Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 11/7/2018



If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed your lawn. However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add to your lawn.

However, these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back. Depending on where you live in the country, by then you may have missed your window for this season. Go ahead and add seed now if needed. You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to water briefly several times each day until germination. Try to keep fallen leaves off the seeds without disturbing your seeds in the process.


It's time to clean up the summer garden. Many pests and diseases over-winter in old plant debris. Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased. Otherwise, have it removed from your property.

Hopefully you're growing some cool-season crops right now such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat and provide frost protection for those tender young seedlings. Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better after a few light frosts. If you've never had a fall vegetable garden, you're missing a real treat.


Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and /or shrub. The soil is still warm enough for roots to actively grow and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.

Be sure to keep your new plants watered. The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.

Organic Gardening

Don't waste those fallen leaves. My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my and my neighbor's leaves. As they say, one man's trash is another's treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off their hands.

I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which then get raked into my beds. They break down rather quickly and are a very good way to add organic amendments to my beds. They also pull double-duty, serving as that important layer of mulch over the winter.

Flower Gardening

Plant those bulbs, or at least store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. In cooler climates, plant in October. In southern climates, the best time for bulb planting is in middle to late November. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths are all great choices for spring color. This is also the ideal time to divide perennials and plant perennial seeds for next spring.

That should keep you busy for the next few weeks. The best part is that next spring, our efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive, looking better than ever and due in large part to the work we're doing now.

Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 2/14/2017

UnknownAmerican Elder – A Cheerful Landscape Addition Every single part of the American Elder shrub is useful: flowers, berries, leaves, bark, and roots. American Elder, also known as common elder, is a large, deciduous shrub that grows to 12 feet at maturity. Presenting deep green foliage complimented by clusters of creamy ivory white, umbel-like flowers in June and July, American Elder is a welcome addition to the home landscape. The flower clusters are up to ten inches across and emit a sweet, delightful fragrance. When the deep purple berries appear, birds gravitate to the garden. Most effective planted in groupings, American Elder can be used to disguise an unsightly landscape element such as a shed or utility post. Fast growing elder is useful for screening off a pet area or dog run or striking when planted alongside a fence, foundation or wall. American Elder is especially hardy, not dependent on soil conditions. The sturdy shrub does, however, do best in nutrient rich, well-drained soil in a sunny location. While elder does not like to have standing water around it’s roots, it flourishes with plenty of water, requiring about one inch a week during the warm summer months. American Elder can be propagated from cuttings of bare shoots pruned in late autumn. To encourage dense, deep green leaves and to achieve a desired shape, elder should be pruned in early spring before new growth begins and again late in the fall. A Very Useful Plant For centuries, American Indians have used elder in a diverse array of ways. The sweet and succulent berries are prized for their tart and tangy flavor for jellies, jams, pies, and wine. Elderflower fritters, made from either fresh or dried elder flowers, are a delightful treat. Extracts, teas and tinctures crafted from elder have a wide range of medicinal purpose including treating chronic coughs, lung congestion, asthma, and bronchitis. A brew of elder leaves seeped in boiling water and then strained is useful in treating a host of skin diseases and is useful in relieving the itch of insect bites and other skin irritations. The same brew, placed in a spray bottle, is an effective bug repellent and will keep caterpillars from munching on plants on which it is sprayed. In traditional American Indian medicinal practices, elder bark was simmered water and then applied as a poultice to relieve inflammation and the pain of muscle and bone injuries. A tea made from either fresh or dried flowers is a mild stimulant. Known as “the tree of music”, Native Americans crafted flutes from the woody stems of the elder tree. Branches cut for musical instruments were dried with the leaves attached. Strong and straight shoots of the elder tree were fashioned into arrows and lances. Young branches, flexible and durable were woven into baskets and fish traps. Crush or bruise the leaves and rub on skin to keep pesky mosquitos and flies away. Guardian Of The Orchard If you have fruit trees in your home landscape, plant a few elderberry trees around the perimeter of the orchard to lure the birds away from other fruit with their berries.

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Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 10/11/2016

Cooking with fresh herbs is infinitely better than using the dried out flakes you'll find at the grocery store. Not only are they packed with much more flavor, but they'll also save you money in the process. Sure, there are some herbs you probably won't use very often and should just keep a small jar of them in your pantry. However, certain herbs are so useful that it's worth having on your window sill to pick from when you need them. If you're thinking about starting an indoor or outdoor herb garden, here are the best herbs to put in it that will spice up your recipes and save you money at the checkout line.


Number one on our list is sweet basil. Basil can be chopped up into sauces and salads, or it can be used whole on pizzas and sandwiches. For a great snack, toss some olive oil with chunks of tomato, mozzarella, and chopped basil. It's the perfect combination of tangy, sweet, and refreshing. Basil is also great for making tea and has a strong and pleasant aroma. If you start running low, you can start a new plant with clippings from an old one. As you pick from the plant, be sure to remove the leaf node (the stem part of the leaf) fully so your plant keeps producing more leaves.


A good herb to pair with basil is parsley. It goes great with pasta dishes, sauce, pizza, or eggs. Like basil, parsley can be harvested as needed. Simply cut the outermost leaves for use and leave the inner leaves to mature. However, parsley is also easy to dry and store. To dry parsley, hang it up in a warm place that has plenty of shade and ventilation. Test it by seeing if it crumbles in your hand. Once it does, crumble the rest up and store it in an air tight jar.


Arguably one of the the prettiest herbs on the list, thyme fills its long stems with small flowers and fills the air with a pleasant scent. Thyme goes well with many vegetables and types of seafood and is also common in many teas. If you live in a temperate climate, you could also try growing some thyme as an ornamental and aromatic shrub in your yard.


As you would suspect, mint smells and tastes...minty. To impress everyone at your summer cookout, place some mint leaves from your garden into their ice cold drinks. Like many other items on the list, mint is also great in tea and can be paired up with basil, lavender, and many other herbs to make a great herbal tea concoction.


Lavender is another pretty flowering herb. However, due to its size, it's best grown outdoors. You can make several homemade items from lavender including soaps, fragrance sprays, tea, and more. However, be sure to read up on caring for lavender plants as they require a lot of sunlight and well-drained soil. To make use of its size and aesthetics outside, you can plant lavender along walkways in your yard or garden.

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JoAnn M. Drabble