Spring Hike at Mammoth Cave

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to western Kentucky to speak about garden design at the Barren County Extension Office. The horticulture agent was able to have the event sponsored by local businesses so the event was free to the public. The master gardeners also put together a table of refreshments and even some spring floral arrangements. About 45 people came to my presentation, even though it was a nice day outside. It has rained or snowed so much the past month, it’s been hard to get outside at all.

Barren County is a little over 2 hours driving southwest from Lexington. You may be more familiar with the area since it is right by Mammoth Cave National Park. After my presentation my mom and I went there to do some spring wildflower hiking.

Even in this part of the state, I could tell the local flora was ahead of Lexington. Here are some wildflowers we saw along the way. Plants located on the south side of a slope were much further ahead than ones at a higher topography or on the shadier, cooler, north facing slope. I was happy to see bees and some butterflies and moths out pollinating.

Some of these plants can be bought at native plant nurseries and are somewhat adaptable to a regular home garden. However, please note, it is not only against the law to dig plants from a natural area- especially federal and state parks, but also very disruptive of the ecology.

Native plants have a hard enough time battling development, pollution, and invasive species as it is. Plants simply can’t run away from danger. We need to leave them so they can reproduce and keep spreading to make a pretty forest we can visit! There are plenty of flowers we can plant in our gardens that are pretty to see. Many of these woodland plants won’t even grow in a garden.

earlysaxifrage
Early Saxifrage
bluephlox
Blue Phlox
rueanenome
Rue Anenome
sessiletrillium
Sessile Trillium
earlymeadowrue
Early Meadow Rue- looks like chandeliers
virginiabluebells
Virginia Bluebells
wildginger
Wild Ginger
woodpoppy
Wood Poppy- Beeing pollinated
yellowtroutlily
Yellow Trout Lily
twinleaf
Twinleaf
floweringshrub
A shrub I’m unsure what it is
mayapple
Mayapple

deercabin

springbeautylarkspur
Larkspur and Spring Beauty
toothwort
Toothwort

Natural Dye Easter Eggs

I don’t ever recall dyeing Easter eggs in my life, even as a kid! So I thought this year I’d give it a try. Of course, I wanted to use natural dyes made from food. I looked up different natural dyes to make and thought I’d try:

  • Beet
  • Red cabbage
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Coffee

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Step 1- Cook the Eggs

The first step was to hard boil the eggs. With fresh eggs, I steam them to hard boil them instead of boiling them in water. This makes the eggs a lot easier to peel.

Step 2- Prepare the Dye

  • I used a food processor to grate the beet and cabbage and chop up the parsley.
  • I added 2 cups of the grated/chopped vegetable to a saucepan and added 2 cups water.
  • For the turmeric I used 1T of powder for 2 cups water
  • For the coffee, I just made regular coffee and that was it.

*I dyed 2 eggs per batch of dye. Some vegetables absorbed more of the water. You may want to add more water depending on how fast the water is simmering or the material used. You may want to use more material and water if you want to dye more eggs.

Step 3- Create the Dye

  • Bring contents of the saucepan to a high boil then reduce to a low simmer.
  • Simmer on low each vegetable/herb/spice in the saucepan for 15-60 minutes. I simmered them for 45 minutes, but I had to add a little more water at the end because of evaporation.
  • Strain the juice from the material and put the liquid in a pint jar.
  • Compost the cooled scraps!
  • Add 1T of white vinegar per cup of liquid.

Step 4- Dye the Eggs

  • Add the eggs to the liquid and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 5-Clean the Eggs

  • Remove the eggs from the dye, rinse, and dry!

Naturaleastereggs2

What worked and what didn’t

  • Beet- Dark redish brown
  • Red Cabbage- Blue
  • Parsley- Can’t tell
  • Turmeric- Yellow
  • Coffee- Darker brown

The eggs I used were all different colors- nearly white to dark brown, and green. So the natural dye showed up different on each of them.

I really like the turmeric and the red cabbage (it’s so pretty). The beet and coffee wasn’t as vibrant as I had hoped. They all look like planets!

The biggest disappointment was the parsley, which didn’t do much. I wondered if juicing the parsley would make it stronger. The parsley actually turned into a gel in the jar (I’d like to know the science behind this).

One thing that happened with the fresh eggs- The dye stuck to the ‘bloom’ of the eggs. The bloom, with all the dye, wanted to peel right off after sitting in the liquid. I didn’t realize I should have washed the eggs better beforehand. You don’t have to worry about this if you buy regular eggs at the supermarket since they arrive washed. Now I’ll be making some egg salad!

 

 

3 Lawn Weeds for Bees & Pollinators

Spring is just a week away! I’ve been seeing daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, spring wildflowers, pussy willows, and some cherry trees flowering already. The perfect spring temperatures and rainfall are making lawns turn greener and greener each day and before we know it, it’ll be time to mow!

As we start to draw more attention to our lawns, we’ll also probably be drawing attention to the dandelions, clover, and violets, which will begin blooming soon. Homeowners across the nation will be reaching for the lawn sprays, since for the lawn perfectionist, these weeds are undesirable. I’m asked questions all the time on how to get rid of them, especially violets.

My answer usually goes along with, “It will take time, effort, and expense. Even so- it doesn’t work as a one-time thing. A lot of toxic chemicals will have to be continually reapplied to keep dandelion and clover out. Violets are impossible. Nothing out there gets rid of them except hand pulling.”

However, I’d like to propose we think at how beneficial these weeds are instead of as something that disrupts the look of lawn grass.

Bee_on_clover_2

Imagine you’re a solitary bee, and you’ve been hibernating all through winter outside in a tiny shape shift home where some leaves collected around the base of a plant.

*Native bees are solitary, meaning they live by themselves, and not in a hive. Many native bees can’t sting and/or are much less aggressive than honey bees and won’t sting unless they get in your clothes or if you try and squash it. Some live in the ground, they shouldn’t be mistaken for wasp.

You wake up because it’s pretty warm outside now, and guess what, you’re ravenous for some good food! So you stretch your wings and go out looking for some delicious syrupy sugary nectar. And there’s not much out there flowering so you nibble around, but nothing is very satisfactory. If only there were nice golden dandelion flowers or white fluffy clover blossoms…

Dandelions and clover are excellent early nectar sources for bees. Not much else is flowering early when that they will pollinate. If you want to help support our pollinators, leave some dandelions, clover, and violets in your lawn or garden.

  • The great thing about dandelions is that once they quit setting seed, you can’t tell they’re there the rest of the year.
  • Did you know the dandelion is an edible plant with a high nutrition content? It is often used to detox the liver.
  • You can make wine out of dandelion flowers, like I did one year. It was delicious!

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Clover is actually beneficial in your lawn too. And only until the past 3 decades, clover was normal and actually desirable in lawns. Lawn companies have marketed clover out of our idea of a lawn. Clover is beneficial because it takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and puts it into the soil, where plants, like grass, can use it.

  • Ever heard of clover honey? It’s very desirable for honey production.

Violets (Common Blue Violet Viola sororia) are a host plant for the fritillary butterfly. Meaning, that caterpillar, that’ll turn into a lovely orange and white butterfly, eats the violet leaf to grow up. Leaving violets helps these caterpillars since it’s really the only food they can eat.

There isn’t a chemical that will get rid of violets. They can be suppressed by certain chemicals (not Round Up) continually applied over and over, but it’s rarely worth the cost or effort.

There are other species have violets besides the one we see most in our lawn. Some have white on them or yellow flowers. They can be used as a vigorous shady ground cover in areas to suppress weeds or to substitute for lawn where it won’t grow in shade.

Unfortunately the caterpillars are not immune to lawn mowers. Mowing a taller height of 3-4″ may help avoid hitting the caterpillars on the violets. Also waiting longer in-between mowing, just until you need to. There is a bonus to mowing at this height- it’s healthier for the lawn and is the correct height to mow!

I doubt many caterpillars survive lawn mowing, so I just leave a small patch in a certain part of my garden for them. One year there were many violets in my vegetable garden and there were fritillary butterflies everywhere all summer. The next year I kept them better weeded, and I didn’t have the butterflies. This goes to show, pollinators need host plants!

  • Violet flowers are edible. They can be candied and make pretty decorations for cakes, and I’ve heard they make a wonderful jelly!
  • The leaves can be used to make salves and poultices for injuries

Violets for Fritillary Butterflies

What is Garden Coaching?

To learn more about my personal Garden Coaching click here

Who is a Garden Coach?

A garden coach is a knowledgeable professional who can help guide clients in their gardening project with an array of tasks. A garden coach is just like a music lesson teacher, cooking teacher, or personal lifestyle coach, but applied to gardening.

Someone who offers this service is likely very knowledgeable, but feel free to ask for their credentials or read their bio online if they have one.

Who is Garden Coaching for?

Garden coaching is for anyone…

  • who is interested in learning more about gardening
  • who wants to transform their space into their dream garden themselves…but are unsure how to go about it.
  • who has any kind of garden project where they need guidance

How can a Garden Coach help me?

A garden coach can help in a variety of ways and it mainly depends on what you’re looking for and the service they offer. Usually there is some type of project you’d like to do, such as:

  • Learning how to take care of your current garden
  • Revamping your current garden or starting a garden from scratch
  • Starting a homestead or vegetable garden
  • Creating a wildlife habitat for pollinators and birds
  • Transitioning to a native plant garden
  • A garden coach could also help guide the DIY implementation of a design they created for you.

After a consultation a garden coach should be able to offer recommendations on how to go about your project.

Can a personal garden coach save me money?

There is a good chance hiring a garden coach will pay for itself. A garden coach can simply prevent costly mistakes through their guidance. A coach also prevents mistakes that would  have cost you effort, time and labor. Here are some examples of how a garden coach would save these valuable resources:

  • By avoid planting for the wrong space, sunlight, or soil. Any of these could cause the plant to grow into spaces you don’t want it to, or it could die and there will be unneeded expense to remove and replace it.
  • Being able to plant the right plants in the right space, so the garden establishes faster by avoiding redoing mistakes.
  • Avoid planting aggressive or invasive plants that would be costly or a lot of work to remove.
  • Realizing a plant has a certain pest or diseases that would lead to its decline, but if treated it would save the plant.
  • Increasing yields of the vegetable garden or homestead
  • Having a plan and list of tasks that will save time and frustration of not knowing how to begin.
  • Avoid buying poor quality gardening tools or unneeded supplies

Having a personal garden coach is also an investment in your education and you will be learning knowledge that you can use throughout your lifetime.

To learn more about my personal Garden Coaching click here

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count Feb 16-19th

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Thursday, February 16th- Monday February 19th

Every year this time of year there is the Great Backyard Bird Count! It is sponsored by Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada. You will be taking part of citizen science, which is helping scientist study birds.

All you need to do is count birds you see in your yard each day.

A general rule is to only count the maximum number of a species of bird you see at one time.

For example, one morning you see 4 robins in the garden eating bugs. That afternoon you see 5 robins at the bird bath. Count just 5 robins for that day. This is because some of those individual birds you may have seen twice.

The count is recorded through eBird, which can be used anytime of year if you’d like to keep reporting birds. There is also an eBird app for your phone.

February is a good time for this project because there aren’t leaves on the trees. Birds are easier to see and identify. In the summer however, most birding is done by ear. Here are some field guides below that are handy to have.

You may be able to identify some birds with this online guide from Louisville Water

Popular Birding & Field Guide Books

Birds of Kentucky

Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America

Stokes Guide to Birds Eastern Region

Stokes Field Guide to Birds Songs Eastern Region

Vortex Roof Lens Binoculars 10×42 (most reasonably priced but quality pair recommended by birders)

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