August 2, 2012
The weather has been very warm this year. In fact, the temperatures in July were the second hottest on record. When all of that heat is combined with the driest summer in decades, nature has created a perfect storm for stressed gardeners, landscapes and plants. So, should we all just throw in the garden trowel? The answer is no. As tempting as it may seem to let everything slide and dream of a cooler and wetter autumn, there are things that we can do to help our plants and gardens cope with the current conditions. And for us gardeners, there is always lemonade.
Let’s begin with the bigger picture. Minus a few exceptions of course, your landscape is equipped with some pretty good coping mechanisms. The first decision you’ll want to make is about your lawn. Do you irrigate or not? When you stop watering in this heat, turf will go completely dormant, awaiting fall rain and lower heat indexes before it greens up again. For sure, it looks dreadful for a couple of months, but the roots are perfectly fine. If you decide that summer is just not the same without a lush green lawn, make sure that you irrigate thoroughly but less often. An inch of moisture a week is what you need. Just choose to water or not, and stick with your choice. A quick word about planting new lawns-wait until it cools down. Grass seed will just bake at this time of year and sod will have trouble establishing.
Trees and shrubs on the other hand, are not as adaptable as blue grasses and fescues. Even those plants that are well established in your landscape are very vulnerable to drought stress. As an general rule of thumb, soak the root zones of your trees and shrubs with a soaker hose for an hour or so, once a week. You are trying to approximate an inch of rainfall. Place a baking dish or a saucer under a section of the hose to measure the pressure if you are unsure. A regular hose, running at a steady trickle can be moved around the root area every 15 or 20 minutes. Even better is a root feeder. This low tech metal tube attaches to your hose and can be pushed into the soil to bypass the roots of your lawn, delivering all of that water to your woody trees and shrubs. You’ll want to keep this up until the temperatures moderate and the rains return. Don’t be alarmed if you notice early fall coloring or very heavy seed drop this next summer. Woody plants often respond to stress by producing extra seeds. Birth is probably nature’s eternal answer to death.
Now let’s consider perennial and annual plantings. These areas will require the same amount of moisture as your trees and shrubs-about an inch a week. What we do here on the property is to divide the gardens into zones that we assign days of the week. When it is simply dry, each border gets watered once each week, but when it is ho as well, some of the borders get irrigated twice a week. And you want that water to go to the roots, so try to use sprinklers that deliver as much moisture as possible to the soil. Keeping the leaves drier also helps to combat the perennial summer mildew and other fungal problems. And try to remember that wilting does not always equal dry soil. Some plants just suffer in the heat. Here the Four O’Clocks languish each afternoon, as do the Bigleaf Hydrangeas. If the soil is wet, sit tight. Once the sun starts to set, they bounce right back.
Vegetable and fruit bearing plants require regular watering if they are going to set and develop fruit worth eating. We have been watering our on-site vegetable garden twice a week. Most of our veg is doing well, though the squash plants are clearly suffering. In a perfect garden, we would use soaker hoses to keep the foliage dry, but when we are faced with hose shortages, we use an oscillating sprinkler. If you are doing the same, make an effort to water in the morning so that the leaves dry before sunset and you are losing as little moisture to afternoon evaporation as possible. Keep up with the weeding and consider mulching around the plants to slow the exposed soil’s tendency to drying out.
Lastly, consider your containers. Imagine you are an annual of some kind, let’s say a Coleus. You’re trapped in a pot with dry soil anchoring your feet, your hatless head exposed to the pitiless sun and your arms and body buffeted by the hot southern winds. That’s the life of a container plant this summer. Be us to water them every day, twice when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Minimize use of foliar fertilizers. And maybe move them into the shade on those really sultry days.
We’re really not trying to anthropomorphize the plants, but put yourself in their shoes. I mean, roots. You’re thirsty, they’re thirsty. You’re hot, they’re hot. So keep them, and yourself, comfortable until September. Autumn is coming.
May 3, 2012
Conversations with Sod….notes from the field
Mulch, mulch, mulch. Seems that’s all I do these days besides plant a few HUGE trees here and there. Definitely keeps me in shape (and mighty dirty I might add). The landscaping crew continues to be super busy trying to get everyone’s yards ready with the early warm weather push. The garden center ladies are continuing to arrange and reveal our perennial selection and vegetables as they become available. They’ll begin receiving more and more annuals over the next few weeks as well. The Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery construction continues to reveal more and more of the new beauty within. Besides the completion of the screened in porch with fireplace, new dark hard wood floors and bar have been installed and deep, bold, earthy colors and artistically designed imprints landscape the walls. Our open house weekend May 19 & 20 (during normal business hours) will be quite the spectacle with restaurant tours as well as our container planting party – Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers where you can pick a container at the shop or bring your own in, purchase your favorite plants onsite and put your pot together at the garden center (no mess at home!) with the help with our expert garden designers. Also enjoy 20% off giftware, statuary and pottery at both locations. The weekend before, celebrate Mother’s Day with the kiddos on Saturday, May 12 from 10-3PM, have them plant up a pretty present for mom while parents receive a 20% off a single item coupon as an additional gift.
Enough with the updates, now on to the main topic. We thought it appropriate to do a blog on starting your vegetable garden! With our early warm weather tease, it seems as though spring is lasting forever! Well, there are plenty more things you can do these days besides even planting your perennials that have weathered through the winter – for instance, our perennials have been tempered in the weather so they are pretty stable in their pots and soil and can be planted in the ground now.
As for the veggie garden here are a few of the vegetables that you can plant before the last frost weekend as the typical starting date for your garden:
As well as some of the locally grown heirloom vegetables that we offer at our garden center:
- kale – lacinato and dwf scotch blue varieties
- broccoli – romanesco, de dicco, calabrese varieties
- cauliflower – early snowball variety
- cabbage – caraflex, mamouth red rock, copenhagen market, primo
We soon will also be selling brussel sprouts which can be planted now as well.
When you start planting your vegetable garden, here are some tips to remember when beginning this early with the cold weather veggies. First off, don’t get too overzealous on the watering in the early weeks. The cool soil right now doesn’t allow soil to dry out as well so there is a risk of plants rotting off. Secondly, this is the time to add your organic matter such as earthworm castings, organic compost, etc. A nice prepping and preparing of the general structure of the garden will get it ready for the next shift in planting – tomatoes may even be started just after Mother’s Day.
Thanks again for reading! Another exciting thing I might point out is the Restoration Farms program with the Sheboygan Falls High School Food Science class that aims to grow, maintain and harvest vegetables at Restoration Farms and then bring the food via a “mobile farmer’s market” with veggie truck year round to over 600 impoverished community members in desperate need of good, healthy food. The program/cause was chosen as one of 100 finalists (out of thousands through this national contest put on through State Farm) to compete to be one of the top 40 vote getters through Facebook. We need your help to win a $25,000 grant! Through Facebook, vote as many as 10 times a day to help End Food Injustice, the name of the cause (search under Wisconsin), win the big prize! CLICK HERE for the link to the starter page of the contest Cause An Effect, then search under Wisconsin for End Food Injustice. Thanks for all your help that will help us help others! Happy planting!
From the field,
April 19, 2012
Hi it’s me again, and we’ve been crazy busy with all the spring clean-ups these days! Sorry it took me so long to write the second blog! Although, I have been thinking about and experimenting with this next topic which I thought would be good to discuss at the beginning of the landscaping season.
As some of you might know, I spent the first part of my career in fitness and yoga as a personal trainer and yoga teacher. That makes me ultra conscious when it comes to my body and diminishing aches and pains from every day activities. Since beginning landscaping full time this past year, I have noticed that the constant bending over has been killer on my low back! For the past summer and now spring, I have been experimenting with different techniques and positioning to save my back and body from the wear and tear of gardening for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
First off, as a professional, we choose not to sit- kneeling or bending over is preferable when it comes to perception on the job. So if I was in my own garden and doing something repetitively for awhile in one place, my first choice would be to sit in the most comfortable position for my knees and back. That being said, besides sitting, here are my favorite positions and movements that I have found to keep my lower back from getting too sore. I will say that I do think that I have discovered one technique in particular that has kept my back from getting sore at all after a long days work which is hugely important for my productivity and well being. These postures and stretches are also geared towards people with relatively healthy backs as a preventative measure, so please consult your physician if you have back trouble.
The first position that I choose to work in is somewhat like a modified side angle pose from yoga (see above and side picture). When you lean over to pick up a branch or weed or something to that effect, put one leg out in front of you and lean your elbow onto your knee so you don’t have to hang with your back bent and pressure onto a bowed and curved lower back (or you may support your elbow on your knee in just a standing bending over position). If you lean onto your knee, it takes the pressure off your lower back that puts weight on your discs and back muscles in a way that is straining and is the culprit of many herniated discs. You can also create more side bending in your back that puts less strain on the discs as well. That being said, if you are bending over and you happen to be somewhat flexible, if you lean all the way down so that your lower back is below your hips, you can also reduce the stress on your low back by creating more of a tractioning effect rather than a bending, pulling stress that happens when your lower back is above your hips.
This next component has been the key for me in keeping my lower back from getting sore. I have been amazed at how well it has worked! When you do bend over to pick something up, which is almost unavoidable in this type of work, the difference is in how you come back up. Now we’ve all heard you should bend from your knees and legs and squat rather than bend straight over, which I will attest to is probably your safest bet in protecting your back. However, sometimes it’s just too hard to do repetitively or perhaps even your knees take a beating from too much squatting. Squatting is also great, for hips and lower back – they say in other countries where people squat when they are working in the fields, there is a much lower incidence of back problems. I often squat when working in the garden. Again, however, sometimes the brunt of the repetition then can go into your knees. So ultimately we must adapt according to our own bodies in what feels best for our joints.
Getting back to my original statement – the difference I’ve found is in how you lift yourself back up into standing. Repetitive bending over and standing back up I have found to be a number one culprit in causing a sore back because when you stand back up and you are not coming from a squatting position using your legs to stand – you ultimately are using the small muscles along your spine when get very sore and tired as well can lead to herniated discs if you’re not careful and have a tricky back to start with. What I have found is that you can actually use a bigger grouping of muscles surrounding your hips to lift you back up to standing. Your gluteal muscles. Yes, that’s right, your butt! Ok, this might sound pretty silly (would you expect anything less than the folks at Restoration Gardens?), but I have actually been focusing on contracting or using those muscles when I stand back up, and I have found that it takes all the pressure and work off my lower back muscles and uses the angle and action of the gluteal muscles of the hip joint to bring you up from bending forward. I literally haven’t had a sore back since I’ve been practicing this and it has my job so much better because of it. So that‘s my secret. I often joke that I also get a great workout while on the job!
I wanted to also touch upon a few different post gardening stretches that I practice after a long days work as well that helps to balance and counter the bending over and stressing the spine:
- Hang on a post and pull back: lean one hip vs the other back to target one side of the back over the other
- Standing twist: keep feet and hips steady, just turn in the spine
- Standing backbend: use hands to press hips down as you bend backwards
I do hope this blog helps keep your back feeling good all season long! Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next Conversation with Sod: Start your garden now with cold temperature veggies. As well as our upcoming events: Plant a Special Gift for Mom for kids ages 2-6 on May 12 between 10-3PM and our Open House weekend May 19-20. Hope to see you soon!
March 15, 2012
Hi, it’s Rachael from the Landscape crew. I had thought about writing a blog since my first summer with Restoration Gardens last year documenting the great gardening and landscaping tips I’m learning from my super knowledgable bosses and co-workers and so here goes! I’ll journal once a week on what I’ve seen and learned from the many activities on the Restoration Gardens grounds and around Sheboygan County at the beautiful homes where we landscape. I also plan to share with you a monthly “Expert Blog” from each of the great design and landscaping experts at Restoration Gardens: Brian, Craig, Lisa, Char and Deb.
So the first exciting news to share of course is the coming of the amazingly transformed restaurant The Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery (taken from one of the pictures on the walls of Birdy, the blind horse from the Dreps farms homestead that was the brickhouse years ago!) and next year’s winery with the addition of Matt and Heidi Moeller to Restoration Gardens. We welcome them and know that what they create will be a great reflection of the quaintness, history and serene feel of the Brickhouse Bistro with a more elegant and even better menu, service, ambience and expanded hours in to dinner service. We’ll be able to work with them on even more beautiful weddings potentially beginning the following summer where we focus exclusively on flowers and design while they focus on creating exquisite menu offerings.
That gives the landscaping and garden center departments even more opportunity to continue creating gorgeous specialty gardens and maintain the beautiful sites you’ve come to enjoy on the grounds. And over the years with a newly designed barn and garden center we will have more opportunity to grow into the unique and high quality garden center that you’ve come to trust.
As for my landscaping notes from our first three weeks: First off, holy cow! The weather was spectacular and provided a great opportunity to get some early spring clean up going to prepare our client’s yards for their perennials and lawn to begin to grow. Crocuses were already blooming, daffodils, tulips and irises were all beginning to sprout, and we saw them bloom in no time. So now is a great time to start prepping your yard for the beauty of spring without planting anything that could be ruined with a surprise last frost or snow. Might as well take advantage of the great weather! Here is a summary of the things we focused on this week during our early spring clean-up:
- Raking up or blowing dead leaves from the lawn and garden beds.
- Pulling, cutting down and clearing away dead leaves and branches from non-woody perennials flowers such as echinacea, shasta daisies – cut down all the way to the ground for most (ask us about specifics!).
- Don’t prune the early spring blooming shrubs such as lilacs, forsythia, and magnolias – look on the branches and see if you notice small buds coming and let them be if you see them!
- Prune other woodier flowers and shrubs according to the shape you would like to see (ask us about specifics!).
- “Fluff” the mulch! Slightly rake with a hard rake or 3 pronged scratch fork to make it look fuller and spread out the way you want it.
- If you’d like, now is the time to protect your crocuses and tulip leaves from the deer and rabbits. You can use a repellant such as milorganite which is a natural fertilizer (also use as a grass fertilizer) and is very stinky so the animals stay away!
Just a brief list of things to think about as you prep your yard for the beauty of spring – feel free to contact us for full details on spring clean-up. Also contact us with any questions on how to make your yard a little mini paradise this summer according to your own budget, time and energy! Stay tuned next week for more great landscaping tips.
From the field,
October 6, 2011
Even though autumn may seem like a time of decline, it happens to be my favorite season. There is something comforting about putting your gardening projects to bed for the coming winter. And it works for life’s projects, too. I appreciate the chance of a break to breathe before the holiday madness begins.
Here at Restoration Gardens, and at the farm, this means deciding what winter preparations need to made. What trees will we up-pot? When will we cut back the perennial grasses? Which bulbs will we save to force? Where will we plant next year’s garlic? I could easily list another dozen tasks. Your list might be similar, or completely different. But all of these jobs can be described as ‘general fall clean-up’.
The first job that we tackle is cutting back-pots of perennials for over-wintering, plants on the berms, annuals and vegetables in the raised beds. So the big question, both physically and philosophically, is “What should I cut back and what should I leave?” Cleaning up spent perennials in the fall can give you a leg up on next year’s busy spring, as well as prevent the spread of fungus and other diseases. So go ahead and cut most of those plants as they die back, especially really leafy ones like hostas, daylilies, iris and peonies. But many plants can provide lots of interest to a winter landscape. Grass seed-heads and hydrangea blossoms are just two that are very popular. If you like the lovely quality that those plants add, you should mark your calendar with a note to schedule some very early spring maintenance for optimum performance next season. You’ll want to cut the grasses and other perennials back before they show signs of spring growth. Any fruit or spent flowers that are left on woody branches should be pruned for shape once the buds begin to expand.
I prefer to separate pruning from cutting back as there is technique and timing involved. Some woody plants can handle fall pruning and some cannot. Evergreens, for instance, are best trimmed as the new growth begins to harden, generally the first part of June. Pruning right now can open the plant to disease and winter injury. And the general rule for flowering trees and shrubs is to prune any that flower on old growth as soon as the flowers are spent, and those that flower on new growth while the plant is dormant. Lilacs, crabapples and magnolias should be trimmed by mid June and hydrangea, spirea and potentilla can be cut back any time the leaves are off and the plant is dormant.
Roses are an exception to that rule. Unless you have old-fashioned hydrid teas and grandifloras that are going to spend the cold season under rose cones, I recommend spring pruning. The very popular shrub roses are able to withstand our winters without much dieback. Wait until next spring’s buds swell for any trimming. Then you can shape the plant and remove old or damaged canes.
And as long as we’re on the subject of pruning out damaged wood, that can be done anytime for most plants. Make clean cuts with sharp pruning shears or saws. But if you are working on a plant that is susceptible to vascular diseases, only make those cuts during dormancy. These diseases are carried by insects that are attracted to the oozing sap that pruning often causes, so take care with oaks, ash and if you are lucky enough to have one, any native elms.
As for raking, your spring lawn will be much healthier if it isn’t covered by a layer of old foliage all winter. But what can you do with all of those leaves? Many gardeners like to save their leaves to use as a winter mulch on their beds and borders and that’s fine as long as it isn’t mounded deeper that 2 or 3 inches. It will break down a bit over the winter and it’s free. In the spring, topdress the beds with an inch or two of shredded bark. You should use clean straw for plants like roses and butterfly bushes that require deeper mulch for more protection. Leaves also make an excellent soil amendment for new planting areas and raised beds. Chopping them with a lawn mower on a dry day will hasten their decomposition. You can then spread the pieces evenly, digging in now or next spring. And if you use a composter, these smaller bits will speed the process.
Harvesting and foraging are activities that the staff Restoration Gardens spends a lot time on. Any of you who purchase our hand-made wreaths, holiday or not, might be intrigued to know that many of the decorative materials are growth right on the Kohler and Plymouth properties. We use everything from fountain grass seed-heads and curly willow branches to dried hydrangea blossoms and iris pods in container arrangements, wreaths and baskets. Last week would have found us foraging for bracket fungus moss tufts for spooky Halloween pots and hanging bright violet sea holly flowers to dry. Just use your imagination. Many gardeners have access to red twigged dogwood which can be renewal pruned in a month or so for holiday pots, leaving room in your decoration budget for some exotic berried juniper or coned incense-cedar.
Finally, I’ll write a few words on fall planting. There is a reason that landscapers plant into November. They know that autumn often provides the perfect conditions for plant establishment. Temperatures are cooler, rainfall is more regular and plants are concentrating their efforts rootward. You can feel free to take advantage of the fall sales at trusted garden centers. We’ll point you in the direction of trees, shrubs and perennials that are able to handle late planting. So celebrate the Autumnal Equinox with a little work in the garden tempered by some fall reflection.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the beauty of fall!
September 16, 2011
Hello Farm Friends,
Welcome to the brand new Restoration Gardens blog where you’ll get our expert’s advice and information on all of our specialties and services. Find unique plants and gifts at our garden centers in Kohler and our Sheboygan riverfront location, enjoy specialty foods and coffees at Brickhouse Bistro in Kohler, receive tips from our landscape department with services available throughout Sheboygan County in Kohler, Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth, Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan and beyond and hear the exciting progress from Restoration Farms where we teach kids sustainable agriculture practices currently partnering with Sheboygan Falls High School. That’s where I come in!
My name is Billy Grayham (pronounced Gray-ham), and I am your spokesperson for the 2011 Earth to Table event held at Wisconsin’s historic Wade House on Saturday, October 1. This celebration of food and agriculture is putting a “curl” in my tail!
I know I’ll be happy when you come support our vendors, the small family farms of Wisconsin who have a deeper connection with their harvest, care for their animals and take great pride in the quality of the food they provide to their community. With your support, the funds from the day will go towards the educational programs of the Wade House and to Restoration Farms (my home!) where high school kids learn to grow, harvest and sell vegetables, ethically raised turkeys and more! If you want to learn more about me, sustainable farming
practices and the progress of Restoration Farms as we also grow into a new location near Sheboygan Falls Elementary School, you can follow the Restoration Farms’ Facebook page and even be my Facebook friend! I just had to join in the FB fun for myself!
So please join us for the days events from 9AM-4PM for just $5 a person where you’ll be able to roam the Wade House grounds, watch cooking demonstrations from Nourish Farm to Family Philanthropy, and sample food and purchase products from some of the best hand-picked Wisconsin farmers and producers we could find in the area. Sample locally raised and organic meats, cheeses, maple syrup, honey, sauces, salsas, spices, jams, jellies, wool and alpaca products just to name a few! We are very grateful to our sponsors Miesfeld’s Meat Market who with local 4H groups will serve lunch as well as to Sargento for their generous donation of cheeses for our Chef’s Challenge. Also enjoy all of the great Wade House activities such as stagecoach rides and kid’s period games.
The Celebrity Chef’s Challenge will follow from 4-6PM with Kohler/Sheb Christian and Lutheran, Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls High School teams competing paired with local chefs (to be announced next week, stay tuned!) with the winning high school receiving a generous gift of cookware from Walter Vollrath of Polarware. We’ll end the evening with a good ole’ farm ho down. Your evening ticket includes dinner and a Barn Dance with Sheboygan County’s favorite Beef Tea Irish Bluegrass band! Cash bar with farm inspired beers, wine and soda also available. Tickets are available pre-purchased for $15 at Restoration Gardens, Miesfelds or the Wade House. ($20 at the door).
So I would just be “tickled pink” if I would see you all at the 2011 Earth to Table event Saturday, October 1! A great event for families, friends, food and celebrating community!