Joy's Garden Patch

Share in the fun of the season with gardening tips and advice

When my husband and I first moved into this house, we immediately put in a patio off the back of the house. We did all the work ourselves. Nothing says new homeowner quite like a husband and wife doing projects together—and not killing one another in the process. We were so proud!  The patio was laid using concrete pavers set into the required sand, and crushed granite. We thought it would be perfect for our grill and dining al fresco. The ants had other ideas.

It seemed innocuous at first. We would happen to notice just one little, random sand hill on top of the pavers. We had no idea there was a grand plan. The ants were relentless.

Ten years later and the patio area is now our sunken patio. Thanks to the diligent work of the ants, the patio’s elevation has dropped by about three feet. Jumping into the patio isn’t so bad, but crawling out is hell. We’ve installed a pool ladder.

That’s not all. When, as my next project, I dug a small fish pond off the aforementioned patio project, the ants wasted no time moving in and nesting. Is nothing sacred?

This year though is the worst. It’s an explosion of ants. I’ve never seen anything like it. Armies of ants and endless ant hills are scattered about the yard, as well as on stone paths; under stones in mulched pathways, around the fish pond and all over the patio.

Have you ever tried weeding while parked on an ant hill? I do not recommend it. The pain is only topped by getting stung by yellow jackets. That’s another story for another time. Or I could just tell you about Oma Tike’s recent scare, where she was bitten by two, two-foot long black snakes that got caught up in the netting on her strawberry plants. (She’s fine!)

Anyway, on the list of all the natural remedies I have used to annihilate the ants, so far I have used include borax, salt, cider vinegar, hot water, cold water hose flushing and cinnamon. Nothing works. My last attempt to win this war is diatomaceous earth. I’ve sprinkled it all over the ant hills and openings leading to their nests. So far? I can’t really tell if it’s worked.

All I know is that I am about ready to put up the For Sale sign and move—that or use chemicals.

It’s a dilemma.

Note: Anyone else feel the cold air move in? Overnight temps were in the mid-and-upper-40s. More cold weather is forecast tonight. Since my tomatoes were started from seed and I’m not taking any chances, I brought them in last night and will do so again tonight. Am I overprotective? Perhaps— but better safe than sorry! For those tomatoes already in the ground, a covering of some sort (wicker basket, cloth row cover, etc.) should do fine (if you're the nervous type like me!).

Time to Pick: Strawberries! Pell Farms in North Haven will be open for picking beginning Monday.

June 04:
National Trails Day at Peter’s Rock features a talk about invasive plants by local Master Gardener, Walter Brockett. The talk begins at 9:30 am. Then take a hike, one of two hikes being hosted.  One will teach you to identify trees and plants. It starts at 10am. 

June 10-11: Gardens by the Sea, presented by the Stonington Garden Club. Get ticket info, including advance sales and garden descriptions at the club’s site.

June 26: CT Historic Gardens Day at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock Get more info at 860-928-4074.

 Oma Tike Tip:  Do the work now for a better showing next season. A few iris are done blooming. Take out the flower stalk so the plant doesn’t make seeds. Instead the energy will be used to make a stronger plant for next season.

 Road Trip: Ballek Farm, East Haddam, CT
Here’s another great destination spot for you to look into as a possible quickie day trip this season.  I haven’t been to Ballek’s in years, and was pleasantly surprised to see it as beautiful as ever. The location is splendid. It’s bucolic on a weekday with no crowds, plenty of elbow room for browsing through the abundant selection of perennials, grasses, roses, shrubs and trees. There are tables of veggies and annuals, but it’s the perennials that steal the show. Bellek’s does have some uncommon choices in their on-site selections. I love that.

What I really enjoyed though, was the extensive amount of useful accessories. Attached to the main shop, you may remember, is a huge room full of pots. Some pots are plain, some are fancy.  I saw a few that had the most beautiful glazes. And among the pots, you’ll find lots of different shapes: unusual and one-of-a-kind, traditional, functional and whimsical, too.  From here, slip over to the giant structure that houses willow, birch, and other hardwood fences and wattles, as well as an assortment of wooden containers and cold frames. Back outside; wander amid the disorderly order of random metal garden structures, containers, hangers and signs. 

Oma Tike Tip: Start saving seed for next year! The columbine are done, so collect the seeds now, put them into a paper bag to dry and then store in non-porous containers for next year.

From the Garden Bookbag:
Oma Tike’s Pick
: “Living in the Garden Home,” by P. Allen Smith, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers
Enjoy your garden home throughout each season with crafting ideas, the use of containers and more. Beautiful pictures accompany the text.

Joy’s Pick:  “Planted Junk,” by Adam Caplin, Ryland, Peters, & Small
Here’s a creative, off-center and spirited eyeful for container planting that really hits the spot. Delicate, pink impatiens are potted up in concrete cinder blocks. Teapots of all sizes, shapes and colors are shown planted with flowers of all sizes, shapes and colors. A row of toy tow trucks have bright, colorful flowers tucked into their truck beds. It doesn’t matter what type of container, be it a cardboard box, plastic watering can, hollowed out tree or discarded chair- if you plant in it, it will be beautiful. Note: You can get this for less than $10.00, with shipping, on Amazon.

Next Week’s Column:  Microclimates in your backyard; June chores; Bookbag, and more!


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