A self-proclaimed “plant geek,” Cheryl received her Horticulture degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College. She spent many years working in the Otter Creek Landscape division and at John Michael Kohler Arts Center gardens. She’s now the office manager for The Wreath Factory and Otter Creek Landscape. Check out her blog for tips, travels and things that pop up in her garden.
 

 

Getting Ready for Winter
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 10/27/13

I know it’s hard to cut back perennials that are still blooming or empty those containers when the annuals are looking good but you have to do it sooner or later and I would rather do it when the temperatures are above 45 degrees and there is not snow involved.  So this weekend I set out to do all the “have to do tasks” hoping I would be able to then have time to do the “can do tasks” next weekend.  First on my list was to tie up the arborvitaes.  Below is the picture from January  when I remembered that I forgot to do something last fall.

I found the best way to tie them up is with something soft and stretchable like old pantyhose.  These work so well that if you do not have old ones to spare I would suggest buying them new to use for this (the knee high type is the perfect length).  Also remember to gather all of the stems when tying them together as I found out some of mine had 3-5 for each arb.  There were two of us doing this so it didn’t take long to complete 9 of them.

Next I had to protect my fruit trees as this spring I discovered that the rabbits loved chewing the bark off my newly planted trees.  They generally chew up to about 18″ unless there is heavy snow fall so I wasn’t taking any chances and protected about 30″ of the trunk of the tree with some tree wrap and tree guard.  I will also protect the crabapples too.

The rabbits also had a fondness for blueberry shrubs so we protected them using hard wire mesh, rebar and zip ties.  The newly planted blackberry shrubs also got the same treatment.  The rabbits must have liked my backyard for snacking as last year they also took a liking to the dappled willow and burning bush.

Time to also collect seeds from the annuals for next year.  I was able to get cosmos, morning glory and zinnia seeds.  Make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before sealing the container (that lesson was learned the hard way) as they can get moldy.  I use zip lock baggies but in past years have also used clasp envelopes.  Reminder to label and date them.

I noticed the parsley was still looking good so I chopped some up and put in ice cube trays, added water and froze them.  Then placed them  in zip lock baggies, labeled and dated them so I can enjoy them this winter in stews and soups.  A few weeks ago I also did this with marjoram, rosemary and chives.

Other things we accomplished was to dig up the rest of the parsnips, leeks and rutabagas,  removed the dead canes from the raspberries and trimmed the new canes back.  The garden is pretty empty right now so I am ready to try a new method of controlling the weeds and increasing the production of my garden.  This week we will be laying down cardboard and layering over that with peat moss, compost, straw and leaves.  I checked a few books out from the library on lasagna gardening to get some ideas.  I will keep you informed next year if I am successful.

One last thing to do before dark was to gather all my garden stakes and garden art to store in the landscape shed.  A few years ago I saw this idea for storing garden stakes in a magazine using overturned crates and using zip ties to keep them together.

I like to store all of the garden art from one garden together on a shelf so it is easier in spring to set it out again.  The music playing insects, Bach bust and trumpet are all from the music garden.  My collection of wind chimes (6 of them) are stored on hooks on the wall so they don’t get tangled.  When our garden shed was built two years ago I had lots of shelves installed and a peg board on one wall with lots of hooks.  It’s amazing how fast the shed gets filled in the winter months.

I hope next weekend is as productive as this past weekend as I still would like to cut back more perennials, add compost to the herb garden and raspberry patch, repot the tropicals that were brought in the house and rake the leaves.  Hoping you have plenty of time yet to put your garden to bed for the winter!

 

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Garden 11 - Herb & Knot Garden
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 08/26/13

Recently I counted all the different herbs in my garden and I came up with over 25 of them!  So if you can imagine, I need a lot of room for all those herbs.  Considering this garden is only two years old, it has seen a lot of transformations.

We had our landscape shed built in November 2011 and this is the “mess” we had 16 months ago before the creation of the Herb-Knot Garden.

Last June we had completed phase 1 of this garden.   Two espaliered fruit trees, 12 Buxus microphylla ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods, 10 Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ Crimson Pygmy Barberries, 10 Lavandula angustifolia Hidcode  lavender plants and 32 thyme plants (red creeping thyme, magic carpet thyme, variegated lemon thyme and wooly thyme) were all planted to form the “Knot” and fill in between the large concrete stained blocks.  Then a variety of perennial and annual herbs were added in the raised bed.  Double shredded hardwood mulch was added in the open areas.

This summer, the mulch was removed and granite screenings and pavers were used instead for a much neater appearance.  A water garden was added in the middle of the Knot garden and the rain barrel was updated.  The thyme plants have filled in between the large stones.  I think if I had to do it over again I would probably plant just one type of thyme for a more uniform look.  The variegated lemon thyme is the tallest at 6″ and the wooly thyme is the shortest at 1″.  The scent is amazing when walking or brushing past those plants!

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A diverter was added to the downspout of the gutter for the over flow from the few times a year we get too much rain.

Two repurposed parts bins were also added to make more room for all the herbs & vegetables.  I lined the bottom with landscape fabric and filled with potting soil.  The basil, stevia, orange scented geranium, celeriac, artichoke, ornamental peppers and sorrel are lovin’ this new home.

The north side of the landscape shed had a Twisty Baby Dwarf Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady) as the only plant.  The contorted branches and leaves  draw people to it asking “what is it”?  This was early spring when the leaves were just emerging.

The landscape bed was expanded and edged with pavers.  Three Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirits, five Rodgersia ‘Fireworks’,  one Andropogon gerardii ‘Red Bull’ ornamental grass and Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura ‘Red Fox’ tree were added using burgundy and pinks for color inspiration.

When gutters were added to this building, I made sure that I was able to install a rain chain.  I can enjoy seeing the trickle of the rain down this chain from the inside of my house.   I left the rain chain up over winter and the beauty of the frozen water and snow that clung to the chain  caught my eye.

This is bronze fennel that has reseeded in my herb garden along with parsley from last year.

This Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote Lavender is one of the  more hardy ones for our area.  I planted ten of them and all of them came back beautifully this year.

This is the time of year to use as many herbs as you can and preserve the rest for later use.  A couple of my favorite recipes are bruschetta using fresh tomatoes and basil, herb butter using chives, basil, rosemary and marjoram and pineapple and mint infused water.   What are your favorite herb recipes?

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Harvest your herbs while there is still thyme!
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 09/18/12

Herbs are a great addition to any garden.  Their heavenly scents, great flowers and diverse foliage add edible beauty to your garden.  Herbs can be planted in containers, have a garden of their own or be placed in between your perennials.  One of my gardening goals this year was to utilize my herbs more than I have in the past.  So this year I planned my summer menus around the herbs in my garden.  We have had a lot of bruschetta, pesto, pasta salads, spaghetti sauce and flavorful beverages.  Did you know there is a mint especially for mojitos? 

 Since this is the end of summer, I have another mission to preserve my herbs to be used all year round.    So as of right now I have frozen oregano ice cubes and lavender, rosemary and lemon verbena drying in my basement.  I still have lots more to preserve and have obtained a lot of useful information from the book Better Homes and Gardens Herb Gardening (2012).  My local library had a copy and after looking it over I decided to purchase one for myself. 

Some helpful tips for preserving your herbs:

*Freezing herbs – if the leaves are small enough, place in ice cube trays whole with some water to freeze or chop/puree and place in ice cube trays with a small amount of water.  When frozen, place in zip lock baggies and label.  You can also place herbs in the freezer container stems and all.  I also saw on line that you can freeze herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays. I think I am going to try all these ideas.

*Drying herbs – Gather in small bundles and hang upside down in a cool, dry area.  I used binder clips attached to hangers and placed it in my spare closet.  When dry, remove leaves and store in airtight container.

A small area of my robust herb garden

 

 Italian and Curly Parsley

 

Rosemary – don’t forget to make rosemary roasted potatoes, yum!

I have four different types of thyme.  This is lemon variegated thyme.  They all filled in nicely between the stepping stones in the herb garden.

 One of the best fragrant herb in my garden.  Lemon Verbena – did you know that there are over 120 lemon verbena recipes on line?

 Have fun using and preserving your herbs while there is still thyme! 

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