A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 52 – Nasturtium

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“Super Seed” – Summer 2013 – The Garden Table Urban Garden – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Two packs of seeds and almost every flower was orange… I had one deep red one… And this guy… I liked this one and saved the seeds…

“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…

Apologies in advance… This one may have gotten away from me…

Although the plant I am featuring today is known as Nasturtium… I think it is very important to recognize the little fact that this plant is not actually Nasturtium… But is actually Tropaeolum majus… “Garden Nasturtium” just happens to be one of the latters common name… It is so common in fact that the seed companies even use it… Honestly… If they put the real name of this plant on the package… No one would even know what it is…

I have always been more interested in the common names than the scientific names of plants… I have only had a very small number of people ask me a question using proper names… They always have some regionally based common name… Not that the proper names don’t have a place… And I do work on them… A friend actually got me a “Plant Name Pronunciation Dictionary” for Christmas… His answer to my complaint that I have never pronounced a plants proper name around my Penn State Extension friends without being corrected… After making the pronunciation changes… It is not uncommon to have someone else correct me back to my original pronunciation… For this reason… My pronunciations book has proven to be irreplaceable…

Nasturtium is an edible plant… It has a very peppery taste… Some would even go as far as to consider it food… I do not… I consider the fact that it is edible to be nothing more than a novelty… I try to view edible plants in two categories… Food and fodder… Nasturtium is one I consider fodder… Primarily because I am not a fan of the taste… But also because I value this plant as an ornamental… I love the blossoms… Like a mouth full of sharp teeth trying to bite my finger off… The leaves are also interesting… They have a blue-green shade that is different from other leaves… This contrast alone makes Nasturtium stick out in a garden…

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“Curling Up” – Summer 2013 – Center Street – Wilkinsburg, PA – Some Nasturtium form clump-like plants… Others tend to vine… All plants that grow like a vine… Though they way crawl along the ground… Or flop over a wall… Are actually trying to grow up towards the sun… Using the flower photographed above as an example… As the vine grows it hangs over the edge… You can clearly see the vine attempting to curl towards the sun… If the plant manages to curl back around on itself it will climb right back up to the pot…

Nasturtium is one of those plants that seems to commonly be associated with permaculture… Like Comfrey or PawPaw… I am always surprised at the lack of originality when it comes to permaculture “culture”… The amount of permaculture logos that use the Comfrey blossom is just ridiculous… Nasturtium comes in a close second…

This is just one of the things that bugs me about permaculture… Do you have any idea how few people actually like the taste of Nasturtium… Likewise… Not very many people even know what Comfrey is… I have been told my gardens are not permaculture gardens because I grow more than food… My answer to this comment was very direct and simple… I calmly explained that permaculture has nothing to do with the type of plants in your garden… It has nothing to do with style… It is a way of thinking… And to tell someone else that they are not a “permie” because of their plant choices – well – that is the exact opposite of permaculture… In fact… It is the very definition of asshole… And I made sure I explained that very clearly… Like painfully clear… Then I walked away… My time is valuable… Not in terms of money… But in terms of life… I don’t have enough time in my life to worry about people I consider a negative influence on myself or the people around me… Our job as permaculturists is to design in a way that will attract the beneficial… And repel the destructive… Not just in our gardens… But in our lives as well…

A true permaculturist recognizes that all plants play a role in helping our environment… Hardcore permaculturists preach acceptance everywhere they go… But in hindsight… They are often the least accepting group of people out their… Permaculture is not a defined line in the sand… It is a curved line that is constantly changing shape… As permaculturists… We need to change with it… We need to accept the fact that there are things (and people) that we cannot change… But we can change ourselves… And I believe we can do it in a way that doesn’t leave us looking like self-righteous assholes… Lead by example… Not by force…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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

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… You can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com

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 47 – Iris

BigIris

“Sun on Sun” – Spring 2013 – The Garden Table – Rebecca 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…

Good morning everyone… It is a cold one here in Pittsburgh and we are expecting a snow storm tonight… As I peaked out the window this morning I noticed the frozen spikes of one of my Iris poking through the snow… It is hard to believe that in a couple short months I will be photographing these blossoms again… I will be among the trees… With the bees… And the birds… In my garden paradise…

I never really paid much attention to Iris in the past… The blooming period for them is so short that it almost seemed not worth growing… Then a few years ago one of the volunteers at The Garden Table (who is also a member of the Western PA Iris and Daylily Society) brought the left overs from their annual plant sale… The sale was held on an unusually cold and miserable day and as a result the sales were pretty bleak… By the end of that day we were the proud owners of over 100 varieties of Iris… Not to mention a bunch of Daylily…

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“Throat of the Iris” – Spring 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

I had no idea Iris came in as many varieties as they apparently do… Every color imaginable… Even black… Many bloom early in the Spring… Others will hold out until fall… Some have tiny flowers… While others are massive…

Iris tend to grow in clumps… These clumps get overcrowded quickly and as a result the Iris will need divided every once in a while… I just take a spade and carefully work it underneath the roots… Iris have very shallow roots so it is rather easy to pop them out of the ground… Once they are out simply pull them apart… You can now plant your divisions… Or if you have as many as I do… Beg people to take them…

Iris are a good plant for areas you cannot provide water too… They make excellent guerrilla gardening plants… Although they only bloom for a short period… The spiky foliage creates interest year around… Iris are also noticeable by just about everyone… It is difficult to mistake the leaves for anything other than an ornamental garden plant… Iris also seem to have some tolerance to salt… Making them perfect for roadside guerrilla gardens in areas where snow is an issue…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_(plant)

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 42 – Marigold

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“Guerrilla Campaign” – Summer 2013 – 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…

Some of my first childhood garden-related memories are of Marigolds. There used to be a large Weeping Willow in the front yard of my parents house… One night during a storm it was blown over… Now I don’t know what your family does after a big old tree falls in your yard… But my parents through a party… Basically “inside” the tree… And then a few days later it was removed… We were left with a large garden in our front yard…

Our front yard garden was different every year… But one year always sticks out in my head… My mom had filled it with Marigolds… And this particular year they flourished… At some point during the summer… My brother and I noticed some strange noises coming from the garden… Upon closer inspection we discovered a momma rabbit and her bunnies… My brother and I watched them grow for a few weeks… Then the momma got sick of us and moved them somewhere else… For some reason… The smell of Marigolds takes me right back to those bunnies… Takes me to that garden… And reminds me of our Weeping Willow…

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Marigolds are one of my go-to plants… They can withstand drought once established… They are a tough plant and will grow without support… And they repel many insects… Though they seem to attract slugs around here…

Marigolds are often available on the cheap… I buy them late in the season and use them to plug holes in my ornamental beds… I plant them with my tomatoes and peppers… Hell… I plant them anywhere I can fit them in my veggie beds… I like to surround the bases of fruit trees with them… Honestly… Plant them everywhere… This is a beneficial plant…

Propagation by seed is done by broadcasting… Although some of the fancier varieties are sterile… Many varieties have easily accessible seeds… Simply wait for the flower head to dry… Grab the stem in one hand and the petals in the other and pull them apart… At the base of every petal will be a small black seed… Throw them in a paper bag and save them for next year… Now all you have to do is throw them over prepared soil after the soil has warmed a bit in the spring…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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

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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Complementary Gardening – The Energy of a Vacant Lot

© chriscondello 2013

“Clover Sunset” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

So… I am in the process of writing a book… The name of which is yet to be determined… I actually like that… Yet to be determined… The book is a gardening book… It will include original photography… Poetry… And artwork… Though I see all my gardens as art… I guess my goal in writing this book is to make you see like that… You can be the judge… This is a piece of a chapter… It is currently unedited… This is just a preview… I may post another tomorrow…

Life and the events surrounding it create energy fields that accompany those who live it. These energy fields are a physical manifestation of the metaphysical realm that are commonly misinterpreted. The overall tone of this energy is a variable based on many factors, but is typically a snapshot of an individual’s emotions and spirit in life. Many people believe that this energy goes with you whenever you die. I personally believe just the opposite. I believe the energy remains here on earth. It is never destroyed and therefore has a continuing role in the lives of those left behind.

Soil, is a product of nature and death. Living organisms must be sacrificed to make it rich in nutrients. Metaphysical energy is similar in that it needs to be created by life. It requires a human to store it within themselves, and ultimately transfer it to something else. In its most basic form, the transfer of DNA into the soil when we are working with it is a physical connection from our bodies to the earth. When a human being touches a plant, a transfer occurs that not many people even think of. Our skin wears off onto the plant, and the plant rubs off on our skin. This direct connection is only scraping the outer layer of the concept, the depths of which are only limited by your beliefs.

Vacant urban lots are interesting in that they very often contained a house at one time. A home is an energy magnet, and most people immediately feel it upon entering a home. The energy that is found is a direct result of past events and emotions. A home that is one-hundred years old has built up a massive amount of energy. When a home is demolished, the energy remaining does not go the way of the house, it is rooted in the lot. This energy cannot be destroyed, and I don’t believe it has the ability to travel. So the energy just waits for someone to come along and do something with it, and that someone is you.

To facilitate rapid population booms, our urban centers developed rather quickly. Lots that were originally intended to include one house, were quickly sub-divided and often had four houses built instead of the intended single. Neighborhoods were eventually built so tightly, green space became almost non-existent. Flash forward to today and you will notice that although many of these urban neighborhoods still exist. You will still see the scars of past bad memories dotting the landscape. A home burning down, or a bank foreclosure are not happy experiences, therefore the energy created is rarely positive. This is not a reason for despair, negative energy can always be converted into positive energy through gardening.

Urban gardening is just one method of achieving this energy change. In my own experiences, this energy change has the ability to help people forget the events that lead to the bad energy in the first place. Abandoned homes and vacant lots often sit unused for years. These monuments of negativity are a part of the reason many of these neighborhoods can’t get out of the rut they are in. Blight and abandonment carry very negative energy. A home does not become abandoned for good reasons. Likewise, an empty urban lot often has a story to tell as well… And that story is never a good one…

Gardening is one of the few positive influences an individual can have on the negative energy created by blight. Though much of the general population believes the only way to change a blighted neighborhood is through demolition and rebuilding, or remodeling. One of the most important aspects of permaculture, is the inclusion of all species. Humans always seem to feel that they are the primary element, when in fact we are just a tiny part of the system as a whole. The empty spaces that pop up in our urban landscapes are there for a reason. This reason will vary, but in most cases over-crowding is evident. When a space does open up, it is of paramount importance that we claim it for nature.

When an abandoned house is demolished, the second and third floors are stripped and thrown in a dumpster. The remaining structure is crushed into the basement, and then covered over with cheap fill. For this reason a vacant lot is something of a graveyard. The memories and energy from the original structure have not left. Although the physical material has been buried, over time it is distributed through leaching and dust settlement. A vacant lot is sacred ground, and should therefore be treated as such.

When we walk on the remains of a home, we are walking on the residual energy of everyone who has lived there. At the very least, remnants of their DNA are present in the house. Therefore by extension, you are practically walking on a grave. Now, I’m not trying to say that it should be treated with the same respect as an actual graveyard what I am saying is that one needs to consider this to understand the true magnitude of what urban gardening can be. When you take the time to look at all of the individual connections, both physical and metaphysical the true meaning of gardening will become apparent.

The nutrients required to sustain life come from the decomposition of living organisms. Although soil can be created by the weathering of objects like rocks, the soil never truly becomes rich in nutrients unless decomposing organic material is added. This occurs naturally, and over time can turn even the most inhospitable soils into healthy loam.

Vacant lots are similar in that the soil used for fill is commonly the cheapest material available. The plants that do initially grow, are designed to thrive in inhospitable conditions. Many of these weeds flourish in recently disturbed clay soils. These plants are typically extremely fast growers, and although they are perennial almost always die back in the winter. The resulting plant material decomposes, and the following year the process repeats until enough nutrients have built up to allow a different cycle of vegetation to take its course. This process can take years, and if left to its own devices will eventually culminate in a forest… A small forest… But forest none the less…

As gardeners we can interrupt this cycle at any point. Although it is possible, I personally believe the best results are attained by letting a lot rest for a number of years before any kind of gardening is concerned. Any time food is to be grown, a settling out period of a minimum of ten years is what I recommend; followed by a rigorous round of soil tests and the proper remediation. If your intention is to grow only ornamental plants, you could probably skip the settling period and go straight to planting beneficial plants and trees.

It is very important to take note of what stage a lot is in before you begin working. Oftentimes, if you are working immediately after a demolition, the soil will be very hard and compacted from being run over by heavy equipment. You see, it takes time for nature to work through this type of soil. Although we can quickly power through it given the right tools and money, it can be done with a lot less effort if we just let nature do its thing.

Time or the availability of vacant lots will not always allow us the ability to wait for nature. In which case we just have to roll up our sleeves, and dig right in. If organic material is not available on site, then you will have to bring it on site from elsewhere. Leaves, grass clipping, kitchen scraps, hell even newspaper can be utilized to begin adding organic material. The bad energy created by a vacant lot wont ever go away, but it can be changed. This change always begins in the soil, in order to heal the energy of the lot we must first heal the soil. Everything that grows in this lot will grow from the soil, it should be treated as you would treat your own home.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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 34 – Watermelon

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“Watermelon Blossom – Male” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community 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…

I had originally intended this series to be written ahead of time… Scheduled… And released in series… Kind of like autopilot… Just in this case… Autoblog… A few weeks in I somehow managed to delete a few of them… So I wrote them on the fly… I like these better… So I have trashed the rest of the pre-written ones… I will be writing the rest first thing in the morning… I like the idea that each one is a reflection of a day… It allows me to choose a flower for the day based on my mood… I have been awake since 4:30 AM… I’m on my third cup of coffee… And I would have to describe how I feel right now as “Watermelonesqe”…

There is nothing in the world like a watermelon still warm from the field… Nothing… If you ever get the chance to harvest and immediately eat a watermelon… Take it… You will never be able to eat a store-bought watermelon again… But totally worth it…

Watermelon is a great plant to grow if you have some space… Though the bush varieties will work when space is at a premium… It is also a great “plant and forget” crop… It is also one of the best plants to grow with children because the fruits of their labor will almost always be among their favorite foods…

Watermelon is very easy to grow… Requiring three primary things…

1. Space… Lots of it… Depending on variety… We could be talking 50 square feet… Don’t be stingy… Watermelon requires breathing room because it is susceptible to a plethora of disease and fungi… It is important to not let the plant grow all over itself or others… Air-flow is key…

2. Water – Watermelon is like 90% water… Water requirements are relative to the size of the fruit you intend to grow… As a side note – I have noticed that you can sometimes taste “water based” fertilizers when used on watermelon… Probably best to not use them… Also – Don’t spray the entire plant with water… It just causes problems… Only water the base of the plant… This can be difficult when working with a large patch… In this case use survey flags to mark…

3. Sun/Heat – I am lumping these two together because I feel they go together… Watermelon requires full-sunlight… There are no ifs… Ands… Or buts about it… In the shade the fruit will never develop to the intended size… That is if it ripens at all… Likewise… Watermelon is sweet… The sugars required to make it sweet are reliant on heat… This is the case with most sweet fruits and vegetables…

As I write this I am dreaming of the garden… This year I am growing several varieties of melon… My options – “Bush Sugar Baby”, “Black Diamond”, “Black Diamond Yellow Belly”, and “Charleston Gray” for Watermelon… “Hales Best” Cantaloupe… And “Early Silver Line” Melon again (A small delicious gourmet Asian melon you won’t find at market)… This list will be added to in the next few weeks… That is just the seeds I have on hand at this point of the year… In a couple short months I will be swimming in seeds and plants as is the case every year… I would have it no other way…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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

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 33 – Pineapple Sage

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“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…

The temperature right now is a cool 0 degrees… Wind chill of -20… And I have been awake since 2 AM because the cats were restless and disturbed… Immediately after waking up I could feel the “ripple” in the ambient energy around me (This may make me sound really crazy – I promise I’m only a little crazy)… Something wasn’t right… We were not alone… The cats knew it… And I knew it… I just understood it a little bit better than them… They were obviously afraid… But I find it interesting… Almost comforting to think there is more to life than just the physical…There is more to this life than just you and I…

Despite the lack of sleep… I am in a good mood today… How good of a mood you might ask… Like “Pineapple Sage” good… Anyone who knows me knows I am a fan of all things Salvia… I even love the word “Sage”… What a great name… Sage… I also like Lavender… Maybe I’ll combine them… Lavender Sage Condello… I like it…

Salvia elegans… Better known by the common name “Pineapple Sage”… Lesser known as “Tangerine Sage”… Is by far one of my favorite plants… It is one of those garden plants that I could not go a Summer without planting… I grow it right beside my front porch… When the neighborhood kids visit… I like to have scented herbs for them to play with… Gardening is meant to be hands on… And kids learn with their hands… Herbs and children just make sense…

Insignificant for most of the year… Pineapple Sage grows nothing more than foliage for 90% of the growing season… It is photosensitive… Meaning it flowers when the hours of daylight decrease to a certain point… This occurs as summer stretches into fall… This plant will double in size once it begins to flower… The end of the season stretch is what signals to me that the blossoms are not far away…

*Bright lights… Including street lights and porch lights… Can interrupt this light cycle… This can result in the plant never coming into bloom… Similarly… This plant can be forced to bloom by controlling the hours of light and dark… Not that it provides a benefit to you or the plant… But 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark will trick it into thinking it is fall and force it to stretch and bloom…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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

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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Practical Permaculture – Planting Under Fruit Trees – Part 2

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“Different” – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – Cherry trees are a tough plant in companion planting, the sticky sap commonly seen seeping from the trunk is a magnet for pests. Flowering plants that will attract predatory wasps can often be the only organic technique available. Alliums can also be effective as a general pest repellant.

This post and plant list is an extension of a past post that can be found right here – Planting Under Fruit Trees with more information and another list of companion plants… This post is meant to accompany it…

One of the most common mistakes made when making plant selections for under a fruit tree is thinking of the planting as the center of attention when in fact it is the tree. Permaculture plant guilds created under a fruit tree, though possibly created with selfish intentions, are actually incorporated to benefit the tree.. Not you…

The plants used underneath a fruit tree can serve a multitude of functions, it is not unfair to consider yourself as a beneficiary of your plants, but as far as permaculture is concerned, it is not the responsible primary function. We create a fruit tree guild for the purposes of pest prevention, beneficial attraction, scent masking, soil remediation and general beautification, but the common goal is generally the health and fruit production of the primary tree.

The dream of having a vegetable garden under a production fruit tree is more or less a pipe dream in all but the warmest climates. That’s not to say that some vegetables can’t be grown, but it is a very safe assumption on my part to say that a tomato or pepper plant will never reach the same production level as one growing in full sun. This is just one of the reasons I suggest putting your focus on the trees needs. Tending vegetables takes valuable time (and unnecessary nutrients) away from the tree, when in fact your efforts should be focused on the tree.

Perennial plants are typically the most beneficial as far as a tree is concerned, again I want to stress that the primary focus of these types of efforts needs to be on the tree, if you are stuck planting annuals every spring it will only take time away from your primary focus. A fruit tree can live for a hundred years, a properly planted guild under the canopy can last for a good chunk of this trees life. Armed with this knowledge the question now becomes what will not only grow under a fruit tree, but benefit it for the foreseeable future…

Dwarf fruit trees require a lot more maintenance than most people realize, I think many are led to believe that there tree will stay tiny forever. Dwarf fruit trees are very confused trees and therefore can take on a mind of their own, aggressive pruning is often required to keep them producing. Many dwarf trees will be nothing more than a single stem a few feet tall when planted, the tree will grow quickly if not pruned.

Dwarf trees will stay small for a few years, it is completely acceptable to plant annuals around them. It will be several years before this tree develops a canopy, therefore the space surrounding the tree will be considered full-sun for the foreseeable future. In sustainable agriculture “alley cropping” is a method where rows of fruit or nut trees are planted, and the spaces between are used for annual crops. This is done until the trees reach production size and shade out the alley, providing short-term income while the more valuable trees mature.

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“Blue Borage” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Growing under a Kousa Dogwood… Perfectly happy in the shade and will come back for years to come through self seeding.

– Herbaceous Plants – For my Herb specific post check out – Planting Herbs Under Fruit Trees

Lavender – A flowering plant in the mint family, many cultivars of which are extensively cultivated in temperate climates. The plant is technically a perennial, though it is a short-lived one often losing vigor as time passes by. Lavender is extremely useful around fruit trees due to its repellant qualities, many insects and animals find it repulsive and will therefore avoid it all costs. Besides benefiting the fruit tree, lavender will benefit many other types of plants and should therefore be incorporated into any garden plan.

Tansy – Is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant of the Aster family. Tansy is commonly cultivated and used for its insect repellent properties, it is used as a biological pest control in organic gardens and sustainable agriculture. In England, Tansy is placed on window sills to repel flies, sprigs are placed in bed linens to drive away pests, and it has been used as an ant repellent.

Southernwood – A flowering plant native to Europe in the genus Artemisia, named for the goddess Artemis. The growing plant tends to repel fruit tree moths when grown in an orchard, the fresh plant can also be rubbed on the skin to deter other insects. This plant is commonly dries and used in the house to repel ants and other indoor pests, when burned the scent can remove many foul odors from the house.

Horseradish – Believe it or not, Horseradish is in the Brassica family. Although this plant is typically harvested and used, when left in the ground it will spread via underground shoots and therefore can become mildly invasive in many permaculture gardens. Horseradish is a broad-leafed plant allowing it to harvest sunlight even when planted in shade, this makes it a perfect companion for trees. Horseradish is said to generally be good for the overall health of a tree, it is not uncommon for old timers to tell stories of trees that were never productive until horseradish was planted below… Though others will claim it affects the taste of the fruit afterwards…

Borage – Also known as Starflower, is an annual herb that tends to self seed allowing it to come back year after year. Although this plant is edible, the leaves often being described as cucumber-like, its primary purpose in permaculture is as a companion plant. Borage accumulates and adds trace minerals to the soil and is a key ingredient in a complete compost heap. Borage also is one of the best bee and wasp attracting plants available, therefore it will benefit everything planted around it… Given the stunning blue flowers… It will even benefit you…

Nasturtium – Tropaeolum, commonly known as Nasturtium literally means “nose twister” or “nose-tweaker”, a reference to the peppery scent and taste of the flowers. Nasturtium is used in herbal medicine for their antiseptic and expectorant qualities. When planted under apple trees it is a powerful deterrent of the notorious codling moth, not to mention a whole host of other insect species not only damaging to the tree, but to other plants surrounding.

Hyssop – A herbaceous plant of the genus Hyssopus. Due to its properties as an antiseptic, cough reliever, and expectorant, it is commonly used as an aromatic herb. Drought tolerance makes this an ideal plant for underneath the canopy of a fruit tree, flowers make it a beneficial insect attractor. Hyssop shares many of the same benefits as mint since they are from the same family, though it is not as invasive so it is typically more suited to inter planting than mint.

Wormwood – Artemesia absinthium is a herbaceous, perennial plant with a fibrous root system. A powerful animal repellant suitable for plantings at the edge of properties. Wormwood is also a powerful insect repellant, it can be made into a tea or applied as a sporadic mulch throughout the garden. Wormwood produces a powerful poison and therefore should never be used directly on food crops, applications should be indirect.

Dandelion – Are tap-rooted biennial or perennial herbaceous plants, native to temperate areas of the world. Dandelions are thought to have evolved about thirty million years ago in Eurasia, they have been used by humans as food and herb for much of recorded history. Dandelions are one of the first plants to bloom in the spring and therefore are a very important source of nectar and pollen early in the season. Its tap-root will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelions are even said to emit ethylene gas which helps fruit ripen.

– Food Producing Shrubs – Will never produce the same as when field grown, but will still produce.

Currant – The genus Ribes includes black currants, red currants, white currents, and gooseberries and several other hybrid varieties. Currants do very well in shade, though an interesting trait I have observed is if even part of the plant grows into full sunlight only the part in full sun will produce fruit… The rest of the plant seems to go into a vegetative state.

Nanking Cherry – Is a deciduous shrub native to Asia, an understory shrub that has evolved to survive under the canopy of a tree. Will produce more fruit if planted on the outskirts of the tree, can even be used as a windscreen for more tender plants. This tree-like shrub can grow to eight feet tall, vigorous pruning can be required to keep it under control.

Serviceberry – Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, growing primarily in early succession habitats. Varieties differ so care must be paid during selection for under planting a fruit tree, the short multi-stemmed varieties are typically best. I personally prefer to plant the serviceberry in close quarters with fruit trees, the serviceberry attracts birds that after finishing your tasty berries will immediately turn their attention to the insects.

Raspberry – Named varieties are in the thousands, most are thorny… All are delicious.. The thorny varieties not only repel larger animals, they tend to repel thievery as well. After all, what’s a few lost raspberries when the apples are spared from the deer. Raspberries are very vigorous and when not kept in check can become a massive, and invasive headache. They will do a great job of keeping the neighborhood children from stealing the fruits of your labor. Likewise, they can also keep you away from your trees. I recommend the raspberries be planted outside of the drip line, being able to get a lawn mower between your patch and tree is paramount in keeping the patch in bounds.

– Vegetables – Though I stress, they typically do not thrive like they would in full sun, growing these vegetables is possible

Carrots – typically grown in full sun tolerate some shade. In order to avoid deformed carrots they are typically grown in loose soil, but for our purposes the uncultivated soil under a tree will work just fine. A carrot is like a stake in the ground, as it expands it will loosen the soil. Carrots left in the ground will eventually break down, adding nutrients it has harvested to the top layer of soil.

Chard – Typically grown in full sun, it is important to remember that broad-leaved plants are equipped with enough surface area to tolerate some shade. Bright lights chard will not grow as brightly as if it were planted in full sun, but it will grow.

Kale – Another leaf crop commonly grown in full sun, most food plants that do not produce a fruit or vegetable can tolerate some shade, kale happens to be one of those plants. I actually like to grow some Brassicas under a tree as a trap crop, bugs tend to be more attracted to the weaker plants as opposed to the stronger more vigorous plants grown in full sun.

Asparagus – Opposite the fact that broad-leaved plants ability to absorb more light makes them more shade tolerant, thin leafed plants do not require as much light making them also tolerant of some shade. Asparagus is an ideal food plant for under fruit trees, the primary harvest season happens at a time when many fruit trees have yet to leaf out. Because of this asparagus is one of the few vegetables that are not affected negatively when grown under a tree.

Beets – Beets in general can handle some shade, in really hot weather they actually benefit from it. Beets in full shade will grow beautiful foliage, but the energy is rarely ever there to produce a sizeable root. Beets are nutrient accumulators and therefore there is absolutely no harm in leaving the plants in the ground to rot. The benefit of the beet is for the tree, not the gardener.

Beans – Beans are another vegetable that does not seem to be affected by some shade, in the hottest months the shade provided by a tree is actually preferred. Beans accumulate nitrogen, when the beans have been harvested the remaining plant should be left in place to decompose.

Peas – Another tasty biddle that is perfectly at home when grown in the shade of a tree, typically only grown in the cooler months, a tree can often provide a third late summer harvest. Peas are in the Legume family and therefore accumulate Nitrogen, after harvest the plant should be left in place.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://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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Practical Permaculture – Planting Under Walnut Trees

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“White Astilbe” – Highland Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I’m starting this post off with this photograph of White Astilbe… Tolerant of juglone…. Astilbe will brighten the area beneath any shade tree…

If you live east of the Mississippi River, then you have probably seen a Black Walnut tree at some point in your life. Juglans nigra is the tallest of all the Walnuts, it is not uncommon for a tree to reach 100′ into the sky. Walnut trees have compound leaves that are spaced alternately along the branch. Each leaf is divided into an odd number, from 7 to 23 small yellow-green leaflets. Walnuts are monoecious, male flowers are long, unbranched, drooping catkins and the female flowers are single or short spikes. The fruit is a nut, single or in pairs, and enclosed in a non-splitting shell.

Walnut has an unforgettable scent that is rather difficult to describe, I would describe it as “spicy-citrus”.

Walnut trees have a toxic effect on neighboring plants. Known as allelopathy, the phenomenon involves a plants secretion of biochemical material into the environment to inhibit germination or growth of the surrounding vegetation. Allelopathy enhances tree survival and reproduction. Allelochemicals are metabolic by-products of certain plants that, when introduced into the environment, cause growth inhibition by affecting physiological processes such as respiration, cell division, and water and nutrient uptake. Symptoms include leaf wilting and yellowing, or the death of part or all of the plant.

Black Walnuts are often found growing on landscape sites where they serve primarily as shade trees. When certain other landscape plants are planted close to the tree they will wilt and die. This decline in health occurs because the walnut tree produces a non-toxic, colorless, chemical called hydrojuglone. Hydrojuglone is found in the leaves, stems, fruit, inner bark and roots. When exposed to air or soil, hydrojuglone is oxidized into the allelochemical juglone, which is highly toxic.

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“Bee Balm” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I swear to God this stuff will grow anywhere you put it… Tolerant of juglone… I will say this though… The times I have seen Bee Balm growing near a Black Walnut it has been obviously stunted…

The toxic Zone from a mature tree occurs on average in a 50 to 60′ radius from the trunk, but can commonly be up to 80. The area affected extends outward each year as the tree enlarges. Young trees 2 to 8′ high can have a root diameter twice the height of the top of the tree, with susceptible plants dead within the root zone and dying at the margins.

Juglone is exuded from all parts of the walnut tree. Although it has a high water solubility and does not move far in the soil, small amounts may be injurious to sensitive plants. Plant roots can encounter juglone when they grow within a half-inch from a walnut root. Walnut trees have extremely extensive root systems often reaching far beyond the drip line of the tree, affecting susceptible plants far from the tree.

The accumulation and depletion of toxins in the soil is affected by factors such as soil type, drainage, aeration, temperature and microbial action. Soil microorganisms ingest allelochemicals as energy sources, and metabolic decomposition can render the chemicals non-toxic to plants.

Wet, poorly aerated soil, very common in many urban areas, discourages microbial growth. Plants sensitive to walnuts may be at a higher risk when planted in heavy urban soils that lack organic matter. Toxins adhere to organic matter rather than being absorbed by plants, and organic matter also encourages a healthy soil microbial population.

Mycorrhizal fungi are commonly associated with forest tree roots and are considered necessary for normal uptake functions. Allelochemicals can disrupt the uptake process by damaging the root hairs or by inhibiting mycorrhizial populations in the soil. These different soil factors all have an effect on the accumulation or depletion of juglone produced by the black walnut tree.

So, if you’ve read this far… You are probably wondering if anything can grow under a Walnut… There are actually a large number of plants that will grow near allelopathic trees, as well as steps you can take to reduce the allelopathic effects. Regular cleanup and removal of fallen leaves and fruit is the simplest thing you can do, meticulous maintenance is key.

Albino

“White Variation of Red Trillium” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I had to include at least one photo of a plant growing under a Black Walnut… Growing on a slope about 40′ downhill from a few Black Walnuts… I would say this is a tolerant plant…

As a side note… I have noticed the real danger even tolerant plants face… Especially anything that is still growing in October… Is the rainfall of 8 ounce nuts falling from 100′ in the air… These falling bastards crush whatever greenery happens to be in their path…

Now to the plants… I have never personally planted a garden under a walnut tree… This article is the result of observation and research… I have always lived near these trees… And ever since I used them as “car grenades” as a child I have been relatively interested in them… When I first learned of allelopathy I became obsessed with the plants that could survive under these trees…

Tolerant Trees – Black Cherry, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elderberry, Hawthorn (my favorite tree), pawpaw, redbud, sassafrass, serviceberry.

Tolerant Shrubs – Black Raspberry

Tolerant Plants – Aster, Astilbe, Bee Balm, Coral Bells, Daffodil, Shasta Daisy, Daylily, Fern, Dutchmans Breeches, Goldenrod, Grape, Great Solomon’s Seal, Hosta, Jack-In-The-Pulpit, Jacobs Ladder, Lambs Ear, Marigold, May Apple, Morning Glory, Sedum, Snowdrop, Sweet Woodruff, Sunflower, Trillium, Tulip, Violet, Yarrow, Zinnia

Tolerant Vegetables – Beet, Squashes, Melons, Beans, Carrots, Corn, Jerusalem Artichoke, Melon, onion, parsnip

Intolerant Vegetables – Asparagus, Cabbage, Peppers, Rhubarb, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Potato

Tolerant Fruit Trees – Peach, Nectarine, Cherry, Plum, Pear

Intolerant Fruit Trees/Shrubs – Apples, Crabapples, Blackberry, Blueberry

Personally, if I had a piece of property with a Walnut Tree on it… I would probably cut that bad boy down and turn it into kitchen cabinets… I’m not a big fan of the flavor of a Walnut, a little bitter for me, plus I find cleaning up the walnuts annoying.

Most walnut varieties are grafted to Black Walnut rootstock, therefore they all contain roughly the same amount of toxins and should be maintained in the same meticulous manner.

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 – Planting Herbs Under Fruit Trees

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“Lemon Basil” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

Backyard fruit trees are becoming increasingly popular as the locally grown food movement gains strength. A common question is what, if anything, can be grown in the area directly underneath of a tree? Traditionally, orchards were laid out in parallel lines to facilitate easy mowing and maintenance. Little more than grasses and a few native wildflowers could survive the regular mowing, this often resulted in an orchard that requires supplemental nutrients, as well as insect, fungus, disease and pest control measures.

Backyard trees often suffer the same problems that commercial orchards deal with, the only difference is the professionals have tools available that the backyard grower does not. In my personal experience, when it comes to backyard fruit trees, people want an organic permaculture based solution that will work instantaneously. You see, people who live in the city rarely ever stay in the same place for very long. Whether or not the next homeowner wants a fruit tree growing on their property is the issue, I believe many of the urban fruit trees have a lifespan of only a few years, for this reason, every year of fruit production counts…

Plum

“Plum Blossom” – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Jeanette Street – Wilkinsburg, PA

If you plant an apple tree… You want to eat an apple…

What can be planted under a particular tree should be assessed on a tree-by-tree basis, every tree canopy is different, no tree is the same. Fall is an excellent time to sow plants under a mature tree, once the leaves fall, water can easily reach the soil. Often times seeds sown in the fall right before the leaves fall, will sit underneath the leaves waiting till spring to germinate… Seeds that germinate before the tree leafs out seem to have the best chances of survival.

Successfully planting underneath of a fruit tree is simply a matter of timing, you want your plants to establish as they would in a natural forest, or while the trees do not have leaves. Many plants, including herbs, can survive extreme conditions once established. Likewise, the actual yield of a herb is often the leaves themselves, which does not require as much light to produce a yield as a fruit or vegetable… Making them perfect plants for an edible guild centered around a primary fruit tree…

Herbs, although extremely tasty as seasonings in our foods, serve a number of other purposes directly affecting the health and wellbeing of a tree. Everything from beneficial insect attraction, repelling pests, Nitrogen fixing, forage and ground burrowing prevention… Herbs can play a role…  Herbs can also be used in the creation of organic oils and solutions that may be helpful in the war against pests and diseases, as the popularity increases so will the availability of these types of products. The jury is still out with me as far as many of these organic/homemade products are concerned. Recent memories of me getting lit up by wasps after using a suggested chili powder and citric acid combo may be tarnishing my thoughts a little bit though…

I’m not one of those permies that will blow smoke up your ass as far as what is possible in the garden. Although plants will grow under a tree, they do not grow with nearly as much vigor as plants that are growing in sunny conditions. In short, don’t think you are going to be able to grow perfect show-worthy specimens under that 40′ apple tree. It is important to remember that what you are doing is primarily to benefit the tree, the fact that you can enjoy them is secondary.

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“Allium” – Hamnett Place Park and Ride – Center Street – Wilkinsburg, PA

Because everyone likes a list of plants… This is by no means the end all of lists… As always… It is just a starting point…

Allium – I’m talking from Chives to Ramps, plant them. Even the ornamental varieties will not only survive, but benefit the entire guild from canopy to root. When in full flower, an expanse of Allium can attract so many pollinating insects that from a distance the entire garden will appear to pulse and move. Allium, although tasty to humans, is typically not the favorite food of most foraging and burrowing animals, they will typically forage somewhere else if even the slightest presence of these plants is detected. Garlic is apparently effective as a peach tree borer deterrent, it may be useful as a remedy when planted in very close quarters to an affected tree.

Basil – My absolute favorite herb, cinnamon, lemon, lime, Thai, purple, red, large leaf, Minette, greek globe, spicy globe, sacred… I could go on forever… I grow it in every corner of my garden, I think it is beautiful when grown as an ornamental. Late in the season when the asters and goldenrod are blooming, basil will extend its wispy flower heads high above the other plants in the garden. These flower heads are different shades of pink, purple to white or yellow and attract beneficial pollinators… This year I have even noticed hummingbirds visiting my front yard Basil plants…

Comfrey – You can’t do a list of beneficial herbs without mentioning this storied plant. Comfrey is a well-known nutrient accumulator that has been written about by just about every organic garden writer. Tap-root grows deep, yadah, yadah, yadah… Makes great compost, yadah, yadah, yadah… It is all true… My gripe is really from removal… Because it is practically impossible… I have written about it before in a post titled – Comfrey Cautions – I’m not saying don’t plant it… I’m just saying plant it cautiously as it can get out of hand quickly… And it can become a nightmare for any future people who may occupy your house… Respect the Comfrey…

Oregano – Another staple that can simply be used fresh off the plant in all your favorite dishes, and it is easy as dirt to grow anywhere. Potted plants are typically the normal sales method, often times you can find these plants at a sharp discount late in the year… I like to wait until the leaves have fallen off the trees and then plug them in… It won’t look pretty… But the plants will grow normally in the spring often times starting well before nurseries have them available in the spring…

Sage – Regular old garden Sage, or Salvia Officinalis is often one of the first herbs to bloom in the spring, which in my garden is timed perfectly with many of the neighborhood fruit trees. The distinctive aroma of Sage is also supposed to ward off many pests, kids don’t like it either. When grown under a tree, Sage tends to stretch and grow horizontally instead of vertically. Where the stems touch the ground the plant will root creating a new crown, these can then be dug up and moved around your garden… Or left in place to allow the plant to grow in size…

Mint – Mint is an incredibly invasive perennial weed, I strongly urge you to consider all other options when contemplating planting any variety of mint. The menthol contained in the mint is a powerful insect repellent, it is a common ingredient in many organic insecticides. Mint has a tendency to grow very tall, believe it or not, I have seen it successfully outcompete a newly planted dwarf fruit tree on more than one occasion. Mint also has a tendency to grow thick in the early spring months, this is a problem when it shades the graft union on a dwarf fruit tree typically causing the scion to sprout roots and eliminate all of the dwarfing characteristics of the rootstock.

Lavender – If you have ever had the chance to see a field of Lavender you will not need sold on this Summertime favorite. The dark blue flowers against the silver foliage is simply stunning. Prefers full sun but will do just fine in the shade… Though the flowers are typically more sparse in the shade… Lavender repels fleas and moths, specifically the codling moth making it a perfect companion to just about any fruit tree.

Lemon Balm – You can’t do a list of beneficial herbs without good old lemon balm. Lemon balm contains citronella compounds that deter all sorts of insects… Including the disease carrying nuisance mosquitos that seem to become more dangerous every year. Lemon balm has a tendency to voraciously self seed, clipping the flowers before they go to seed is the only remedy for this.

Dill and Fennel – I am lumping these two together because Fennel is said to be allopathic and therefore should not be planted with anything, except Dill apparently. Both of these plants deter pests. Fennel attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs, wasps and hoverflies… It is also a good flea repellent. The flower heads of both of these plants are an excellent nectar source for a bunch of beneficial insects.

Thyme – Another one of my favorites… Available in practically every size, color and flavor imaginable. Some of them creep along the ground making a beautiful living mulch, while others grow more upright. Both types are simply stunning when they bloom in proliferation, and they too attract swarms of beneficial insects. My favorite is the variegated lemon thyme, I will purposely step on it to release the citrus smell.

Wormwood – The reason I am including this plant is because it keeps animals out of the garden, though it also has a tendency to be allopathic and will in turn kill plants that get to close to it. I only recommend planting it on the outside of the trees drip line to prevent accidents, better safe than sorry. Wormwood is said to repel slugs, moths, snails, black flea beetles and fleas rather effectively, as with all organic compounds I recommend research and experimentation before diving right in.

One of my gripes with permaculture is it offers very few immediate solutions to common fruit tree problems. Although garlic can repel the peach tree borer, it can often take several years for the effects to work, this can be too long for modern families that rarely stay in the same house their entire lives.

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…

If you would be interested in reading more – Urban Herb BenefitsPlanting Under Fruit Trees

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