Friday, July 30, 2010

Gabion Garden

A lady in my native plant club recently asked about building her some gabion walled garden beds. I promptly replied that it would not be a problem, just let me go to my truck and get a pad and a tape measure. When I got to the truck I immediately called Lyn and asked her to Google gabions and tell me what they are, what they are used for, and any other pertinent information. She gave a me a quick run down on them and I went back acting like I was in the know on gabions. Oh yeah, technology saved my butt.

Christine is the editor for our news letter and is very savvy, native plant wise. She is also pretty savvy in the realm of garden design and construction. She realized she had a drainage and wash problem between her house and her neighbors. It was the side that had the air conditioner and a neighbor that really likes his carpet grass and is not too enamored by native plants. So there were some problems to over come.

Christine is British, or Scottish, or Welshish or something. So as not to insult any one I just refer to them as from over yonder. Well, as any one who knows any thing about gardening will tell you, the people from over yonder really know gardening. And she is one of those. Christine gardens with a larger percentage of natives than just about any one I know. She is one of my go to people when I have questions about native plants and where I want to put them in the garden. Well, when she started talking gabions for walls for beds and fixing drainage problems at the same time, I was all for this project.

She knows that they would not be for every body as tastes differ. But for her and for this application, they would be perfect. There was to be two walls, 12" tall and 12" wide that would make the sides to a long narrow raised be. Toward the end, one would curve out and then back in to make a larger area that would stop rain water from washing the side yard out. After seeing her design and drawings, I knew she had it down pat perfect and all I needed to do was start building.

I knew the job wasn't going to be easy as welded wire panels are a booger to deal with. I build a lot of horse stalls and cattle fences out of them and you know going in that they are tough to work with and there will always be blood spilled. It's just a matter of how much. I was able to get all 13 pieces built with out too much of the red stuff on the ground. This is the last piece and the hardest piece, as it is horse shoe shaped.

I dropped by a few days later and she was almost through filling them with rocks. Yeah, the woman is a work horse and I say that as the highest of compliments.
A couple more days and she was through. It really looked good and I could really see how it was going to fix her drainage problems and make beds all at the same time. She already had plants in it, all natives of course.

I stopped by to see her the other day and was surprised to see that she and her husband had completely wiped clean the front yard and had redone it with new walk ways, new beds and of course a lot of new plants almost all of them natives. It was simply stunning and they were only half way through with the project.
These are the kind of people that I respect most as gardeners. They have a dream or idea, they plan, they scheme, they plan the costs......then they just do it, and do most of it them selves. Truly admirable. You can see more of these types of people on so many of the garden blogs that I visit. I invite you check out as many as you can. So many ideas, so little time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Product Review-Pump

With almost 24,000 gallons of water stored and the super summer season almost upon us, it is a shame that with out some kind of pump I would only be able to use it with the pressure of gravity. The tanks are 8' 4" tall and about a foot above the level of the upper most beds. With that height I would have about 4 lbs. of water pressure. Watering from our old tank with that kind of pressure took several evenings to do. It seemed like when you got through it was time to start all over again.

I have been looking since we put in our first tank, almost ten years ago, for some kind of pump that would hook up easily and be simple to use. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on one as I fully intend to have a filter and pump house with a pressure tank at some later date. Well, I think I've found one, and I bought it.

After a couple evenings of use I will say I think this is the perfect pump for the small time rain water collector if it will last. I got it from Harbour Freight mail order. I really hate buying any thing from them as most every thing they sell is made in China and isn't very good quality. That said I haven't been able to find any thing like this that is American made.

It's called simply Portable Utility Pump. It pumps at the rate of 25 gallons a minute or 1500 gallons an hour. The motor is 800 watt but what impresses me the most is it has a 120 ft. lift capacity. That means it will pump water straight up for 120' of elevation. For comparison the biggest pond pumps will only have twenty or so feet of lift. That to me equates to some real power. It's fairly small, less than 12" long and isn't too heavy even for a woman to move around.

It's best attributes though are that it can be used with any reasonable sized extension cord and, get ready for this, the inlet and outlet connections are for regular water hoses. That's right, garden hose for water going into the pump and garden hose coming out to water with. That is a great idea to do this, however, whoever decided to put male hose ends on both inlet and exit sides needs to be fired. After I found this out I had to go buy a washing machine hose, because they have female fittings on both ends of the hose, and put that on the pump on the inlet side. Other than that one little glitch, it was a cake walk to hook up and water with. I was a little disappointed to find that it is not supposed to pump against any pressure. That might mean that it wouldn't work on drip systems unless you were sure all the water it pumped would go out the hoses with out any back pressure. I'll have to think on this some more.

In a comparison to my favorite hose watering sprayer on our regular water system, it seemed to have almost, but not quite, as much spray coming out the sprayer. It is plenty to satisfy me though and I seem to be able to water every thing in about the same time as normal. I like it, am glad I bought it, and will recommend it if it has a reasonable life span for the $80 and shipping that I paid for it.

It would also work very well for emptying ponds or the big water troughs that are so popular for ponds. You could empty your pond and water your plants with pressurized water all at the same time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Go Away!

After seeing several blogger's front yards that were no longer front yards, I decided that is what mine should be like as well. I don't think it will ever be as beautiful as Lori's garden in South Austin, or Cheryl's in North Austin as I just don't have that much dirt over the rocks. Both Lori and Cheryl as well as Philip at ESP have the perfect front yards with no grass and just so beautiful. Low water needs and no mowing either.

The grass never did grow well in our front yard so I decided to bring in more dirt and put in native plants or plants that are well adapted to our heat and that would be drought tolerant when established. There was also a path from the front steps toward the back shop, right through the front yard. It was made by the dogs as they tend to go in straight lines and not follow paths. Lyn and I had decided to dig up the limestone curbing we had put in so many years ago and put a path through that section of the yard and redo the limestone to match. Here is the project with the path fixed and more dirt brought in and a few plants in.

We do have a problem that Philip, Lori and Cheryl don't have and that is the deer. It will take some serious thought and planning to have a beautiful area with nice plants that will not be ravaged by all the deer here. People that visit comment on how deer wouldn't come up this close to the house. Yeah, they will.

While eating supper a couple of nights ago I looked out and the "Queen", of our local deer herd, just came walking through the front garden, sniffing around and looking for a snack. I picked up the camera and took one through the screen. She would sniff this plant and then that plant and walk a little further. I walked to the front door to take more pictures without a screen in the way.
You can tell by the long head and roman nose that she is a very mature deer. She raises twin fawns every year and takes no guff from other deer.

My choices in plants so far must be good as she took nary a bite. Yeah, me. She finally turned and went on around the house, I guess to get the last of the plums that have fallen over the back yard fence.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fruit 2010

With the last hard freeze, I believe the set up was there for a great fruit crop this year and it looks like I might be right. Many old fruit men think it is not only the number of frost day but having one or two really cold days that sets up the year for a grand fruit crop. The fruit trees here at Draco are packed beyond their limits with gorgeous, tasty fruit and Ol' Bob has been eating plums and peaches every morning and every evening.

Plums being my favorite fruit I have two plum trees, both of which are Santa Rosa. One was supposed to be a Methley but I think the label was wrong. No problem as Santa Rosa is an excellent eating plum and I have been eating them since I was a kid.

I'm very lucky that the three peach trees I have get ripe at different. It makes it much easier to deal with as far as keeping the varmints out of them and dealing with all that fruit in the kitchen as well. All the peach trees I have are great producers with great tasting fruit and two are freestone. I would tell you what they are but I don't know. I want to know, I just don't. All these trees were bought from different nurseries, at different times, and they were all labeled Nectarines. That's right, the peach with no fuzz. The answer was the same from all three nurseries when I took them a peach from my nectarine tree and asked them about it. Oops. Yeah, that's about it. I used one of my holes dug by backhoe and $36 worth of dirt on a tree I didn't want and all I got from them was oops. I was really mad back then. I'm not so mad any more. You can tell why when you see the pictures. This is the first peach tree to get ripe and it's the worst of the three. It's hard to believe, but it gets better with the other trees.

In the next photo, if you look close on top of the top peach is a member of my ground crew. Daddy Longlegs usually only go out in the evenings or at night as they seem to be very light sensitive. The fruit trees are so heavily leafed that they can stay in the trees all day, just looking for some hapless little bug to eat. And they are as the trees are "crawling" with them. I believe they are the best predator bug you can have in your garden. I've set and watched them eat aphids by the zillions. Keep your little orange Lady bugs, I'll stay with my Daddy Longlegs.

With so many peaches I had to start holding the limbs up with boards and that was after some serious thinning.

And, while I did lose some to the squirrels, I didn't mind with this many peaches.
Even though this tree is about over the next one is only a week or so from producing another round of delicious peaches for Lyn, I and friends.