.   J A N U A R Y. That seems VERY early.  It was BEFORE that three-week spell of 'brutally cold' weather that I mentioned above.  But, tulips being tulips, the foliage didn't mind the weather.  (or...the snow blanket was sufficient insulation.) I'm *very* aware of mulch volcanoes around trees and worry that every year - when we add another layer of mulch - that I'm burying things and creating problems.  Everyone says that you're supposed t

Harbor Freight Cement Mixer - Pizza Oven Construction - Tools - February 2024

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After excavation, the first step of building my backyard pizza oven is framing and pouring a solid foundation for the oven to sit-on.  This foundation is going to be a 5.5" thick, reinforced concrete slab.  I've been probing for the boundaries of the in-ground drywell in our backyard ( post with photos here ) and have to decide on final location in the coming weeks.   Once that location is set, I can begin excavation.  Then, my brain will switch to construction material ordering - starting with bags of concrete/cement and concrete block for the foundation. The first consideration in that process is how I'll go about making/mixing the concrete.  One of the recommendations from the builder community on the Forno Bravo forums is to buy a 3.5 cubic foot cement mixer from Harbor Freight.  I went over to the local HF store this past weekend and sized the machine up.  Here, below is a photo of the cement mixer below: Here's the product page - shows the specs and the price : 

Dormant Pruning Crabapple Espalier Trees - Palmette Verrier - February 2024

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The pair of SugarTyme Crabapple trees that are planted on the southside of our house - up against the house via esapalier - are now entering their fourth growing season.  Planted in Fall 2021 , they've now been through three Winters and are beginning to be in a position to LOOK more like a tree being espalier'ed.   They flowered in their first Spring (May 2022 ) and I have SLOWLY pruned them into what I *HOPE* will be their final form:  Palmette Verrier Espalier.  That is a form that has horizontal branching that turns UP at the tips with the lowest branching being the longest.  The last time that I worked these trees was May of 2023 when I pruned/wired up the branches .     I've begun to adopt a pattern of dormant pruning on my espaliers including the Greenspire Lindens and these crabapples.   Here, below, is what they look like coming out of Winter.  These were untouched since last May: Below is a closer look at the tree on the left - closer to the back gate: And here, be

An Early Look At Some Potential 2024 Priorities - February 2024

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I've organized my approach to the yard and garden season a few ways the past couple of years.  First, I think about some of the potential options for where/how I want to prioritize.  In terms of effort, budget, time and thinking.   Then, I narrow those down to create some focus.  What falls out of those initial priorities is my annual to-do list that helps keep me honest in terms of what I am trying to accomplish.  Last year - I did an early look at some priorities as a way to organize my thoughts .  A few days ago, I marked 20 years of Blogging and in that post, I referenced Paul Graham; and how he has said the act of writing generates ideas.  That's what is at play here.  I need to sketch out an approach and with it, will come some clarity. This is different than my annual to-do list.  Here's last year's scorecard - which is informative in terms of what worked/what didn't work/what's left remaining.  But, this is more about sketching out a list of priorities.

Peachberry Ice Heucheras - Rabbit Damage - February 2024

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I planted three Peachberry Ice Heucheras that I picked up at the Morton Arboretum Spring Sale last year and planted them around the border of the firepit in the back.  I've had mixed success with Heucheras in general, but these were pretty striking color-wise, so I opted to bring them home.    They seemed to do well in their first year and by late Summer had put on some size and were showing a nice two-tone set of leaves.  Here they were in mid-August 2023 .   I have left most of my Heucheras un-protected from rabbits over the past few Winters and never noticed that the (dang) rabbits went at them.  But...these must be different.  I was back there cleaning some things up when I brushed aside some of the leaf litter and saw what was left of the Peachberry Ice Heucheras.  See below for what they look like: I have no idea if these will come back this year, but because they lost so much of their mass, I'm not betting on it.  

20 Years of Blogging Milestone - On The Web - February 2024

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Today marks two decades of blogging on JakeParrillo.com.  Twenty years.   Plenty has changed since I fell in love with the Web via political blogging.  I've met some good friends, have earned jobs, *almost* compelled Da Coach Mike Ditka to run for US Senate and was allowed to flex my writing muscles via my own online diary.  My goals have changed over the years, too.  From being a member of the "Blogosphere" and linking to other bloggers/getting links from other writers to distributing the content via both feed and email newsletter to attempting to monetize things via AdSense and FeedBurner (hey!!!) ads to what I've shifted to over the past 10-or-so-years: writing mostly for an audience of one:  myself.   Somewhere over the years, I dropped having ads and when FeedBurner email newsletters were sunset, I, too, sunset having my daily blog posts distributed beyond this little place on the Web.  My very first post - basically my own "Hello, World" was posted on

Hellebores Late Winter Clean-Up - February 204

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On the first of February (2 weeks ago today), I noticed the pink tips of the Hellebores had emerged from the mulch in their annual late Winter arrival.   Those pink tips and buds were accompanied by the previous year's foliage - which persisted through the Winter.  With the temps in the 40's yesterday after work, I decided to get out there to clean-up the foliage.  Here, below, is the 'before' photo - with all of the green leaves on the plants: And, here below, is the 'after' photo.  Looks like a messy pile of oak leaves laying on the ground.  But, if you look closely, you'll notice some peeks of pink.  I've left the leaves in place (for now) as a little bit of extra protection until we do a proper cleanup in the beds. Here, below, are a few more looks at this year's Hellebores being protected by Oak leaves. I considered a 'chop and drop' for the foliage - where I'd trim-off and then cut-down into smaller pieces the stems and leaves and

Cleaning Up Front Porch Beds - Ornamental Grasses for Compost - February 2024

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A couple of days ago, I posted in my [compost bins] diary a look at the current state of my bins now that I've topped them off with a lot of ornamental grass material - reeds, canes and blades.  I tried to chop the material down into smaller segments in an attempt to break it up a bit and speed decomposition.    While I was cleaning up the grasses, I also went into the front porch bed and clipped off and cleaned up the front of the bed.  That included a number of Dusty Millers and all of the Seslaria Autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass) .    Here, below, is a look at this bed after I trimmed up the Moor Grasses - but left behind some of the Fall leaf litter that has accumulated over Winter:  I also have three large Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses in the island bed between our driveway and front walk.  I pruned all of those ornamental grasses and cut them off an inch-or-two above their crown.  That island bed after the ornamental grasses have been cleaned up for Spring is below: I'

Dormant Pruning A Bald Cypress - IB2DWS - February 2024

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I've been thinking about creating a post that features a list of hard-learned 'Garden Rules' that are absolutes in how I approach working in the garden and yard.  That list ebbs-and-flows each season, but one of the items that I KNOW (with certainty) will be on the list is this:  Leave newly planted trees alone.  Don't prune them for years.  Just don't touch them.  Don't 'limb-them-up'.  Don't do anything.   I've learned this the hard way.  Thinking that I'd give the tree a better shot at growing up/out faster, I've pruned trees when they were small.  Eliminating far too much canopy in one go. That means, for the past five-or-so years, I've followed my own advice and left young trees alone.  That includes the small Bald Cypress that I planted IB2DWs back in Fall 2018 .   But, a time comes when a young tree needs to get cleaned up.  And, this weekend was *that time* for our driveway Bald Cypress.   Below is a 'before' photo sho

Adding Ornamental Grasses To Compost Bins - February 2024

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We had "false Spring" last week when the temperatures rose to the upper 40's and low 50's, so that (naturally) lead me to getting out in the garden to do a little bit of work.   I went with the whole "leave the leaves" thing last Fall.  Well...sort-of.  I cleaned up A LOT of leaves.  But, wasn't super picky about things and left some leaves whole.  And, blew some other leaves on the lawn, chopped them up with my mulching mower, and blew those chopped-up bits back onto the beds.   I also left ALL the standing material up all Winter.  That 'standing material' includes flower stalks and ornamental grasses.  Thanks to "Fall Dividing", we have ornamental grasses all over the place.  I've read a bunch of the posts/stories about the risks of doing a Spring Cleanup in the garden too soon; leading to some problems with nesting insects.  So, I opted - for now - to mostly leave the leaf litter in place.  But, I figured I should go at those gra

Wider View of Epimedium Colony and Shredded Umbrella Plant - February 2024

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Yesterday, I posted an update about the trio of Spine Tingler Epimedium that are planted near the large Catalpa tree in our backyard .  Those three are planted amongst some of the other Epimedium (Amber Queen) that we have had planted for a number of years. At one time, I had five (5) Amber Queen Barrenwort/Epimedium - Here's a look in May 2021, when I planted two new ones to bring the total to five .   By the time I planted the Spine Tinglers last May (2023), there were just four Amber Queens left.   And that's what we're looking at today:  Four Amber Queen Epimedium and Three Spine Tingler Epimedium.   Below is a wider view of this colony showing all eight plants: I've amended some parts of the front and back beds with biosolids last Fall.  Looking at this section, I'm thinking that these could use a slow-release feeding via some biosolid topdressing and/or mulch. I didn't manage to post about these, but I also added a pair of Shredded Umbrella Plants in among

Spine Tingler Epimedium Late Winter - February 2024

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This past May (2023), I planted three Spine Tingler Epimedium that I brought home from the Morton Arboretum Arbor Day Plant Sale and stuck them in amongst the other epimedium that have survived - Amber Queen.  These are planted under a large Catalpa tree in the backyard, along the north side bed.   Below is a photo showing the current state of these three (along with one Amber Queen on the far right of the image): My experience with epimedium is that they are VERY slow to get established.  They aren't in a state of growing, but also not so much a state of dying.  More like...just a state of 'being.   I've looked back at the photos of when these went in and I'm not sure they've actually grown.  But, I'm also not sure they've shrunk at all.  I'd love NOTHING MORE than to see these spiny-filled barrenwort/epimedium to naturalize this whole area to make a large colony of groundcover.  

Rhododendrons With Winter Buds - Backyard Shade Garden - February 2024

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The neglected rhododendrons (they're only neglected because they have - imho - failed to live up to their promise) are back with buds that were set in Fall and (hopefully) have made it through the thick of winter temperatures.   The pair of Rhododendons were planted on either side of our back stoop and sort of just were blah.  They started to get thin and decline.  Could be because of chipmunks eating away at their roots.  Or, could be they were were in the wrong spot.  I ended up digging them up and replacing them with a pair of handsome dwarf Spring Grove Ginkgos and I've been VERY happy about that move.   Without much thought, I stuck them in around the small (immature) Dawn Redwood tree in the backyard.  That area is a sort-of no-man's land with nothing there on purpose, rather just the result of having 'available space' and plants that 'need a home'.   They get a mix of shade and sun back there and since I water (with a sprinkler) that bed on-the-regul