Rake and Roll

Rake and Roll
October is a great month to harvest a nutrient rich and free soil amendment for your garden….leaves. Money does grow on trees as leaves provide both nutrients and great structure when incorporated into your garden soil. By next spring and summer the soil will be improved with organic matter and in many cases have abundant earthworms providing castings as well. It’s time to “Rake and Roll” in October if you want your garden to have rock star status next year, all at little to no cost.
If you have a grassy area that you want to convert to a flower or vegetable bed next year, but don’t have the time or energy to dig up sod, I have a solution. It’s a passive form of composting which some people call “lasagna” composting. Take the lawn area you wish to convert and cover the grass in the pattern and size you wish in newspaper 2 to 4 pages thick. Do it on a calm day with a garden hose at the ready so you can wet the paper. Otherwise you might find yourself chasing the classified ads all over the neighborhood.

"Leaf Lasagna" planting bed creation

“Leaf Lasagna” planting bed creation

After positioning the paper liberally cover the paper with leaves falling from the trees. I have found that Maple leaves are ideal for this purpose. You can pre-grind them with the lawn mower first if you want to speed up the decomposition process. Once the leaves are on top of the newspaper, finish up with soil placed on top of the leaves to hold them in place. Now you can “leaf” it alone and let nature take its course. The newspaper leaves and soil will suffocate the grass and the recipe will “cook” until spring for tilling into a rich tilth perfect for planting. In spring you’ll be “tilling” it like it is and glad you did.
If you want to develop a “flowering” in your landscape, October is the time to exercise your option of dropping amazing orbs of promise in the soil with spring flowering bulbs. Easy to plant and fun to watch flower in spring, there is a wonderful variety to choose from. If you struggle with rodents nibbling on the bulbs for a winter snack, just remember to have some chicken wire handy. Dig the hole and place the chicken wire in the bottom of the hole. Now situate the bulbs in the hole on top of the chicken wire. Fill with some soil, and fold the chicken wire over the top. Finish filling the hole with soil. The bulb roots and stems will grow through the chicken wire and rodents will be deterred from nibbling.

The "Alliums" have landed in my yard!

The “Alliums” have landed in my yard!

You may also want to consider planting some Alliums. Alliums are colorful, interesting flowers in all kinds of sizes and members of the onion family. Rodents must be self conscious about their breath as they tend to leave them alone for other treats in nature’s buffet.

Water means Life

Accessible clean water is vital for both us and our plants. We often take it for granted where we live. In other parts of the world however that is not the case. Finding usable water becomes a matter of life or death and is a daily struggle.
Like all living things, plants can get by without food for much longer than they can without water. In fact, 80 to 95 percent of a plant is made up of water, which it uses to replace water lost to evaporation and to assist with photosynthesis. Water affects a plants growth, its resistance to insects and disease and its overall vigor. Proper watering is essential if you want your plants to thrive. Because the plant transpires around 97 percent of the water it absorbs, its main task is to maintain the internal water flow or pressure so that the plant may remain stable and sufficiently supplied.

Water means life

Water means life

Water is life and here in West Michigan we are fresh water rich. Some children in our world suffer due to lack of clean water and we can make a difference. We are reminded again with the humanitarian crisis in Syria that thousands of children suffer and die every week. It seems to me governments can unite to solve a banking crisis but in times of humanitarian need it is people who unite with outstanding humanitarian agencies like World Vision to make a difference.

Once again I’m running with Team World Vision to raise awareness and to help provide clean water for those in need. The needs are real, but we believe that we can end the clean water crisis in our lifetime.

Running with Team World Vision to raise awareness

Running with Team World Vision to raise awareness

$50 = clean water for 1 person for life.

Will you invest in the future and provide clean water for 1, 2, 3, or even more people? We can help change lives, together.

Here is the link below to make a donation that will change lives. Please click on it…….


Thanks for your support!

You work “Yard” for the money

You work “Yard” for the money. Thinking of how to stretch your dollar in the garden? To have green thumbs not by the amount of currency handled but rather results in your landscape? Look no further than the months of September and October for help.
You can use your Dis-“clover” card or your “Grass”-ter card or even maybe your Hosta la Visa card with confidence in the fall for a number of reasons. Discounts on plant material are usually readily available. The weather is cooler and rain generally plentiful making it good weather for both you and the new fledgling sprouts.

Fall is for planting

Fall is for planting

Weed control is more effective in fall. Plants root readily in warm soil in fall as the plants put more energy into establishment instead of top growth like they do in the spring. The reasons are numerous why fall is for planting. Bulbs can be planted, lawns established and repaired, landscapes planted or rejuvenated and even annuals like Pansies or Ornamental Kale can be planted.

Ornamental Kale or Cabbage are perfect additions to the landscape for cool season color

Ornamental Kale or Cabbage are perfect additions to the landscape for cool season color

Plants established in fall have a jump start on their counterparts planted in spring and you look like a neighborhood genius.
Start to prepare your tropical deck foliage plants for cabin fever and the move inside. Soon tropical breezes will turn into whatever winter pleases. Your tropicals or houseplants should be inside and behind glass by then. I’m referring to plants like Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Crotons, Boston Ferns, Palms, Ficus and the like. It’s a good idea to bathe the plants before bringing them inside. Maybe some fresh sterilized potting soil is in order or systemic insect granules to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure soil is not saturated so we don’t create a fungus gnat issue in the home. Without the long warm days of sunshine and breezes the plant will need much less water in the months ahead.
Fall is the time to invest in bulb planting. With a good well drained soil and proper depth it is as easy as dig drop done. And oh “deer” if Bambi is a problem in your neighborhood not to worry. Bulbs like Dutch Iris, Alliums, Daffodils, Fritillaria will do just fine.

Fall planted pansies and Tulips planted in fall will be a treat next spring

Fall planted pansies and Tulips planted in fall will be a treat next spring

If you want to plant Tulips or Crocus you will need to have the repellant handy next spring. I successfully had a great batch of yellow tulips this spring and protected them with Milorganite and a repellant. They were beautiful and the deer were “deerly” departed to another area in the neighborhood.
Make your effort and your money count by actively gardening in the fall. You work “yard” for the money and next spring you’ll be glad you did.

Hibiscus confusion?

Hibiscus confusion? Cue the music and let’s meet the contestants….

Our first featured Hibiscus is from and native to the Eastern US….one native tribe in the US used it to cure inflamed bladders and Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello. A shrub like herbaceous perennial and vigorous grower, this Hibiscus is sure to please with dinner plate sized flowers July-September. A very colorful character say hello to Hibiscus Moscheutos.

Hibiscus moscheutos Perennial herbaceous hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus moscheutos
Perennial herbaceous hardy Hibiscus

Our next featured Hibiscus hails from tropical Asia and China. Not hardy to Michigan winters this hibiscus loves to play in the sun and warm temperatures.

Rosa sinensis....non hardy tropical Hibiscus

Rosa sinensis….non hardy tropical Hibiscus

This plant makes a bold statement when entering a room with stunning flowers….that only last for a day or two. Say hello to Rosa Sinensis.








Our final featured Hibiscus is ubiquitous and all around town. A slow starter once established blooms beautifully in July and August. Woody and requiring discipline, this Hibiscus goes by different names like Althea, Rose of Sharon or Hibiscus making it’s personality complex. Say hello to Hibiscus syriacus.

Hibiscus syriacus also known as Althea or Rose of Sharon

Hibiscus syriacus also known as Althea or Rose of Sharon

Take me to your “weeder”

Yikes! Dodder is a parasitic annual weed that infests crops and ornamental plants? Alien in appearance this crazy “plant” or weed is a distant relative of Morning Glories. Very limitedin it’s capability for photosynthesis this weed obtains nearly all its energy from the host plant. Seedlings in the soil need to quickly find a host plant and latch on or they die. Take me to your “weeder”!



Once a host is found they latch on creating a dense mat of intertwining colorful stems literally choking the life out of the host plant. Hand removal or removal of the host plant, identification and clean up are the keys to prevent recurrence.