Behind the Fence

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rose Propagation Tip

I know, I said this blog was in hibernation, but I did want to share this tip. On an unusual mild day in Paducah this week, I puttered a bit the yard; I was really excited to see these rose cuttings have rooted.
Knock-Out Rose

Peggy Martin

Monday, December 2, 2013


This blog is basically in hibernation during the winter months, but I want to share with you the fruit cage my husband built for the fig trees.

I have a Lemon Fig and an Alma Fig that are sensitive to sub-freezing temperatures. While a freeze will not kill the tree, it will kill the new branches and therefore prevent fruiting. In past winters I have tried a variety of ways to cover them, including loose leaves, bagged leaves and tarps (see previous post,) all very time consuming and messy. I asked my husband if he could build a simple frame (thinking PVC) that I could drape in plastic. This is his version of simple!


After trimming the trees, he wrapped the frame in plastic and and covered it with a tarp.


By the way, I decided to try wrapping the strawberry tower in a Garden Quilt from Gardener’s Supply.

Be sure and keep up with me this winter at Crafting from the Underground!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Gourd Project

I love these whimsical gourd birds made from gourds I grew a few years ago. I felt they needed friends and decided to plant gourds again this past summer.

 Unable to find small spoon gourds seed (with a neck,) I bought a seed mix from Urban Farmer.

Although I only needed a few gourds, I planted three seed to increase my chances of getting the one I wanted. I planted two in the center of raised beds and one behind the cold frame, next to the compost bin, with the intention of training the vine to grow on the fence.

All three plants produced gourds, all were egg shaped. Okay, that was not the plan but I can use these for Christmas ornaments and Easter decorations.

20 Gourds
The plants in the raised bed grew nicely and produced enough gourd eggs for my purposes.

8 Gourds

The one planted by the compost bin was another story. It behaved as though it was on steroids (actuallly it was on compost,) with vines taking over the cold frame and going underground into the greenhouse. I cut the vine several times to keep it out of the fig trees.
A good testimony for compost!
From what I understand, gourds dry better left on the vine until they are cured. That is what I will do with the gourds in the raised bed. However, the cold frame will be needed this winter so it was necessary for me to cut the vine engulfing the cold frame.

102 cut from vine

and placed on a drying rack on the potting shed rafters.

28 left on cut vine to cure.

And that isn’t all! There are still gourds on the vine behind the cold frame. Plus the ones on the vine that grew under the fence into my neighbor’s yard. (Unlike me, he actually did train the vine on the fence.)


All totaled I am sure there are at least 200 little gourds, about 175 from one little seed.
So, what will I do with these little treasures? Follow my crafting blog, Crafting from the Underground and you will see. If you want some to play with and live in my community, let me know.
As the days grow shorter and the temperature gets cooler, I am transitioning from the potager to my Underground Studio. So, like the garden, this blog will go fallow for the winter.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I have adopted an Iris Bed at the University of Kentucky Demonstration and Trial Garden. The original iris bed was planted by Master Gardener, Dennis Dreyer, several years ago. Dennis is no longer active in the Purchase Area Master Gardener Association and the bed had been pretty well neglected.

May 2013
I cleared it totally of weeds and old iris rhizomes, added some compost and replanted. Dennis is an avid iris lover and cultivates several hundred varieties at his home in Western Kentucky. He graciously offered some of his prize irises when he divided them last August. I also added a few from my collection.
October 2013
With above average rainfall this summer, it has been a challenge to stay ahead of the weeds. This week I spent a couple of hours just digging out wild onions.
Hopefully Dennis’ generosity and my diligent weeding, the garden will boast a lovely iris bed in the spring

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

To Straw or Not to Straw

Today I trimmed the “ugliess” from the strawberry tower, filled in the washed-away areas in the soil with compost, sprinkled slug bait and planted the runners.

Now I must decide, do I cover the tower with straw as usual or do I wrap it in a frost blanket.

The straw works well but is a real mess to remove in the spring. Would the blanket work just as well?  I would love your opinion, please comment.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Propagate with Cuttings

Mid-September is the time of year I favor to take most of my cuttings. The weather is cooler but not too cold, giving the cuttings a better chance of survival. Cuttings are a great way to increase one’s plants as well as preserving favorites. This past week I took cuttings for the popular Peggy Martin Rose (which I have promised to friends and blog followers), Knock Out Roses to finish the beds around my house, Butterfly Bush for my neighbor, and scented geraniums to winter over.

Googling propagation from cuttings, you will find several methods, I will share the one that has worked best form me.

I often have mother plants from which I take cuttings. These are usually kept in the back of the potager for propagation purposes.

I take a 3-4 inch mature but green stem from the plant making sure to have a few knots from which the roots will grow. I strip the bottom leaves and pinch of any buds (flowering will zap the energy from the root formation.) I place the stems in a container of water.

The rooting medium I use is Pro Mix to which I add polymer crystals such as Soil Moist and water. I put the rooting medium into clean pots. (When reusing pots, I wash them in soapy water with 1:10 household bleach and water to kill any bacteria.) I take the end of a pencil or maybe a garden spoon and make a hole in the potted medium.
Next I take a cutting from the container of water, dip it into a rooting hormone, shake off excess, put it in the hole and gently pat the rooting medium around it. I keep the new cuttings in a sheltered area out of direct sun until they form roots, also known as striking.
When the temperature starts to drop near freezing I put the cuttings in the greenhouse or in the basement windows. I usually don’t fertilize until I can feel resistance with a gentle tug and know there are roots. I start with a very weak liquid fertilize, as to not burn the young roots, about every 2 weeks. Around the first of January I will either repot into Pro Mix with which I have added Soil Moist and Osmocote (a time released fertilizer) or I will start using full strength liquid fertilizer once a month.

In the spring I have a number of healthy plants ready to place in the garden or share. Below are just a few that I started with cuttings.



This Peggy Martin Rose covering the carport was taken from the rose on the arbor about three years ago

I like Plant Propagation A to Z by Geoff Bryant for reference. The book explains the best method for propagation for individual plants, the best time to take cuttings or plant seeds as well as the average length of time for striking.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Late Summer in the Potager

Overgrown mess!

Late summer in the garden is usually not an especially pretty time. The plants are overgrown, overstressed and are showing the end of life. The flowers have faded and the lovely vegetables have been consumed.
But there is a redeeming element, the garden is alive with activity and color as the butterflies emerge and the hummingbirds migrate.

Happy to share the figs!


Recently I heard Eileen Dubois-Grey speak on creating a National Wildlife Habitat; I realized I probably have most of the elements to certify my garden.

                          Water Source         


and a place to raise their young.
I have a mature tree and some host plants, but would probably need nesting boxes and maybe some shrubs.

Can a potager also be a Certified Wildlife Habitat? I don’t know, but I just may have to find out. It would be pretty cool to have this sign in my garden!

Click on the sign to learn how to create a Certified Wildlife habitat.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Bountiful Fig Crop

This year has been awesome for figs. We pick a basket every other day.
Friday's Harvest
Today's Harvest

They are somewhat persnickety as they do not ripen off the vine. If they are picked too early they have a greenish membrane and not too much of the sugary content. If not picked when ripe, they will split and the ants have a picnic. Knowing exactly when to pick comes with experience. In one day they can go from being too green to split open.


Lemon Fig
There are several varieties of figs. We grow Lemon Figs and Alma Figs, both are a greenish yellow when ripe. The Mission Fig (which is more common in our area) is purplish black when ripe.

Winter Cover
Most figs do not take kindly to the freezing temperatures in our Zone 7a. If not protected, the branches will freeze and die. Although the tree survives, figs produce on the previous years’ branches, if the branches freeze, there will not be figs to harvest. We have tried several ways to winter over the trees. We have moved the pots into the greenhouse; not a good idea since they will not go dormant, therefore they will not produce very many figs. We have made a wire cage to surround them, stuffing the cage with leaves and/or straw. That worked very well but was quite a mess in the spring when the time came to uncover the trees. Last year we piled bags of leaves around the trees and positioned a tarp to cover and keep the ice/snow at bay. Obviously that worked well as we have had a bumper crop. Figs grow well in large pots. I have read they will winter over very well in an unheated garage or shed. I understand there are some cold hardy fig trees like Chicago and Hunt, but have not tried them.

Fig, goat cheese, grilled chicken salad.
Folks often ask what we do with our figs. Often we eat them straight from the tree. We frequently add them to a salad with grilled chicken, goat cheese, walnuts with our signature lime infused olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing. Sometimes we make a bruschetta with toasted artisan bread, figs and goat cheese.
Our favorite fig treat is grilled pizza with grilled chicken, goat cheese and figs. If we have arugula in the garden we add it after we take the pizza off the grill. With the bumper crop this year I am dehydrating some. I anticipate eating them in oatmeal or in a salad during the winter.

Fresh figs do not transport easily and are not often found in the grocery store. For a delicioius fruit, rich in calcium, fiber and antioxidant, we find they are worth the trouble to grow in the potager.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Out of Control!

Photograph by Mark McCoy

In May, the potager looked marvelous as it was well groomed for Art in the Garden.
What a difference 12 weeks later!
A busy summer with a 60th Birthday celebration for my garden engineer, (aka my husband) an out-of-town wedding, a 2 week vacation, a major Master Gardener event and more than usual summer rain, I am left with a jungle!

        Weeds, weeds, weeds!    



             Out of control!    

The Mother’s Day Art in the Garden tour and art auction for the J. DarinLoftis Memorial Scholarship was a huge success, raising over $7500. The scholarship is now endowed.

In July I co-chaired the Purchase Area Master Gardener Association’s Twilight in the Garden. Held at the University of Kentucky Demonstration and Trial Garden, approximately 180 members of the community toured the garden. For many it was a first.

We had a small, but nice harvest of strawberries
Even with neglect, the potager has been productive. 



And a bumper harvest of blueberries.

The figs are just now starting to ripen (picked the first two today. It looks very promising for the largest crop ever!
Another short trip this next week to Washington D.C. with my daughter-in-law, Holly and granddaughters, Alison and Camille. After that I have visions of getting back in the potager, tidying it up and maybe planting some fall crops. Also, I have hopes of more regular postings on this blog!



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A little late for the party, but Peggy Martin is welcome just the same. Usually she is in full bloom on Mother’s Day; with a cooler spring than usual, she is just now coming into full bloom. If you were hoping to see her at the Art in the Garden tour and were a bit disappointed, please come back. She is a gorgeous rose with a very interesting history on her web site,

From the Deck

                                                                                                   From the Guest Room

The poppies are also in full bloom. You can read about their history in an earlier post, Poppy Tribute. A frequently asked question is when to plant the seed. That depends, if we have a mild winter it is best to plant in the fall. However, if the winter is severe, an early spring planting would be better. Stop by the potager and I will give you enough seeds to plant a few in the fall and again in the spring. Once you have a successful planting, you will have plenty of seed. They self sow and are quite prolific.

I welcome folks to visit my garden at any time. No worries if I am not at home, my neighbors are used to people in my garden. If you want a “guided tour” I am in the potager most mornings that it is not raining. On Tuesday evenings, Randy and I are usually having a glass of wine with “drop-in” friends on the patio between 5 and 7. We call it Tipsy Tuesday, but no one ever gets tipsyJ We would love for you to join us, and of course, take a peek at the garden.