Wednesday, April 29


We've been having a lot of rain lately, so much that I was starting to look for a clear day to take another rain-garden site photo. But it cleared up today and the standing water is gone, so I planted rhubarb.

The plants were an Easter gift from family - thanks! I have three put in the ring around the electrical box, which will be accompanied by the five petunias that are actually growing. The remaining four plants went along the side of the house, north side, unfortunately, but we'll see if they do poorly there and relocate if necessary.

Can't wait for next year's rhubarb pies!

Saturday, April 11

Planning a rain garden

The lawn has a low spot, near the garage, where water collects every year. The garage in the distance does not currently have gutters, but, in the future, downspouts could be routed to feed runoff to this area, providing sufficient water for a rain garden. This would also avoid the problem of getting the lawn tractor stuck in boggy soil when trying to mow the area.

Conveniently, one of my garden magazines (Garden Gate)came recently with an article on planting rain gardens. Given the amount of stone we have freely available, a dry streambed lined with pond liner and rocks would be quite easy from the corner of the garage, as discussed in the article. It would look a lot more natural in this case than burying drain tile, since the bed floods completely and the area to the downspout would be pretty soggy as well.

The article in the magazine lists several plants that are suitable for rain gardens, but a bit of internet searching turned up this site with an excel spreadsheet of hundreds of species to choose from. There are also many other sites that will sort by zone, foliage, etc.

The plan for this site, which may not be implemented until next year, is to dig a level pit about 8 inches deep, with a berm on the near side to contain the water (sloping gradually back into the lawn such that the lawn tractor can handle it). Then filling the garden with native Wisconsin grasses and flowers, taking care not to put in anything too invasive. The border of the garden will be something that can handle occasional lawnmower hits, probably a low clumping grass. A dry streambed will carry water from the garage downspout (when it is installed), and a bridge of some sort will allow for foot traffic across to the garden from the garage. Tractor traffic will have to go around. A wide space will be left to surround the garden, to accomodate the tractor.

Of course, the WI DNR has a very helpful page on rain gardens, and a list of native plants suitable for wetlands:
Scientific Name Common Name Height Color Blooming Specialties
Zizia aurea divided golden Alexander 1-2 ft yellow May-Jun Butterflies
Solidago riddellii Riddell's goldenrod 1-3 ft yellow Aug-Oct Butterflies, Birds - Forbs
Iris shrevei wild iris 1-3 ft purple/yellow May-Jul Birds - Forbs, Hummingbirds
Chelone glabra turtlehead 1-3 ft white Jul-Sep Butterflies
Lobelia siphilitica great blue lobelia 1-4 ft blue Apr-Sep Butterflies
Verbena hastata blue vervain 2-4 ft purple Jul-Oct Butterflies
Lobelia cardinalis cardinal flower 2-4 ft scarlet Jul-Sep Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Helenium autumnale sneezeweed 2-4 ft yellow Aug-Oct Birds - Forbs
Spiraea alba meadowsweet 2-5 ft white Jun-Sep Butterflies
Eupatorium maculatum spotted Joe Pye 2-6 ft pink Jul-Sep Butterflies
Asclepias incarnata red milkweed 2-8 ft magenta Jul-Aug Butterflies
Vernonia fasciculata ironweed 3-5 ft royal purple Jul-Sep Butterflies
Cassia hebecarpa wild senna 3-6 ft yellow Jul-Aug Birds - Forbs
Epilobium angustifolium fireweed 3-7 ft pink/red Jun-Sep Birds - Forbs, Hummingbirds

Friday, April 10

Insight and comments needed...

Going through my notes for future garden plans today, I've noticed that I no longer have a suitable landscape design program. (I had been using Broderbund's Landscape Designer Deluxe from many years ago) What should I do now? Being the geek I am, I've started investigating a few things:
  • Microsoft Visio
  • CAD software (Autodesk, Pro/Engineer, etc)
  • Custom Landscape designer packages - typically those sold in retail stores and don't seem to be easily imported/exported to other projects.
Does anyone out there use software? What kind? I imagine there has to be some sort of 'professional' package for landscape CAD, but I've never seen it. If you are using Visio or other CAD stuff, do you have custom stencils or can you purchase stencils / parts associated with common vegetables? (this may become a project for next winter, but I can see myself creating Visio stencils of proper dimensions for every plant in my property).

I want something robust enough that I can get upgrades in the future, import or export images if not the raw design files (CAD would be best for this, I know), and have some sort of storage for plant footprints so they don't need to be created for every individual project.

What do you have? What do you like or dislike?


Thursday, April 9

9 April - Sprouting Petunias

The seed packets say 6-10 days for germination. If we don't count day 1 (they were planted pretty late at night), today is day 7 under not-perfect conditions. I have two of the 15 sprouted with first leaves visible. The plan was to risk no-grow seeds and only plant one per pot, so I'll keep a close eye on the rest the next few days.

Once they have three true leaves, I'll start adding diluted fertilizer to the trays. Hopefully, they'll be ready to plant out sometime in late May or early June.

Wednesday, April 1

1 April - starting petunias

Johnny's package came in the mail today (just like Christmas!). So I've gotten started on my petunia seeds.

Fifteen 3" peat pots with potting mix (sprayed down on top with a mister) and soaking in water from the bottom are ready to go on my shelf. I purchased pelleted petunia seeds, since the tiny seeds are so difficult to handle - the pelleted ones are not much better, but at least I can see them when pelleted. The starting instructions I'm using are a combination of what Johnny's provides with the seeds, and what I found online at the University of Minnesota Extension.

The tray has been put under the lights, and plastic wrap is covering it to keep the seeds moist. (petunias need light to germinate). I'm a glutton for punishment, so I put one seed per pot, we'll see how well they do gambling on germination rates, but Johnny's has had very good seeds every time I order from there, so I expect nearly 100%.