Builders are Leaving New Home Owners with Yards Full of Clay and Compacted Soils

In today’s new neighborhoods it is not uncommon to have an entire lawn full of clay.  There will be a few inches of topsoil placed on the top by the builder in order to get new grass seed or sod established. There are a number of reasons why new home owners are getting such terrible subsoils.

CAUSES

1. When the neighborhoods are developed, many are graded ahead of time and the topsoil is scraped off to sell or create a nearby golf course.  Topsoil is a precious commodity and often a subdivision can be paid for by selling the topsoil.  There are 1613 cubic yards in an acre if you dig 1 foot deep.  At $10 or more a yard that means you could make 16,000 by selling the topsoil.

2. The clay from the basements and nearby lakes are spread out over the yard.  The cost of hauling away the clay from these holes cost money. The developers don’t want to spend any more than they have to for the project so they simply spread it out over the project.   Many yards actually have nice topsoil but its 4 feet below the soil from the basement you wanted.

3. The equipment and trucks used to build the homes have run over the yard dozens of times, compacting the soil to a point that roots are no longer able to penetrate.

REMEDIES

1.  Pay to have the basement clay hauled away and good topsoil brought in.  The savings from dead plants and yard improvement may actually pay you back.

2. Till in compost.  Lots of it.  You are going to need to work in a lot of organic matter to offset the effects of solid clay.  Gypsum will also provide aeration.  We are big fans of worm compost in addition to other forms or organic matter that can be added to your soils. This may take more than your common garden tiller.  It would be worth hiring a professional with larger equipment that can get till much deeper than you could with a simple tiller.

3.  Make your builder aware of your concerns BEFORE the house is built.  Force them to use plywood when they run equipment or to avoid the compaction all together.  Get costs to have all excavation soil hauled away from site.

4.  Take special care in the planting for every plant you install.  Every time you plant a plant you will have to dig the hold 2 to 3 times larger than the pot or rootball and backfill with better soil.  Make sure the soil beneath the plant does not settle and cause the plant to be too deep.

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Route 66′

This is not a painting.  This is a photo I took with my iPhone today of the incredible colors of the flowers of Coreopsis verticillata ‘Route 66′. This may be one of the better flower pictures my iPhone has ever taken and I merely set a few flowers on the ground.  This isn’t one of those Coreopsis that you see in the magazines and then find out it won’t grow up north.  It’s a zone 5 plant and in Central IL has overwintered wonderfully.  It’s a thread leaf coreopsis so it’s very easy to grow and will take hot sun.   It gets about 24″ tall and the flowers are bigger than ‘Moonbeam’ and can get as big as 2 inches across.  The flowers usually have more yellow than red during the hot season with the red bleeding out from the center but this year the red seems to be prevalent the entire season.  Usually that red doesn’t take over until we hit September and the cool air changes the flower color.  Look for this one to bloom from late May until early October.    For more information and other great Coreopsis photos, go to our other website Coreopsis.info

The Gold Iris Garden Quote of the Day

Come to think of it. All these improvements in plants in 150 years and there still aren’t any thornless roses.

An Incredible View Of Holland from the Sky

You would think this was photoshopped but its not. It’s a beautiful aerial view of a dutch flower growing field. I imagine its during bulb bloom season. There is probably no more colorful place in the word than bulb bloom season in Holland.

Cornus kousa “Champions Gold” Dogwood

Cornus kousa 'Champion's Gold" Dogwood

This is a pretty hard to find dogwood but we were lucky enough at the nursery to get a few of these this year.  We took these photos last fall and you can really see the beauty of this variety.  Inner leaf pink with the striking white leaf background.  Cornus kousa “Champions Gold” is one of those special dogwoods that if you can find one you should certainly think about adding to your landscape.

Now This is a Potting Shed Or Maybe Just a Pot Shed

Was over at a friends house and stumbled on a little area off the back of her barn.  I thought it was absolutely fantastic.  Can’t imagine how many years it took to collect all these pots.

Striptease Hosta Sports: My Favorite Hostas

Striptease is by far my favorite hosta of all the hosta varieties. It’s not as much Striptease itself but the sports and varieties that have come off of Striptease that make it so special. What makes the Striptease sports different is their ability to grow in full sun. Yes full sun. They need a little more water than normal if they’re grown in full sun the coloring is that much more pronounced and the cream turns a bright white. Below you can see how white Gypsy Rose will get if grown in full sun. If you are thinking of growing hosta in full sun you need to look for white leaved hostas. The more white in the leaf, the more sun it can take without burning.

Risky Business Hosta

Another great sport is pictured below. This is ‘Hanky Panky’ and it grows like a weed. The leaves are pretty variable but have an incredible blend of lime green, dark green, cream, and white. This photo shows a little sun burn and the transition between green to white edges.

Here is a complete list of all the Striptease sports available I’ve found so far.  I have over 20 of them and working my way down the list.

‘Alan Titchmarsh’
‘Blue Striptease’
‘Blue without You’
‘Gamma Ray’
‘Glen Ray’
‘Gypsy Rose’
‘Hanky Panky’
‘Harlot’
‘Jelloway’
‘Juha’
‘Kiwi Dotterel’
‘Kiwi Full Monty’
‘Kiwi Tease’
‘Lady Godiva’
‘Lapdance’
‘Let Me Entertain You’
‘Mata Hari’
‘Math Man’
‘Mithril’
‘Naked Lady’
‘My Passion’
‘Outer Limits’
‘Patricia the Stripper’
‘Peepshow’
‘Pole Cat’
‘Risky Business’
‘Rusty’s Fine Line’
‘Silver Eagle’
‘Snake Eyes’
‘Sneak Peak’
‘Strip Poker’
‘Strip Search’ s’Alan Titchmarsh’
‘Blue Striptease’
‘Blue without You’
‘Gamma Ray’
‘Glen Ray’
‘Gypsy Rose’
‘Hanky Panky’
‘Harlot’
‘Jelloway’
‘Juha’
‘Kiwi Dotterel’
‘Kiwi Full Monty’
‘Kiwi Tease’
‘Lady Godiva’
‘Lapdance’
‘Mata Hari’
‘Math Man’
‘Mithril’
‘My Passion’
‘Outer Limits’
‘Patricia the Stripper’
‘Peepshow’
‘Pole Cat’
‘Risky Business’
‘Rusty’s Fine Line’
‘Silver Eagle’
‘Snake Eyes’
‘Sneak Peak’
‘Strip Poker’
‘Strip Search’
‘Stripped Naked’
‘Stripper’
‘T-Dawg’
‘Tassels’
‘White Bikini’
‘White Line Fever’
‘Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’
‘Stripped Naked’
‘Stripper’
‘T-Dawg’
‘Tassels’
‘White Bikini’
‘White Line Fever’
‘Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’

Echinacea Pow Wow Wild Berry: An Exciting New Introduction in Coneflowers.

Echinacea Pow Wow Wild Berry Coneflower

ECHINACEA purpurea PowWow Wild Berry is a new seed variety of Coneflower that is a 2010 AAS Flower Award winner.  It’s a variety released by breeder Jian Ping Ren, Phd a PanAmerican breeder.  According to Ren, “As we were evaluating a large field of Echinacea, a vibrant color immediately caught our attention, and all plans to breed a ‘standard purple’ coneflower flew out the greenhouse windows. The color of PowWow Wild Berry was so strong that we chose to focus our complete attention on it. In addition to the amazing color we concentrated breeding efforts on PowWow’s shorter, bushy and very well-branched habit and free-flowering nature. We’re thrilled with PowWow Wild Berry, and are happy this All-America Selections award-winner has been well-received.”

Wild Berry is a compact form that appears to have more blooms in year one and two than previous seeded varieties of coneflower. You should start to see this in finished one gallons (or similar sizes)  throughout the United States and Europe in 2011.  Pow Wow  is a series that will also be available in white.

Height: 16-20 inches

Width: 20-22 inches

Bloom Color: Pink to Light Pink

Bloom Size: 3-4 inches

Zone: 3-9

Light: Part Sun to Sun

Flower Time: Mid to Late June until September

Venus Fly Trap: How To Take Care and Feed One of the World’s Coolest Plants

Venus Fly TrapThe Venus Fly Trap is a plant that every kid in the world wants to own.  A plant that is “alive” and eats things that lands in it’s mouth.  What kid doesn’t like to feed his plant meat?  As fun as the Venus Fly Trap is, there are some tricks and tips to keeping it alive and healthy.

Growing Venus Fly Traps

  • The Venus Fly Trap is used to growing in a bog with soils of little nutritional value and thus feeds itself through the traps.  This also mean don’t pamper it. It doesn’t need fertilizer and special care that other plants desire
  • It needs a humidity level of 50% or more.  Plants are often sold in plastic boxes to help trap humidity.  If it doesn’t a plastic bag over the pot will serve the same purpose
  • You can also creative humidity by placing a pan of water underneath the plant but make sure to keep the plant out of the dish as you don’t want the plant to soak up the water
  • A terrarium can be built out of plastic pop bottle for one plant or an old fish tank if you have many plants
  • A Venus Fly Plant needs a lot of indirect light.  At least 10-15 hours.  A south side window or a florescent light will do the trick.   The plant does not like direct sun or really hot conditions so make sure to keep everything indirect.
  • Don’t water your plant using water out of the faucet.  Only use rainwater or chlorine free water

Feeding Venus Fly Traps

  • Despite your want and desire, don’t feed your plant more than once or twice a month.  It will be perfectly happy on this amount of food
  • If you really have to watch it eat then limit your feeding to once a week or even once every ten days
  • Never feed your plants hamburger or other protein based meats.
  • Springing the traps with your fingers or a pointed device zaps the energy from the plant that could possibly weaken the plant and even kill it.
  • Live insects is a the preferred food of your plant but a dead bug can be fed if it didn’t die from bug spray.
  • Catching a live insect and cutting it into small pieces is an easy way to feed your plant
  • Crickets and grasshopppers will feed on your plant so make sure the feeding is one way

Don’t Worry When Your Plant Goes Dormant

  • Black leaves are a sign of stress, often too humid.  Make sure to trim them off
  • Your plant will go dormant for 3 months, usually during the winter, and will lose all it’s leaves.  Leave it alone during this period.  Keep it cool (50 degrees or so) and on the drier side
  • When your plant is active keep it constantly moist and much warmer 70-90 degrees.

There you go.  The secrets to your success with a Venus Fly Trap.  Drop us a line if you have troubles growing one.  Maybe we can help.

Here’s a little video on What NOT to feed your plant.

Pole Apple Trees: Columnar is the New Trend in Fruits

Growing your own fruits and vegetables has become a hot trend over the last few years but homeowners that planted their fruit trees are learning a hard lesson.  Even dwarf varieties can get to be a pretty big plant.  That problem has been solved.  Introducing what is going to be the hot new plants over the next decade.  Pole apples.  All the fruit of a broad apple tree but it grows straight up.  As a bonus, the first few years as the tree is developing you’ll still get a few apples but they’ll be some of the largest apples you’ve ever seen.

Some of the apple varietes coming on the market are

Colonade Golden Sentinel-  A yellow variety with a delicious taste

Colonade North Pole – A red type similar to Red Delicious

Colonade Scarlet Sentinel- Another Red Variety

These pole apples can be grown in containers as well but don’t expect more than 15-20 apples per year if grown in a container.  We’ll give you more photos and info as we grow more of these apples this year.  Greenleaf Nursery and Stark Brothers are introducing new varieties in the coming year so we’ll make sure to keep you posted on all the new varietes.