A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 44 – Beeblossoms

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“Winter Swarm” – Late Fall 2012 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Gaura… When I was introduced to this plant for the first time it was labeled “Wandflower”… The next time I saw it was behind a house that had been abandoned for at least 10 years… Several massive clumps growing among the neck-high weeds… The flowers were all that was visible… As the wind blew the flowers seemed to fly around in circles resembling a swarm of bees… I started calling this “Swarm Plant” for a while… But… I have enough people around me who know their shit when it comes to plants… And well… I was soon corrected…

Beeblossom is considered a noxious weed in many areas… In fact… The “abandoned house” find taught me two things… Removing this plant after 10 years of growth is damn near impossible… And when you find one… You will find a million… Each flower grows atop a very long and thin stem… These have no issues rising above the weeds… Because of this they are pollinated freely… You would not believe how many seeds this plant can put out in a couple of months of flowering…

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Todays forecast is calling for temperatures in the 50s… A massive leap from the -10 we had last week… For any math fans out there… That is a 60 degree jump in just a few days… Some areas saw -30… They will also be climbing up around 50 degrees today… That’s an 80 degree difference… Mind blowing weather this winter… I hope the spring and summer are equally awesome… I need an early thaw… I got fruit trees to plant… Gardens to dig… Photographs to take and stories to write…

– As a side note… The Pawpaw seeds I put into stratification last October have started to send out roots…  This is good news… I have about 400 seeds in the cooler… It is going to be a busy spring… I can’t wait… Just thinking about it is making me all warm and fuzzy inside… I can already taste the Cherokee Purple Tomato… Fresh Basil… And thick sliced bacon on Italian bread sandwiches… Preferably eaten under the warm afternoon sun…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaura

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

Get your own wallet at CoinBase.com

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 40 – Petunias

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“Black Petunia” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – If I was a plant… I would be a black petunia…

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Good morning… Today is a special day for me… Two years ago today I quit heroin… I woke up feeling some kind of way… Actually… I woke up right around now… It was like a light switch had been flipped… I just didn’t want to do heroin anymore… No one could make me do it… And believe me… They tried… No amount of intervention… No amount of rehab… No twelve steps could save me… I just had to choose the right path for once in my life… And here I am…

Don’t know where I would be if I had never quit heroin… Probably dead… But here I am… Writing about gardening… Writing about my feelings… Writing to you… Hoping for nothing more than to positively affect your life… And through those positive effects… I hope to benefit my own life… It is starting to occur to me that that is what writing is all about… the good feeling I get when I write something I am proud of… I get that because of the effect I hope it will have on my readers… When it all works out… Well my friends… That is better than any heroin… Better than any high… Hell… Writing is the ultimate high… Words… They are like a drug… When the words come together in harmony… And the intended feeling is conveyed… There is nothing in the world like it… That is my new high…

In other news… The current temperature is -10 F… Though my thermometer reads “ERROR”…Maybe time for a new one… And DDT has been linked to Alzheimer’s… Big surprise huh?..

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I chose Petunias today because they are one of my favorite flowers… I don’t even really know why… And I have to admit… When it comes to Petunias… I’m a bit of a snob… My favorite nursery makes it easy though… My favorite… Any of the “WAVE”… Or “SHOCKWAVE” varieties… These varieties do not grow vertically… They grow horizontally like a groundcover… Shockwave in particular is a profuse bloomer…

A little secret… Shockwave petunias require massive amounts of nutrients to profusely bloom as intended… I actually feed my Shockwave “especially the plants in pots” every two weeks throughout summer… The result is always a mound of color…

If you have ever handled a petunia you know how sticky of a plant it is… This stickiness makes it very unappealing to insects… Hell… I don’t even like to touch them… I have had garden beds devastated by slugs before… Even the marigolds… All that was left were a few slime covered petunias… I have also noticed the neighborhood cats don’t exactly like this plant… They seem to steer clear of it…

Anyway… Thanks for reading… And thanks for the support… As always…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petunias

New To writing and never had to cite sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 21 – Clematis

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“Clematis on Lattice” – Summer 2013 – The Chicks in the Hood Tour – Pittsburgh, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Clematis are vigorous, woody, climbing vines… The woody stems are quite fragile until several years old… Untangling and pruning is extremely difficult… I pride myself on being able to successfully work with them… I have clients that won’t let anyone get close to their clematis… Except me… Leaves are opposite and divided into leaflets and leaf stalks that twist and curl around supporting structures to anchor the plant as it climbs. Some species are shrubs… While others are herbaceous perennial plants… The cool temperate species are deciduous… But many of the warmer climate species are evergreen. They grow best in cool, moist, well-drained soil in full sun…

Clematis species are mainly found throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere… But a few are found in the tropics…

The timing and location of flowers varies… Spring-blooming clematis flower on side shoots of the previous year’s stems… Summer/fall blooming clematis bloom only on the ends of new stems… Twice-flowering clematis do both…

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“Cluster of Clematis” – Summer 2013 – The Chicks in the Hood Tour – Pittsburgh. PA

In the American Old West the Western white clematis was called pepper vine by early travelers and pioneers who took a tip from Spanish colonials and used the seeds as a pepper substitute… The entire genus contains essential oils and compounds which are extremely irritating to the skin and mucous membranes… Unlike black pepper… The compounds in clematis cause internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested in large amounts… When pruning them… It’s a good idea to wear gloves… Despite its toxicity… Native Americans used very small amounts of clematis as an effective treatment for migraine headaches and nervous disorders… It was also used as an effective treatment of skin infections…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

New To writing and never had to site sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring… My source is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information… But much of this is just related from the web…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 16 – Forget-Me-Not

Forget©

“Through the Cracks” – Spring 2013 – Private Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Commonly called “forget-me-nots”… Myosotis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Borgainaceae… One of the first seeds I can ever remember planting was forget-me-nots…

There are approximately 200 species in the genus… They bloom in spring. Leaves are alternate… Forget-me-nots prefer moist habitats and where they are not native… They have escaped to wetlands and riverbanks. They can tolerate partial sun and shade.

Forget-me-nots may be annual or perennial plants… The pods attach to clothing when brushed against and eventually fall off leaving the small seed within the pod to germinate elsewhere. Seeds can be collected by putting a piece of paper under the stems and shaking them… The seed pods and some seeds will fall out…

R-Room

“Forget-Me-Not in the Rape Room” – Spring 2013 – Jeannette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA

In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out… “Forget-me-not, O Lord!” God replied, “That shall be your name”… Another legend tells when the Creator thought he had finished giving the flowers their colors… He heard one whisper “Forget me not!” There was nothing left but a very small amount of blue… But the forget-me-not was delighted to wear such a light blue shade.

Henry IV adopted the flower as his symbol during his exile in 1398… And retained the symbol upon his return to England the following year…

Freemasons began using the flower as a symbol not to forget the poor and desperate… Many other German charities were also using it at this time… In later years by a handful of Masons… It was a means of recognition in place of the square and compass design…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

New To writing and never had to site sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring… My source is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information… But much of this is just related from the web…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 15 – Violet

Buddies

“Complimentary Colors” – Spring 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – These violets were growing together in the same patch… I wanted to photograph them together… But none were close enough… So I made them close enough…

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Seven Days of Spring Wildflowers

I personally prize violets… Especially the yellows… And the whites… I seek them out in the early days of spring… Something about them reminds me of life… They remind me that brighter skies are ahead…

Viola is a genus of flowering plants in the violet family Violaceae… It contains between 525 and 600 species… Most being found in the Northern Hemisphere… But a few are found other places…Some Violas are perennial… Some are annuals… Hell… Some are even small shrub… In Horticulture the term “pansy” is normally used for those multi-colored cultivars that are raised annually and used extensively in bedding… The term “Viola” and “Violet” are normally reserved for small-flowered annuals and perennials included in the species…

Violets transplant relatively easily… Depending on your beliefs… They are often considered weeds… They are often considered a problem in lawns… Though I don’t know why… Violet blossoms are edible… They taste slightly sweet…I like them… The young leaves are also edible… Very bland… Though varieties are now being bred for flavor… Including “Rebecca” which is a vanilla flavored cultivar…

Between

“Stuck in the Middle with Blue” – Spring 2013 – Jeannette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA

Violets are known to have a “flirty” scent as its fragrance comes and goes… Lonone is present in the flowers… Which turns off the ability of humans to smell the fragrant compound for moments at a time…

Violets show promise as a future “Super medicine” as they are called here in the states… A bunch of promising antioxidants have been discovered… And more are being found on a regular basis… I’d be willing to bet we will one day see it on the shelves next to the “Super Fruit” juices marketed all over the place… As with any other natural medicine… Do your own research… And draw your own conclusions…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

New To writing and never had to site sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring… My source is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information… But much of this is just related from the web…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Practical Permaculture – Native Gardening in Urban Settings

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“Common Tansy” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Not exactly a native… But has existed in America for well over 200 years…

Permaculture, is far from being the work free style of gardening it is often mistaken to be. All too often, people plug “weed free” or “no weed” gardening into google, and up pops permaculture. So now, when the neighbor confronts said gardener about the newly created “wild area” next door to his house, the gardener claims permaculture, and in turn we all get a bad reputation.

Native, pollinator, butterfly and wildlife gardening can border on the obscene as well. Though many of these styles of gardening work with many of the native plants that we consider weeds, years of experience are often required to know the difference between a beneficial weed, and an exotic invasive when these plants are still seedlings.

Biodiversity is not an excuse for never maintaining your yard, all too many people move from sparsely populated rural areas into urban communities not understanding the difference in the landscape expectations of neighbors. As a general rule of thumb, your landscape should fit in with that of your neighbors to a certain degree… I am going to go out on a ledge and say it should compliment it… While still maintaining a certain level of originality…

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“Aster Sunshine” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Commonly found growing in fields across America… A plant that can be mowed to the ground 3 or even 4 times a year and still profusely bloom come fall…

When you go out into the country and look at rarely maintained fields, the plants grow 5-6′ tall. I think this is what some people aim to create in their front yards, sadly, this is not acceptable in most urban and suburban communities, but that does not mean it is impossible. Many natives can be planted and used just like the commercial annuals and perennials commonly found in every neighborhood in America.

The idea here is to use informal native plants, in a formal way. Mix native plants with commercially available ornamental perennials, if you have gaps, fill them with a few annuals. Give everything a place, and maintain as you would any garden.

Plants that are typically thought of as being very tall, aster, ironweed, milkweed, and goldenrod can all be maintained to a specific height. Asters should actually be cut down to 10″ on July 4th to keep them in check. Goldenrod can be cut several times in a season, Every cut will create more branches and ultimately more flowers. As a general rule, all tall flowering perennials can be pruned throughout the year in order to create a more compact plant during flowering. Awareness of the specific flowering times is key, allow a minimum of 3 weeks between last pruning and actual time of flowering. This is in order to allow the plant to recover from the stresses of pruning.

Although a front yard wildlife habitat may sound like a swell idea to you, the sad fact of the matter is to most other people that sounds like your saying you are planning a “rodent haven”. Very few people understand the importance of wildlife in our urban environments, though as time goes on I believe people will pay more attention to it… Though I still believe people will not want to exactly live next door to one if they purchased a city home anyway.

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“Black Eyed Explosion” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – A voracious self seeder… Will populate an entire yard if left unchecked… Stunning when grown in combination with a dark blue Aster…

I contemplated creating a massive list of native plants and how to maintain them, but I have more readers in merry ol’ England than in my hometown of Pittsburgh, so I have decided against that. What I will say is this… The use of natives is not an excuse to not maintain, native plants have qualities unique to themselves that should be highlighted when appropriate.

Although many natives will self-seed, this is not always recommended in order to keep the plant from growing out of hand. Some natives, like milkweed, have seeds that are meant to blow away and grow somewhere else. Unless you are absolutely positive your neighbor wouldn’t mind it growing in their yard, it is probably in your best interest to dead-head the plant before it sets seed. Likewise, when the plant is done flowering and starting to die in place, it is also probably in your best interest to remove the dying plant… This war is going to be won by compromise, not shock-and-awe…

In the long run, I do not believe the “Food not Lawns” movement is going to work, the amount of work that goes into keeping a food-producing garden neat, tidy and presentable all the time is enormous. We have all driven through a meticulously maintained neighborhood and seen a single yard with 6′ tall weeds all the way out to the street. If you talk to the neighbors, it is a nuisance. That one yard has been the reasoning behind more than one neighborhood association start up, often ending the possibilities of front yard gardening for at least the immediate future.

This, by no means is the end of the movement… But I think it is a very unrealistic concept… Compared to mowing a lawn once every 2 weeks, maintaining a food garden/urban farm is a huge task. Likewise, not many people realize how many problems can arise from growing food on every square inch of your garden. Biodiversity, being the common goal, includes more than just food. Creating a diverse food garden involves a number of other types of plants including natives, annuals, and other ornamental trees and shrubs.

A diverse garden does not have to be a wall of weeds, study the plants you would like to plant, and use them properly. I also recommend identifying all of the weeds that grow in your yard, inventory, and act accordingly. Exotic invasive weeds should be pulled and discarded, natives should be moved into suitable locations. Certain plants, like milkweed, can grow 7′ tall and should be placed in the back of the garden. The same rules that apply to ornamental garden design and maintenance, also apply to the eco conscience gardener… If anything, we should be held to higher standards as we are at the forefront of a movement. How we handle our gardens now, will have an effect on how gardens in the future are accepted…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I am not affiliated with anyone other than myself, all the information presented in this blog is provided by me… If you find this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print or two from my online shop…

http://www.society6/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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Practical Permaculture – Rehabilitating Discount Plants

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The Pineapple Sage had been dropped at the greenhouse and was appropriately free… The Aster was purchased at a local plant sale… It was the last one left and was no longer on the table… I inquired… Bargained… And walked away with a $1 plant that was destined for the dumpster… 4 Summers later and it is still one of my favorites…

So you bought a root-bound, overgrown, stretched or stunted plant from your local nursery. Maybe a friend of yours purchased a plant early in the season, and let it sit in its pot for the entire Summer only giving it away when all hope seemed lost. This is a great way to acquire plants on the cheap, most nurseries are gearing down for the winter and are typically happy to offer discounts on remaining stock as it is simply going to end up in the dumpster.

Not every plant you come into contact with will be salvageable, often times you will have to take 5 “compost” plants in order to get 1 good one… Beggars can’t be choosers… But beggars should know when to turn down an entire lot…

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This “Aural Gold” Heucherella was a gamble I won… Nothing was growing in the pot and it had no tag… A close inspection of the roots revealed the plant was alive… I made an offer… And walked away with a pot full of potting soil for free… This was the result after 3 months…

Choose Wisely

Annuals should not be taken past a certain point in the year, for the sake of this article I’m going to say July 15th – July 25th is a good cut-off date. Annuals planted after this date, although they will grow, typically never recover from the shock of being transplanted in the dry heat of the late summer months. Given the short lifespan of annuals, they do not recover from stress the way perennials do.

Perennials on the other hand, should be considered year round as long as you are comfortable with taking a gamble. Many perennials can survive drying out to the point of complete defoliation, a survival adaptation that is all too often mistaken as the death of a perfectly good perennial.

Soak Plants Overnight

The very first thing you should do when you get your new plants home is soak them. I prefer a five gallon bucket containing roughly 4″ of water, a small amount of general purpose fertilizer can be added but always measure on the side of caution. Place the plant, pot and all, into the bucket and simply leave it there overnight.

BitterRoot

Plants purchased for a discount at the end of one season… Often come back the next year as extremely healthy plants… Often… All the plant wants is a new home…

Keep Stressed Plants out of the Sun

A compromised plants symptoms are always magnified in the sun. Root bound or sick plants often quit taking up water, this is only magnified when the sun is rapidly evaporating water from the leaves. Transplanting, or the constant desiccation of the plants roots can cause major damage to a plant’s ability to absorb moisture from the soil. While the roots are healing, the plant must be babied, sometimes removal of foliage is necessary to lower the required water intake. Many plants will appear to die, it is often worth waiting a week or two before disposal as these plants will suddenly spring back to life.

Plant Them

As long as the ground is not frozen solid, you should go on ahead and plant those perennials. Plant roots are often protected from the elements by the little fact that they are underground, exposure to the cold and often bone-dry conditions of winter can certainly kill even the hardiest of perennials when exposed in a pot. At the very least, bury the entire pot. Many landscapers will similarly cover trees and perennials in a mound of mulch when the need for long-term storage presents… This is called mounding over…

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One of the easiest… And most effective things you can do to a root bound plant is cut an X in the bottom of the tangle… Then it can be easily pulled apart…

Severely Root Bound

So after reading the last paragraph, you ran out into your backyard with the intention of finally planting those left over perennials. When you went to pop that plant out of the tattered and torn black plastic pot, you suddenly realized all of the soil in the pot appears to be gone, and now you are left with a twisted mess of a root ball. Do not fret because all is not lost, this is actually one of the most common and talked about subjects in the industry.

You have several options… But this is the best… I prefer to cut an X into the bottom of the root ball roughly 2″ deep, I then slam it off the ground a few times. Once the roots have loosened up a bit, I like to rip them apart with my bare hands like a caveman… But any tool that can be used to accomplish this is fine… Not to mention more civilized. The ultimate goal of what you are doing is to open the roots up, allowing them to grow out into the soil, damaging them also tends to stimulate rapid recovery growth.

Diseased or Infested

This is always a tricky one, no one wants to be responsible for bringing unwanted pests and disease into your neighborhood. Unless you are a very experienced gardener, I would always err on the side of caution. Plants that are infested at a nursery, should stay at the nursery. Likewise, plants that are obviously showing signs of disease, such as spots, odd coloring, mold or mildew should be refused… Any nursery that does anything, other than immediately discard obviously sick plants should be questioned. My advice, stay away from them unless you have a way to quarantine them, better to just avoid the possible disaster.

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I have been dragging this plant around for years… I purposely keep it root bound in order to control size… It still requires a new pot every few years…

What about houseplants

Many of my houseplants were actually found on the side of the road on garbage night. You would be surprised how many of these seemingly dead plants came alive just by the simple act of me repotting them. Houseplants tend to be forgotten, and many people don’t realize that in order to keep a houseplant healthy, it needs to be repotted every couple of years.

Sometimes a pruning may be in order, that’s right, just like if it were growing outside. Sometimes, this pruning needs to be brutal in order to stimulate some new growth. A potted plant should be thought of as a complete system, what you do above the soil affects below, and vise versa. If you prune the leaves, an equal amount of the root system will be aborted… Likewise, If you prune the roots, the associated branches and leaves may also abort…

Every plant is different, so it would be hard for me to write about each one in this short article. What I will say is this, a houseplant is a houseplant because of its ability to survive in low-light conditions while living its entire life in the confines of a pot, when it starts to look unhealthy, your first move should be repotting it in fresh soil… 9 out of 10 times this will solve all your problems.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I am not affiliated with anyone other than myself, all the information presented in this blog is provided by me… If you find this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print or two from my online shop…

http://www.society6/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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Practical Permaculture – People… Beneficial or Pest?..

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“The Garden Table” – © chriscondello 2013 – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – To the person that stole all of our vegetables over the weekend… You pretty much stole our harvest party… Which is open to anyone in the community… Not Cool…

I am writing this post with a heavy heart, as the garden project I am involved in known as The Garden Table has been robbed of produce. My girlfriend and I stopped up on Friday before we went camping to grab a tomato for sandwiches, and all was well. I can only speculate what happened, and for this reason, and this reason alone, I will chalk it up to someone needing it more than us… Though they should have simply asked…

I have been urban gardening for 8 years now, and farming for 4 of them, and as long as I can remember I have had to deal with people steeling vegetables from my gardens. Occasionally, I have been able to isolate the problem and deal with it swiftly. Though not always pretty, I have had some success…

My first experience happened immediately after moving in to my current apartment. We had started a small vegetable garden at the end of our street a few months before we moved in. As a peace-offering, we told the immediate neighbors that we would share the produce with them. The thought behind this was that everyone would respect the garden enough to wait for us to harvest and share, this is not as universally understood of an ethic as I had originally thought.

Within a week of planting the zucchini plants, baby zucs started disappearing before the flower even had a chance to whither. At the same time I was finding MASSIVE piles of dog poo everywhere I looked in the garden… All signs pointed to the neighbors living next to the garden… These specific neighbors were pretty open about their drug problem, because of this, social skills were virtually non-existent. Any attempt at a civil conversation regarding their dog was met with very aggressive behavior, often times ending in threats of physical violence.

This went on for an entire summer, although I was able to get them to stop picking unripe produce… I was never able to solve the dog problem… The only certainty that I had to go on, was the fact that their problems were getting worse, and I knew from experience that it was only a matter of time before they screwed up their rent payments and would get evicted… Which is exactly what happened the following spring as I was preparing for my second gardening season.

TheForgottenFS

“The Forgotten Farm Stand” – © chriscondello 2011 – June 17, 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – One of my favorite photographs I have ever taken… Brings back good memories… The boys in the neighborhood who were helping out in our garden asked if they would be paid… I said sure… But not by me… This was the result…

In a separate incident… One evening, my girlfriend and I were enjoying dinner when we were interrupted by a flurry of knocks on our front door. As is typical Wilkinsburg protocol, I did not answer the door. I instead went to peek out the window in order to assure it was not someone from the neighborhood, looking to bum a cigarette. To my surprise, my buddy Brandon from down the street was standing in my front yard waving his hands yelling for me to come outside.

Upon reaching my front porch, Brandon informed me that someone had gone through the community garden that had recently been constructed behind my house, and thrown all of the produce into the alleyway. His annoyance of the situation was immediately apparent, and he insisted that I come check it out. I initially thought he was being a drama queen, but upon arrival I realized that, what seemed like all of the produce in the garden had been smashed in the alley, you name the heirloom variety, and it was crushed in the alley behind my house.

So while we were mourning the losses of our fallen vegetable soldiers, we hear a bunch of kids coming up the alley. To my surprise, Brandon insisted we hide in the garden in order to catch them in the act. A few moments later a group of really young kids entered the fenced in area, baseball bats in hand, and began setting up a game of vegetable baseball. Brandon and I confronted the kids, and they all started crying their eyes out and ran home.

I proceeded to send an email out to the gardeners, informing them of the slaughter that had just occurred. The overall consensus… Given the fact that we knew who the kids were, and their parents had not been cooperative in the past, the gardeners decided to call the police. A police officer arrived shortly thereafter, and after a short explanation, was off in his cruiser in search of the offenders. Twenty or so minutes later the police officer was back with the three boys in the back of his car, he asked if they were the ones, to which we replied they were… He opened the back door and said “then they are all yours”…

Those boys spent the next 2 hours cleaning up the alley… With the very same gardeners who they had taken the vegetables from… All the while the community gardeners taught the boys about composting… Still to this day that story gives me goose bumps… I am normally not a fan of the 5.0… But in this case… I’ll just make an exception…

Garden thievery is the biggest problem I face in my specific location, I have yet to plant a garden that was not robbed clean at some point… It is really sad… And often times disheartening… But in an urban environment… It is unavoidable…

HPCG

“Welcome Arbor” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Jeanette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – Believe it or not… Community gardens with 25 gardeners are not immune to garden thievery… This garden has been experiencing some minor problems… Though in true gardener fashion… The gardeners chalked it up to the thief being needier then they were…

Earlier this summer, I received a call from one of the other gardeners informing me that the reverend of the neighboring church had witnessed someone stealing stuff from our garden. When I got on site, I was greeted by the reverend and my friend. They said the reverend had gotten the license plate and description of the woman who was taking stuff. It turns out that a woman had asked the reverend about the garden and he told her it was a private garden, and that it was a community oriented project. The woman apparently took that as free for all as she proceeded to walk in to the garden, and rip herb plants out by the roots in order to take them home for her garden.

Luckily, the reverend saw this happening and had the foresight to get her license number. My friend called the police to report the incident and the very same cop from the story above showed up, we gave him the license plate and he said he would call her up. The officer called a little later and said the woman was really sorry, and would be returning that evening to put the plants back… A few hours later… The plants were back in their respective holes… Though the trauma proved too much and the plants ended up dying anyway… Never the less… She won’t be taking plants from anyone’s garden again… Success…

Now I rarely endorse calling the police… And I would not personally call them for anything but the most serious of offenses… But in this case, I let it go… The reason being, plant and vegetable thievery are very common in my neighborhood, just a few days before this incident I had a very similar incident on my street.

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“Ditch Lily” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This is the abandoned house garden that was targeted by a thief earlier this summer… You can see the hosta she targeted next to the steps… I don’t care who you are… This does not look like a neglected yard…

I was at home in my office writing, when I noticed an unfamiliar car park across the street from my house. The driver stepped out of the vehicle and was looking at the modest gardens we have planted in front of a few of the abandoned houses. She walked around for a few minutes looking at plants, making me think she was just admiring the gardens. Then, she walked back to her car, looked around quickly, and proceeded to unload a shovel and several 5 gallon buckets.

By the time I got to my front door, she already had a hosta most of the way out of the ground. At this point she realized I was coming. I asked her just what in the hell she thought she was doing. She angrily replied that it was an abandoned house and she could dig up whatever she wanted. I informed her that it was a community project that just happened to be in front of an abandoned house, but the garden was by no means abandoned and she had a better chance of winning the lottery then getting one of our hostas off the street. By this point she was yelling curse words at me as she walked back to her car… As she turned her vehicle around, she put down her window and told me she hopes I stay awake all night because she would be back… To which I replied that if she wanted to come to my neighborhood after dark… Well then… That’s on her… She has yet to come back…

The point is this… This problem is not isolated to my neighborhood. Wherever there is hunger, food will be stolen. The obvious solution is always a fence, and they do work, but I wanted to look beyond that… I want to change the behavior at the core of the problem.

Another common solution that I see as effective is the community outreach theory… Basically, you throw a party or two, and invite the entire community to let them know what is going on. This serves two purposes… To allow the community an opportunity to see what is going on in their neighborhood, and to inform people that the food grown is not free for the taking… I don’t care who the gardener is… We are always willing to share the harvest… Even excited to share the bounty that is often produced in our gardens… And usually willing to do it unconditionally…

So you see that word “unconditional”… That is a perfect example of how I thought when I was first starting to urban farm. Then I realized something… When financially stressed people find an unconditional source of resources, they will exploit the fuck out of that resource… Think about it… If you found a way to eat without ever having to pay for it… Or work for it… It is human nature to use it… This becomes the case with a large food source in an urban community… There is very little that can be done about this other than exclusion measures…

FragariaSpp

“Berries Galore” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Jeanette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – A shot of the community garden from earlier this year… I can understand people tasting… I will often pick a single fruit from a variety I have never tried… But I never clean house as is so often the case…

One of the very first things I learned in permaculture is that if you provide a large food source targeted by a specific creature, then said creature will proliferate and destroy the food source. In the case of people, often times if they see a bunch of unattended vegetables in a garden… That happens to be in a supposed abandoned and unprotected garden… Well then it must be free… Again… The only thing one can do is adopt the paradigm that whoever stole your food must be worse off then you… It is the only frame of thought I have found to quench the rage burning in my stomach…

Another permaculture practice that I am attempting to integrate into my urban gardens is species bio-diversity. I have filled the front quarter of the garden with tall ornamental plants, the idea with this is to attempt to hide the bounty growing immediately behind them. As far as the vegetables are concerned… I have found that a neat vegetable garden often invites thievery, when the tomatoes are easily accessible from the paths they tend to get stolen. But when I let the plants grow all over themselves and out into the paths, it tends to be too much work for a quick-moving thief… This often leads to them targeting more accessible vegetables… In the future… The front of this garden will be filled with “sacrificial” vegetables that will be very easily accessible… Basically… If the untrained eye can’t spy your vegetable supply… Then they can’t take them either…

After losing the two lots on my street, I have had to spread out my gardening efforts. When my garden was next door, security was surprisingly simple. Now my garden is 3 blocks away, and keeping constant tabs on it is impossible. I have yet to build an urban garden where I have not considered building a 10 foot tall electric fence with machine gun turrets and razor wire.

At the end of the day though… I want people to be able to see into the non-guerrilla gardens that I create… I create the spaces to be enjoyed and help brighten a neighborhood… A massive fence would have the exact opposite effect…

BrandonPhotoBomb

“A Brandon Photo Bomb” – © chriscondello 2013 – The Garden Table Urban Garden – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Taken at 7:30 in the morning last summer… I had no idea he was walking up to me as I was concentrating on the shot… Only after the camera processed the photograph and I had a chance to check it did I notice Brandon standing right in front of me… That happy accident turned into one of my favorite photographs of 2012…

On the complete opposite end of this spectrum is the fact that as far as most community urban gardens are concerned, they would not be possible without human volunteers. People really are one of the great yields of the urban garden, I am constantly surprised by the people who seem to pop out of the woodwork. Most adults appreciate a garden, some appreciate them a little too much and appreciate them in the wrong way. I have had some of the scariest guys in the neighborhood come to ask me for home-grown vegetables to impress their girlfriends, even gangsters appreciate a home-grown pepper.

A simple harvest party once or twice a year is often all that is needed to eliminate much of the non-kid related garden damage. Kids are one of the great mysteries of the garden, in my experience, a kid can help you build a garden from the ground up… But the moment they are alone with their friends… Peer pressure will often take over with disastrous results… Having been a troublemaking kid… I actually get this and am a little more understanding of this type of behavior than most… A little compassion now… Will go a long way in the future…

Unless someone witnessed your garden being robbed, than there is little you can do. Some people get so disgusted that they give up, never to plant a vegetable garden again. I would recommend that you stick with it, in the city… Neighbors can change overnight… What is now a very hostile street, can change in a matter of a few weeks. Taking a summer off may be an option, or temporarily scaling down. But all things change… And this to shall pass…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within… Are provided free by the author… Me… I sell prints of some of my photography online – www.society6.com/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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72 Hours Of Summer – Solstice

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plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Practical Permaculture – The Art Of Planting A Fruit Tree

Plum

“perfectly Plum” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – Plums may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans… Three of the most abundant cultivars are not found in the wild… Only around human settlements… Plums have even been found in Neolithic age archeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs…

 I have touched on the subject of planting fruit trees before…

https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/practical-permaculture-planting-and-early-care-of-fruit-trees/

That is the article if you are interested in reading it. This post is meant to be a detailed description of all of the steps involved on the actual day that your tree will be put in the ground. Given the popularity of my last couple of tree related posts, I figured a new post about trees would be a suiting 20,000 views celebration.

So when is the right time to plant a tree? I typically answer with 10 years ago… But the second best time is right now… That statement is surprisingly accurate… Though there are “best”, or recommended times to plant trees, it is always best to put a tree in the ground instead of letting it sit in the pot. I am a realist, I recognize that not everyone is able to purchase, yet alone plant a fruit tree in February. I want to be very clear here, you can plant a tree anytime of the year… There are times of the year that are better than others though… But regardless of season… You can plant trees…

Trees come from the nursery in three common forms, bare root, balled and burlapped (B&B), and potted.

Bare root trees are commonly purchased through the mail to facilitate cheap shipping. I have found that when you order a bare root tree, they will only ship it early in the spring in accordance with the proper planting time. If you happen to receive your bare root trees before you can plant… You can put it in a bucket of water for a short period of time… Like a week or two… Any longer than that and I would recommend potting it up… Or burying the roots in a temporary mound of soil… Don’t leave it to long though as it will take root and become very difficult to remove…

Balled and burlapped trees are dug from a field taking care to not damage the roots, afterwards the roots and soil are wrapped in burlap for transport. As long as the rootball is kept moist they can be held for a year or two… Though I don’t recommend that, it is possible. Balled and burlapped trees can be planted anytime of the year, anytime you plant a tree with leaves on it you can expect some stress… Every effort should be made to ease the trees transition when planting off-season… Or anytime other than spring before the tree has leaved out…

Potted plants are probably the easiest way for the home gardener to buy trees, when the roots slip out of the pot easily, stress to the tree is at a minimum. Often times, nurseries will run sales on trees during the middle or end of the summer. For me to tell you to hold that tree in the pot for the entire winter would be a joke… No matter what form you buy your trees in, just plant the thing.

Choosing the proper location for your fruit tree is a relatively easy process, though much of the literature available tends to convolute the shit out of it. If you follow a few general rules, you will plant it in the right spot each and every time.

Start your observations early in the morning, pay attention to where the sun rises in your specific location. In urban environments, all day sunshine is at a premium, the choice is almost always between sunshine in the morning or sunshine in the afternoon. Morning sunshine is always better as the heat has a chance to accumulate all morning, then slowly dissipate in the afternoon and night. Afternoon sunshine on the other hand only starts heating the surface around lunchtime, this results in solar warmth affecting the tree for the latter half of the day, this energy is then quickly zapped from the earth after the sun goes down. Whenever it is an option, always choose morning sun… Always…

A common question I am asked is whether or not a tree can be planted in shade, and as always my answer is yes. But it is extremely important to remember that a tree intended for sun, will never produce as much fruit as that same tree would produce had it been planted in full sun. Some permaculturist would argue with me until the cows come home, but many old-timer farmers would agree with me 100%… In my own personal experiences with gardening and farming… When given the choice between “old-world” and “new-age”… Always go with the old-world… They knew their shit…

I was at one time going to write an article about how to dig a hole, believe it or not, people google it all the time. Well, you start with a shovel, and you end with a shovel… Depending on location, you may need an axe for roots, or a pick mattock to remove stones and bricks. Either way, you just stick a shovel in the ground and move dirt… Remember… Manual Labor is not the president of Mexico… A little old-timer advice for yah…

Tree planting depth is another common question, although the answer is simple… There are a few variables to consider. Seed grown trees will develop a root flare where the trunk meets the soil. Regardless of how deep you think you should plant that tree, if a flare is present, that needs to be at the surface of the soil.

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“DogLeg” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – This is a photo of the graft union on a pear tree… The bottom is the root-stock and the top is the scion… This union needs to stay exposed for the life of the tree… As this tree grows… This union will eventually look like a straight trunk… But it will still need to remain exposed…

Grafted trees are a little different though, they have a special requirement that is absolutely detrimental to the overall survival of the specific tree. A grafted tree is made up of two distinct parts, a rootstock and the scion, or top of the tree. The rootstock is an entirely different tree than the top part on a grafted specimen, typically a tree that does not produce good fruit… But instead is dwarfing, disease resistance, or a combination of the two.

Where the rootstock joins the tree is known as a graft union, it will look like the knee of a dog. It is absolutely imperative that the graft union be planted a few inches above the soil line, and do not mulch above this line a few years down the road. The top of a grafted tree does not necessarily enjoy having to suck its water and nutrients through a foreign body, when given the opportunity, the top of a grafted tree will almost always attempt to root itself… If it happens to be successful… The tree will ultimately reject the rootstock… And all of the traits of the rootstock will be lost… An example would be a dwarf apple tree that is only supposed to get 11 feet tall… Could possibly grow to 40 feet… I have seen it happen on more than one occasion…

A common permaculture practice is to plant stuff under trees, a fine practice though I do have a caution to consider when planting under your fruit tree. Any plant that gets close enough to the trunk to touch it has the ability to cause great damage. Not only does the shade and moisture created heighten the possibility of fungus, disease or rot, it also greatly raises the possibility of your tree sending roots out from above the graft union. groundcover and thick vegetation will act the same as if you simply mulched over your graft union, this will almost always cause your scionwood to root… Ultimately rejecting your dwarfing root-stock…

If you are having issues sighting your tree planting depth, place a branch or board across the hole, then place your tree accordingly. Take into consideration mulches that will be applied in the future, you can never cover the graft union… ever… It is important to remember that a rootstock is just a rooted cutting, there is no root flare. As long as the roots are underground on a grafted tree, it will grow fine… You could technically plant a bare-root grafted tree with the union 12 inches above the soil line… As long as the roots are buried… Also a grafted tree does not send out a tap-root… So temporarily take that word out of your vocabulary…

When you put your tree in the hole, do your best to spread the root out around the inside of the hole. If all of your roots grow to one side of the tree, and that side takes on a heavy load of fruit, the tree will probably topple. I personally like to fill my hole with as much original material as possible, I may amend slightly, but never more than 20%… And I really wouldn’t do more than this unless it was completely stone.

My thinking behind this is simple… Lets say you are planting in 100% clay and stone… Extremely lifeless stuff… If you refill your hole with black gold… When the tree hits the clay it will go no further… Would you?.. I feel it is much better to only mix in a little bit of organic material to your fill, and let the tree get used to the conditions at hand. In the long-term, work on your soil with organic mulches and phytoremediation…

https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/practical-permaculture-plants-and-phytoremediation/

A young tree should not be overly nursed, it should be allowed to settle into your location. If your soil is clay, then replacing the soil in the small hole you are planting it in is really doing your tree no favors.

Another scenario worth mentioning, I actually observed recently. A local nonprofit planted 500 trees in Wilkinsburg, many of which are planted in the hell strip next to the road. They actually brought in heavy equipment and excavated these areas, replacing the soil with what I believe to be the 40% manure to 60% topsoil mix available at Ag-Recycle in Pittsburgh… At first I thought this was absurd, then I remembered I could only manage to dig about 9″ into our local hellstrip… Then I hit solid slag gravel… Or fill… I then realized they had absolutely no choice but to do this… Moral of the story… If you can excavate and replace a large portion of the soil with an ideal replacement, then by all means… Dig away…

But for the rest of us, replace with what you have, and slowly add to the soil… occasional leaf mulching during the summer… Comfrey and other legumes… Yarrow… Hell… I already made a list…

https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/practical-permaculture-planting-under-fruit-trees/

When you have finished planting your tree, water it immediately, and thoroughly. The tree will be entering into a period of stress, the simple act of moving a tree is enough to put it into shock. You see… Conditions in your yard are rarely the same as at the nursery, wind speed, temperature, sunlight and humidity changes will affect your tree negatively… Every attempt should be made to ease the transition from nursery to yard… A good rule of thumb is to consider your tree extremely vulnerable until it resumes active growth… When you see new leaves… You can expect equal root growth… A good sign that your tree is beyond the stress phase of its eventual journey to a pie on your table… Or as I like to call it… Fruit tree Nirvana…

To sum this post up briefly… Plant your trees when you can… Spring is best… But any time will do… Likewise… Sun is best… But shade will do… Just expect to alter your approach a bit… Dig your hole twice the size of the roots you intend to stick in it… And fill it with as much of the original soil as you can… Remember to keep the graft union exposed… And water immediately after planting… And until you notice fresh growth… Fertilizers should never be applied… If a tree or plant is absorbing high levels of nutrients during a time it cannot process them… They will build up and could eventually cause damage or death due to toxicity… And that is really all there is to it… Until next time…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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