Entries Tagged 'Gardening' ↓

Selecting Lawn Grass

Take a walk through your neighborhood. Look for cracks in the sidewalks. Do you see grass growing in the sidewalk cracks? That is the kind of grass you want for your lawn.
In my area that happens to be Bermuda.

Kentucky blue grass is fine if you are in Kentucky. I live in Texas and I think grass should be green.

St. Augustine grass does not like the sun, or the heat, or lack of water. It does not like the area where I live so I don’t use it. Grass abuse is a terrible thing.

When you decide on the grass you want, buy it in seed form. If you can’t grow it from seed, (assuming it propogates from seed), it will probably not survive anyway. Grass that propogates from seed is particularly low maintenance. Just let it go to seed a few times a season to replenish any weak spots in the lawn.

Sod is expensive to buy and install. Sod guarantees a finished lawn almost immediately and is the best way of establishing non-native grasses quickly. That might last a year or two but eventually you will find out why those grasses are not native.

If you are looking for Bermuda seed, then buy Bermuda seed. The bad should read Bermuda Seed on its face. Grass Mix, Sun and Shade, Quick Grow Grass Patch, these are all examples of products to avoid. If it does not say Bermuda, it is not Bermuda. In fact , generic platitudes are an indication the vendor does not want you to know what is in the bag because if you knew, you probably would not buy it.

Just because it is not approved for use in parts of California does not mean it is bad grass. California is run by people of low intellect and low morals. Being banned there may be a good thing.

Expect to pay at least $3 a pound for real bermuda grass seed.

Scotts products are usually overpriced and underperforming.


On January 20, 2009 we planted several dozen onion sets in our garden. It is now approaching the end of May and the onions are nearly ready for harvest.

They vary in size from golf balls to tennis balls. They are ready for harvest because the green tops are laying down.

We have an investment of 4.50 dollars delivering about 20 dollars worth of onion. Looks like lots of onion soup to take us through the summer.

The Game of Life

I read somewhere that in the game of life the person with the most toys at the time of death wins the game.

I believe that is a very short sighted outlook. My definition of a winning position is to be the one with the most toys that are still working when the end comes.

Recently one of my ‘toys’ broke. Several years ago I became the owner of a lawnmower that propelled itself. You did not need to push it. Just guide it and let it pull you along.

At the start of this season it required pushing. Lots of pushing. After half an hour of pushing I was all pushed out. This thing needed to be repaired or replace.

Replace was out of the question. New lawnmowers are now priced at what I would consider reasonable for a good used car. Guess I am still living in the 60′s. That is the 1960′s.

Repair was going to require parts. The main problem was that the drive bushing on the vertical shaft run by a pulley and belt from the main engine shaft was worn out. That and the fact that the worm drive gears were caked full with hardened grease was what was keeping the drive from driving.

Cleaning the gears was not all that much of a problem. Finding parts was another story. There are lots of places on the internet that offer parts for lawnmowers of all kinds including the one I have. All those places are completely worthless. Prices are outreagous, shipping is unreasonable, parts selection is non-existent. After cruising the internet for half an hour I was pretty well certain that I would not be able to find the part I needed.

Well, it turns out that I did not need to buy a new part after all. The drive gears are housed in a casting that bolts together. The casting is in two parts, upper and lower. The shaft that drives the wheels runs horizontally. The shaft that drives the horizontal shaft runs vertically. The two shafts combine in the casting and are supported by bushings. Two bushings for the horizontal shaft and one for the vertical shaft. The three bushings are identical! So, the horizontal shaft was polished so that one of the still good bushings could be removed. The good bushing was used to support the vertical shaft. The worn out bushing from the vertical shaft was used to support one side of the horizontal shaft. A worn out bushing on the horizontal shaft did not seem to bother the function of the shaft.

After a few choice words a few beers in celebration and a sharpening of the blade, I am again in business with a functioning lawn mower. It cuts, it mulches, and I don’t have to push it.

The Hoe

Forty years or so ago I purchased my first hoe. It was part of a package including a lawnmower, rake, shovel, and edger. All implements required by a new homeowner to maintain the lawn and garden. About ten years later the hoe broke. It broke at the point where the metal part attached to the wooden handle. The metal part was all rusty and ended up being tossed out with the garbage but I kept the handle.

Recently on our morning walk, my wife and I strolled past a house that had put out a broken hoe for garbage pickup. I noticed that it was in good shape except for the fact that the handle had broken off. It had failed in the same way as my first hoe.

“Don’t you dare”, was my wife’s comment. So I left it there.

On our second pass around the park, I picked up the discarded hoe and took it home.

I found the old handle I had saved and cut the broken end square on the table saw. Then a few minutes of sanding on the large sanding disc had the end tapered down to where the metal sleave fit perfectly. I installed the sleave and drilled a hole up into the handle to attach the new metal part. I filled the hole partway with epoxy and hammered the metal part into the handle. Some of the epoxy came out of the hole and I smoothed it around the wooden end effectively sealing it.

Now I have a new hoe.


We have had a privacy fence around our backyard patio ever since we moved into this house back in 1979. The original fence was not constructed of first rate prime grade fencing. It was cobbled together using materials that had been salvaged from some other construction.

Some time after we moved in my mother transplanted some ivy from the front yard to the fence. I was not entirely pleased but did not do anything to get rid of the ivy and it finally took over the fence on both sides. That ivy is probably the only reason the fence looked decent even though it was falling down. Rot and termite damage even though it was cedar.

About a decade or more ago I added some treated beams to the posts that had rotted away in an effort to keep the fence from falling down. That worked until just recently. Seems that treated wood posts have a life expectancy too.

Well the fence was only six feet high. Not high enough to hide our bedroom windows from view by the neighbors next door. That was not a problem for me since we keep the curtains closed but my wife often mentioned her desire to have more privacy. She considered a seven foot fence as a minimum height at least for that part of the fence that bordered our neighbors kitchen window.

Well, that entire fifty foot section of fence was now falling down. I had the posts braced to keep the fence vertical but it needed replacement. I didn’t even bother getting estimates for a new fence because we had no money for that project and slim chances of getting funds any time soon.

About a year ago my neighbor across the street ripped out an old deck. There was plenty of good redwood and treated pine 2x6s in the pile of scrap that he put out for pickup. Soon the majority of his lumber was in my driveway. After removing the nails and drywall screws I salvaged some pretty decent lumber which lasted for the better part of a year being used in various woodworking projects, but now all that had been used up.

As luck would have it, I found another neighbor a few blocks away had scraped his deck a couple of months ago. I dragged all that lumber home. Using my table saw I cut the 2×6 redwood planks into 1x5s and used them to build my seven foot fence section around new posts made from 2×4 treated pine. Board on board construction. Took about two weeks to finish and after it was painted with redwood stain it looked very good. Cost was under a hundred dollars with most of the funds going for the redwood stain.

I still had about one-hundred feet of six foot fence covered in ivy and a gate that would not close after a rain.

More recently I salvaged some cedar fencing that had been discarded and most recently my neighbor on the other side of the street scraped his deck. What a deck that was! Lots of 2×6 redwood and treated pine planks that were twelve feet long. I was able to rescue about 40 2×6 treated pine planks and 20 redwood twelve footers. Lots of hardware too. Lag bolts, beam hangers, and the usual assortment of rusty nails. I did not need the nails but the beam hangers came in handy when I used several of the beams to build a firewood rack capable of holding a cord of wood well off the ground and away from the house.

I decided to add an extra foot to the six foot fence section by adding a foot tall trellis section. I could use the lumber I had acquired to extend the existing fence posts. I had already used some of the lumber to extend the posts on either side of the gate. A header now separated those posts and I no longer had any trouble with the gate closing, rain or shine.

At first I was going to buy the trellis but they don’t have decent trellis work at the home improvement centers. Lumber yards did have some really nice stuff but at prices that I did not want to pay. I ended up making my own.

I built frameworks out of treated pine 2x6s. I cut them down to 1x2s on the table saw. Then nailed them together to form a rectangle that would fit between the extended posts of the six foot fence. Each frame was custom fitted for installation between the extended posts. I left two extensions on the top frame rail to be nailed into the tops of the posts for mounting. Additional nails in the vertical frame rails fastened the lattice work securely to the posts.

The actual lattice work was made from the redwood 2x6s. I cut them on the table saw to produce 1.5 inch wide strips 1/8th inch thick. These were nailed with brads to the the lattice framework and spaced one strip width apart. The strips on one side of the frames were installed at a 45 degree angle. The strips on the other side of the frame were at a 45 degree angle but 90 degrees to the strips on the first side.

Took about two days to make and install all six sections but the results were worth the effort. Before permanent installation I varnished the outside of the strips to preserve and darken the redwood color so that they would have a better match with the other sections of fence that had been painted with the redwood stain.

I was a little anxious about how this would look. Ready made trellis work had the trellis strips placed on top of eachother, Mine were spaced 1.5 inches apart. Turns out the separation looks even better and more interesting than the normal trellis work.

Overall the effect was stunning with the green ivy contrasting nicely with the redwood color. This time the cost was under fifty dollars and it took less than a week to complete the project.

Bruce Miller Nursery

I believe this is the fourth gardening post this spring. I also think it is the most important of the four.

Recall our disappointment at the high prices at Calloways in Plano. Maybe you don’t recall. Well drive up to Plano and look. You will see what we mean.

Those prices were so high that we thought we were getting a super deal at the A&M plant sale where we were only charged two bucks a plant.

The home improvement centers were mixed blessings. I just find it difficult to justify paying more than one dollar each for annual bedding plants.

Last week we received a 15% off card in the mail from Bruce Miller Nursery. My first thought was to ditch it but it re-educated me that their closest place of business was only a mile or so down the road.

Yesterday afternoon we gave Bruce Miller Nursery a visit. Not only did we get 15% off the asking price but the asking price was significantly lower than even the stuff we saw at the home improvement center. To top that off, their plants looked better than any we had seen anywhere this season.

A flat of 18 fairly large (3 inch pots), well established, plants for $14. Or $11.90 with the 15% discount. That comes to about 66 cents per plant and they looked every bit as good as the two dollar variety we bought at the A&M plant sale. To be honest the two dollar plants were in a larger pot, but three inch pots at 66 cents each are the best deals we have found in a long time.

Bruce Miller

Click on Bruce Miller above to get to their web site. Don’t expect too much on their web site. I was expecting pictures of plants with prices but did not find any. I had to go to their business location to find those. Well worth the trip.

Yes, their geraniums look just as good in real life as they do in that picture on their web site. Only Five bucks a plant. We got two.


We have come to a new appreciation of rain. We have not had enough of it in the recent past. Minor drought conditions have prevailed.

This week we got plenty of rain. Although we only recorded about two inches, parts north of here got as much as ten inches.

Spring rains are important. April showers bring May flowers. Or so the saying goes. Rain also conditions the ground. Not just the flower beds but the yard as well. A wet yard makes weed pulling easy.

Sure, we can use a herbicide but that might also kill the flowers and the grass. Besides, it costs money and it might not be all that friendly to humans either. It is much more pleasant to sit on a green lawn, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. It is particularly enjoyable when the ground is wet enough to permit pulling weeds, roots and all.

Gardening 2007

This years season started out as every other season. We made the rounds. First to a real nursery. Then to the home improvement center. Then back home to plant our purchases.

As usual the nursery was still specializing in annuals and high prices. On the way back from the nursery we passed by the A&M center on Coit and saw a sign advertising an A&M plant sale. We turned around and headed back to the sale.

They were nearly sold out but we still found enough to cost us nearly 40 dollars. Not complaining. Their prices were about half what the nursery was asking. We found some tomato plants, pepper plants, dwarf zinnias, and some very nice lantana.

oldlantana.jpgWe had bought some lantana years before at the home improvement center. It was yellow and took over the entire flower bed. Later we moved it to a side garden where it did not seem so out of place. It dies off in the fall but comes back in the spring. This spring is no exception. There are six very nice sized clumps of the stuff coming up just like they did last year.

newlantana.jpgThe new lantana has leaves that are a deep green and flowers that are deep red. It should go well amongst the yellow stuff we had planted earlier. Although there are only four of the new plants, we expect they will do well, grow quickly and rival the yellow lantana already established.

We still stopped at the home improvement center (handy homers, I call it). The plant section was somewhat of a disappointment when compared to the A&M plant place but we did find an 8 by 4 foot section of 3/4 inch oak plywood that followed us home.

Home Run

homerun1.jpgHome Run roses. Found them at Sam’s. Nice, large, flowering plant in a 5 gallon container for 12 dollars. Non-stop flowers, no pruning, thrives in any soil.

Got two of them one for the front garden and one for the side garden. Funny looking petals for a rose. They look more like a large petunia, but they are deep red, have thorns, and smell like roses.

We saw a nice crop of these doing very well in the median on a neighborhood boulevard. They grow to about three feet tall and three feet across.

I figure they will look good against a backdrop of dusty miller around the periphery. Sure hope they are fast growing.

Dusty Miller

About five years ago I bought fifteen dusty miller plants. I was very proud of my purchase because each pot seemed to contain three plants. Well, maybe not, but I was still able to separate the plants in each pot into three small dusty millers.

I planted them around the border of a new garden area that had previously been occupied by an multi-trunked boise’d Arc tree of considerable age. The thing must have been at least seventy-five years old. Old timers remember it being here when the subdivision was first established about 50 years ago.

Anyway, I let the dusty miller grow. A few years ago I transplanted about half of it. It did very well and was starting to crowd out other plants in the garden.

Today I dug up two huge dusty miller bushes in preparation for a spring upgrade to the garden. Going to see about planting some red flowering ground cover in place of the dusty miller. The red color should go well with the dusty miller remaining.

The point of this post is to warn prospective users of the dusty miller plant. It is pretty. Nice and greenish gray in color. Compliments nearly any decor. It also grows into bushes if you don’t trim it out on a regular basis. It likes to send out shoots of pretty yellow flowers that attract bees by the dozens. The flowers are not nearly as nice as the gray colored leaves and it takes a lot of pruning to keep them under control.

Over all, I guess the dusty miller is a good investment. The plants were certainly cheap enough. They are drought hardy and do well even in the recent reduced rainfall in north Texas. Low maintenance but not ‘no’ maintenance. They do require some pruning to keep them looking good.