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.
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:
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 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
Step 4- Dye the Eggs
Step 5-Clean the Eggs
What worked and what didn’t
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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:
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:
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.
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.
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