Belle of Dirt

Missouri Ozarks mom, mover of earth, photographer, maker and plant enthusiast


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I’m officially “somebody”

Logged into Pinterest the other day to share my latest post and to my surprise, I had an invitation. It was for a board of Garden Tips with 3700+ followers.
So I guess this means I’ve officially been recognized as someone that reliably plays in dirt on a routine basis and may have posts… or in this case, pins, to share about it. Kind of groovy, I thought.  🙂
Thanks again, to all of you who read this little, slowly growing blog and especially those that have given Dirt shout-outs or shared my posts.
I’d probably write it whether anyone read it or not, but a little encouragement never hurts!
-Belle


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Winter Gardening

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape- the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. – Andrew Wyeth

IcyTreesWait a minute… winter gardening? What is there to do besides read gardening books and wait for spring to arrive? Unless you’re hibernating with the bears, there’s plenty you can do during the winter months to get you ready for spring planting.

Like the above quote suggests, winter is an excellent time to really take a look at the bone structure of your garden. Like the bones in a face, your garden’s foundation will show through, support and give shape to everything layered on top of it. Architectural elements support the greenery, flowers and fruits of spring and summer.

Moderate winter days are a great time to walk about your yard and consider your  landscape  plan for the coming year. Is a too large plant overwhelming a small space? Does a certain spot lack interest, need repairs or maybe additional WinterBonessupport?
Now is the time to plan and take care of it, before the area is covered in vigorous growth and becomes an issue in the middle of your busy growing season.

If you’re hiring a  landscaper this year; schedules tend to be less chaotic during the winter months and you can set up your installs for early spring, before the rush begins.

If you haven’t already; clean and sharpen your garden tools, clear out junk in the shed, pick up extra gloves and start browsing those seed catalogs. When I can’t get outside during icy or especially cold spells, I love to shop and plan for what I’ll be doing when it does warm up a bit. Seeds may arrive as soon as early February for starting indoors- 8 weeks or so before the last frost. Order early so you can avoid delays and get the best selection!

I like to prune and clean out brushy areas on mild winter days. It’s much easier to see the underlying structure of a tree without leaves blocking half your view. Also, pruning during the cold months helps protect trees from contracting some fungal diseases and pest issues that are prevalent during the wet spring or hot summer months.  Our red-oaks are prone to oak wilt in this area- the disease is dormant in below freezing temperatures and MUCH  less likely to be passed from tree to tree through infected wood or cause stress to a tree susceptible to infection.

icedberryIf the plant flowers in spring, wait until after it finishes blooming to prune. Vigorous winter pruning of a spring blooming plant means it won’t bloom again until next spring; already, there are small, tight buds forming on several of my blooming shrubs and trees. The early bloomers, like forsythia, burning bush, saucer magnolia (a cold-hearty cousin to the trees in the South) and wisteria shouldn’t be pruned or cut back until they finish flowering in mid to late spring. Pruning may be especially necessary to trees following ice storms or heavy snows, due to broken branches.

Make a date with your soil. If you’ve never had a soil analysis done, the tests are relatively inexpensive and getting results now will give you plenty of time to learn about what amendments to add when the soil becomes workable in spring. County extension offices should be able to direct you to soil testing labs; some may even provide free testing.

Spring clean your window space as soon as those holiday displays are stored away. Growing seedlings need ample light, and warmth to be ready for spring planting. Make room for this temporary garden space before your seeds and sets arrive.icicles

You can still amend garden beds for spring, if you didn’t do it in the fall. I’ve been adding cardboard to various areas of my yard and garden since December. Don’t work the soil if it’s frozen or too wet, you can damage the structure. What you can do is add coffee grounds, tea grounds, egg shells, cardboard and leaves until the compost pile begins to warm and the soil isn’t frozen solid. This will give you a jump start on enriching the nitrogen and calcium in your beds as well as helping to warm the soil faster when the snow and ice finally exit stage left.

I’ve also read that a thick layer of cardboard in the fall/winter months can all but eliminate the need to till or weed a garden plot before planting in spring. I covered our beds in late fall with a layer of cardboard and black weed barrier that I could easily remove when I’m ready to start moving seedlings outside. This is my first year trial, so I can’t vouch yet personally for its success. I’ll be sure to post comments or updates this spring when I find out.

Happy planning folks, don’t forget to oil up those shotguns in case Mister Groundhog sees his shadow next week! 😛
-Belle


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Busy Little Bee

Tell me what you’ve been up to… busy little bee.
I will always and forever associate that line with Gladiator, which is why it still gives me the creeps when I hear it. So the growing season is over, I’ve put away my mower and collected the milk jugs from around all the trees. (I’m sure the neighbors were relived at that one) I’m far from doing a whole lot of nothing though.
Winter and fall are my moving, planting (yes! planting) and cleaning up seasons in the yard and garden. It’s a great time to do planning when everything is stripped down to the bare bones and you can really visualize what works and what doesn’t. I do my pruning and lot of planting this time of year too, so long as the ground isn’t frozen, trees, shrubs and even some bulbs can be planted this time of year.
I’ve been burning brush, raking leaves, prepping the garden and moving lilies this past month. I’ve taken pictures of a couple projects to share soon. I just need a spare moment to sit down and write! No new photos of yard or projects today, but  if you’re curious about the face behind the blog, I did update “The Dirt on Dirt” with a picture of myself. 😉


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I’m SO gonna feel that tomorrow

My 3 year old daughter has been my little garden helper the past couple days. She’s at that age now where she’s able to learn that there is an actual purpose to playing in dirt, besides the obvious perk of getting dirty or eating it.
We decided that this year we were going to grow some veggies. I didn’t want to spend a lot of $, I’ve had good success with tomatoes in the past and a cucumbers, but I’m fairly sure it’s a near impossibility to screw up either of those. This year we are getting a bit more ambitious.
We browsed the seed catalogs and ordered 8 packets of veggies and a couple of flowers we liked. The seeds we chose were 1) Roma tomato 2) cherry tomato 3) sweet red pepper 4) sweet heirloom yellow onion 5) sweet yellow pepper 6) sweet orange bell pepper and 7) mini cucumber. We also got packets of echinacea (purple coneflower), sunflowers and a marigold mix. I picked the marigolds in particular, because they are a natural insect deterrent and I’m hoping they’ll keep my need to spray or dust to a minimum (if at all). I’m a big fan of natural insect control and fertilizer, I hate dumping poisons around or on the stuff we plan to eat. We’re also putting a pond right in the middle of the garden bed. This will encourage the many frogs we have nearby to hang out and munch on the insects invading our veggie patch.
I’m building trellis straight up the side of the house out of just simple wire to support the vines. Nothing fancy and very inexpensive. I’m hoping the vines will pull double duty and absorb some of the heat that would otherwise be beating down on that southern exposure of the house. Due to our satellite TV and wireless internet, I can’t plant a tree there to block the afternoon sun. The veggies are going right into an old flower bed that was formerly full of nothing but tiger lily and butterfly bush. I had put off for years doing a vegetable garden, thinking I needed a formal space. They’re plants. They can grow in any garden bed and they don’t mind if they’re next to flowers. Silly me.
Some seeds need to be started indoors several weeks before the last frost and then transplanted outside. We’ve been saving gallon milk and water jugs for the past couple months to use as mini-greenhouses. I’m hoping they work well. They should help keep the seedlings warm, give them filtered light and help trap moisture in the jugs so the soil doesn’t completely dry out. I cut the tops nearly all the way around, leaving the two halves attached at the handle. My daughter helped me fill the bottoms with soil, then we sprinkled on our seeds, added another light layer of dirt and misted this really well with water. We’ll be checking them each day and misting with more water as needed. The jugs are also easy to write on, so you can identify what’s what when you’re ready to transplant the seedlings. I’ve saved egg cartons for when we get to that stage.
The bed outside is just a raised bed, filled partially with native soil, outlined with rocks I’ve picked up around the yard and in the woods. I’ve added some potting soil and quite a lot of compost as well, our native soil here is mostly rocks and clay. Clay has decent nutrient content, but not great drainage and isn’t always the best medium for young, tender roots.
We’ll post more pictures and updates of our trials or success as the project moves along.  I haven’t done this kind of digging or planting for a couple years now, going to be feeling this tomorrow! 🙂