Vacation Time Is Here RVA!! Who’s minding Your Landscape?

Vacation Time in RVA. Who’s Minding The Livegoods?

It’s that time of year again RVA! Vacation time, school is out, planning that long awaited get away….. Have a great time. Got the mail stopped, reservations, vehicle checked, etc…. But who’s minding your landscape? Depending on a timer? Insects, fungus, Squirrels, Rabbits etc., love an irrigation timer, and let’s face it, Spring 2017 was a rough one here in Richmond, Va. And now the season is opening for new things like Bag Worms, Japanese Beetles, Storms, and more.

So, what do you think? How about your own personal “Garden Baby Sitter?” As a Personal Garden Coach, this is only a part of what we do. We get hired to tend to all the landscape as well as indoor plants. Most of our clients we’ve helped thru the years get us to be the “Look out” for the hard work and expense they have invested.

The Parameters:

Walk your property with you in advance of your departure, this helps with the layout of your beds, watering, problems you had, etc.

Take pictures of areas, identify any problems currently happening, get your input about any chemicals used, organics, products, etc, that will be taken into account. Any recommendations about light pruning, debris removal, soil conditions, fertilization, insect/fungus abatement, will all be taken into account.

No… Mowing, edging, hauling away debris, leaf blowing, or anything that requires more than “light pruning”. Watering, fertilizing, organic spraying, hand pruners only. We are Plant Sitting, not landscaping.

So if you are interested in this service preferably in the RVA West End/Glen Allen areas, feel free to contact me at for rates starting at $45.oo per maintenance visit under 1/2 acre. I will be there every day at some point, but I only charge for the days I feel I need to water or other chores. All pics are time/date stamped, so you will know actual records of my time.

I take pics each visit, digital record of plant health, measure rain water on your property, and I will text you anything that I feel you need to know of that is outside our original discussion.

Having someone on your property at different times while you are away, is also a good thing to deter break ins. Just make sure your neighbors know, I’ve been confronted before, in the backyard, with a hose in my hand, while watering Herbs on the deck, by the nice guy next door, while he’s calling 911…. and I was calling my client…….  I ended up having the neighbor as a new client after that…..

So have a great time, I have years of experience as a Personal Garden Coach, and I come with references upon request.




Can’t Just Toss Out

OK, so for years I have been lecturing about “Re-purposing, Up-cycling” things.. So here’s an idea, saved from the trash. I need to start some seeds, Paw Paw, Hardy Hibiscus, and Flying Dragon Citrus. All have hard outer shells, and need to either be scarified, or soaked to germinate. I found this “thing” in the trash. And, I am using it as a “mini greenhouse” to see if I can get anyone to sprout. We’ll see..

img_0392 img_0390 img_0391

A nice zip up bag, a couple of old hair curlers, also new in the bag, and wet soil. So we’ll see. Stop tossing growing stuff out!! This is Solarization as you want it to work?


Gardening For Beginners Club RVA

Gardening For Beginners Club in RVA!!

So, Let’s get this going. I know from over 25 years of experience, there are so many of you that want to start, did start, started and quit… I know why you did, you had the wrong info from retailers or erroneous websites, that left you hanging because they couldn’t explain what Ma Nature did…

So you went to a local Nursery, box store, and bought a lot of “things’ that went in the ground. Some lived, some, didn’t. Why? You did the “Brown side down, green side up” thing. Sun, Shade, Annual, Perennial. Tree, Shrub. Evergreen, Deciduous. Tropical, Hardy.  Fake, plastic…. Well, if the last two failed, you really need this club!!!

I am a Personal Garden Coach. I don’t care if you live on the third floor balcony, long narrow Town Home, just built a home in Va clay, selling, just closed, it doesn’t matter, this Beginners Club, is for you. This special club will not only get you connected with your property, lifestyle, self improvement, healthy lifestyle, grounding, or any other Horticultural Therapy, we will all, grow together.

Community Gardens, let’s get it on. Feed more folks, find a local restaurant to fill with your left overs. Backyard oasis people, paver patio, fire pit, water garden, edible landscape, container balcony fruits. I got you. There’s so much to do, with the help of other members as we grow.

What’s your talent, outside of your job? Express it in the Garden, with new friends, your own family, shake it out, and grow something!!

The cool thing about this club is it’s for beginner’s only. No question is a stupid question, no idea is out of this world. I have taken tons of people past their realm of any “Outdoor Living” to the point they now teach their neighbors, friends, families. When you don’t need me anymore, then I did my job.

In this Garden For Beginners Club we will:

Create a page with your current pics, in progress pics, and finished project pics.

Learn from your emails, as I produce vids answering your questions.

Find ways to grow in constricted areas, deal with your lighting, get acquainted with others, and their restrictions, and you share.

And more, as the club grows.

It’s January, It’s time, start sending me your plans, pics, wants. New people always don’t realize where their Sun light actually is, so as part of your new Garden Journal, Smart phone, compass app, take a Screen Pic with your back against either back or front door. Save it, this is your new setting. Send them to me and I will publish them, get this going RVA!!

Remember, We are mostly in Zone 7a, so if you get into researching live goods, stay in that zone. We’ll get into that later. Oh, and as we get going, introduce yourself, short bio, I’ll post the new links later.

Time to get Dirty RVA!


Going Off The Grid

What Is “Off The Grid”?

So many people are living a wilderness life now. TV shows, documentaries, self awareness, even classes and clubs. Who are these folks? How did they “win” a spot on the show? As I have been warning over the past several years, to be “Self Reliant”, Re-purpose, Up-cycle, Finding your strengths is no match for improving on your weakness. Most are scripted, fail/can’t fail according to the media they have signed up for. There’s even “naked” folks, trying to make a bonus check they wouldn’t even blink back at their experiences in the jungle, when it’s done.

So, if the Grid collapsed today, what would you do? Where would you be tonight? What would you take with you? Can’t call anyone, towers are down. Propane/gas generator can’t be refilled after you are out, fuel plants are shut down. Looters, what would you take? TV’s, electronics, etc?

Have you tried to live a day, week, month, without using any power whatsoever? We all do when a Tropical Storm or Ice Storm is coming. We hoard grocery items, because we know it’s coming, maybe out of power 3 days, a week, 3 weeks max. Someone, will fix the lines.

But what if….. What if I had to make a decision, to pack up things, hit the road, what would I take? How far, who knows where to meet, what else to bring, dark is coming, how long do you stay at home, or where you are? Stuck in an elevator? Can’t get out of the parking deck?

Who has an actual plan. Can’t imagine the unimaginable? Think again. Who would you grab along the way? 3/4 tank of gas, Some frozen food, canned goods, Jewelry, cash, Fire logs and a lighter? Remember, banks are down, no electrical anything. Phone is charged, but no actual communication other than you’re voice in the wind. It’s just a clock now. 1940 has just become your life.

Now, push thru 50 days. You made a few correct decisions and about 9,000 wrong ones. Surrounded by some that are weighing you down. Who was your first pick? Who do you say “Stay, someone will find you”? Me? A few of the homeless folks I gave a few dollars to in the past, they already are off the grid. They didn’t know, until I said “Get In”! We didn’t go back to live where they did, we made out for a new type of life. A few folks that were called, “Hoarders“, they know what was saved and why. Saw a value in it, the “Pile of Things“. We now have a new Mayor, and a Minister of “What is it”…

In the last 3 weeks, I have been pretending to be off that grid, cranky, scared, collecting, searching, tired, different menu, (hence the “cranky”) just to be able to test, ME…. No winning bonus, no bumping off other contestants, no medivac, no inclination of a re-run. Won’t be asked back next season.

By “pretending“, I mean, to not use any outside info at hand to interfere with my decisions, planning, wants vs needs, comfort, electronic usage for travel, whenever I felt, “comfortable” in doing so. Made it this far, hence my absence in a few online servers and boring apps. I watched a few groups “claim” to be homesteaders”, off the grid living, but still had those big box store purchases to build their “thingy”. Bragging about their finds on sale. Registers are down now, doors are locked, payroll has ceased nationwide… Time ended, a minute ago……

I could build a life from the nearest landfill throw away items. That’s a hint of the place I would loot…… The Cops/National Guard, would be at every merchant in the country, not the local landfill. What would be you’re priority, if you knew, the Grid, was done, for maybe years?

There’s a little of my take for those of you who always… Always ask me what would I do… If it’s such a concern, then you plan your stay/escape. Others have boasted they have an escape, and that they would burn their home as they left.. Why? There will be new forms of Nomads traveling thru, what you left, is no importance to you anymore.

Let your “talent’s” be your new moniker. Not your career. Diploma’s are out the window, dead load if you use that. Talent’s, that will get you in, to the village you came upon. So now, with your Talent, what would you take with you? It’s now a time in life that you decide, “What good am I to others“?

Feel free, to comment, with what you are good at, simple sentence or one word. Tell me why I should let you in to my village, because of what you salvaged. Remember, the whole Country, is deaf, no signal, dead stick. You are on fumes, it’s getting dark, day 9… Convince the Mayor.

Japanese Beetles Have Evolved?

Yes, I Think Japanese Beetles Have Evolved

So as the Summer progressed into some crazy heat, rain, cool, heat, more heat, rain, etc., the current waning El Nino has some last surprises for us. This is just a quick observation, from the last few weeks, of you all’s emails to me.

I have seen probably several hundred pics, cuttings in zip loc bags, descriptions, of “laced out leaves” on Roses and several other shrubs, over and over, with your explanations (and some expletives ), of how these plants were so healthy when you left on vacation. Now, the longest was about 10 days, the shortest, was 2. I heard about how you watered thoroughly, set a timer, had the neighbor, water, and yet, you came home to laced our plants, and not a sign of any insect. Some in only 2 days now..

So, I think these Japanese Beetles have evolved. I believe, and you can comment if you want, but I know, they know, when you are leaving. They watch you pack your vehicle, and the word goes out. The hoards are mating somewhere else, driven by the females, and they wait. When your vehicle is out of sight, the radar goes full, and they ascend on your property with a vengeance. Now, what kind of “thing” is so coordinated in an attack, that we succumb to their cunning ways?

I saw this last year first hand, as I was enlisted by one of my clients to water her gardens while she was in Maine for 3 weeks. First week, all OK.. Watered all in, pulled some weeds, and left. The next week she texted me and had been watching the weather, said their was a few storms that week, and I should wait until the following week to water again. OK, was a 30 mile round trip for me anyway, with 2 hours on her property. So the 3rd week, I went out, and couldn’t recognize the place. So I texted her about 15 pics, of the total destruction. So, are these infidels actually intercepting, texts?

I know it’s not a funny subject, but it is funny that this year, maybe because more are going on vacation, that maybe, we should recognize, time frames of the cycles of insects, before we plan our trips…. No Personal Garden Coach wants you to fail, and you don’t want to quit, we won’t let you. This is a cool link to get your Phenology butt in gear, things to watch for, to time your treatments. Just remember, the best timeto treat for Grubs, is Labor Day, and treat first, where the Japanese Beetles were the most destructive. That’s where the eggs are. Then spread outward from there. Don’t contaminate your “edibles” with any chemical. Treat around the beds, not in.

Look at them in the active state now if you have Japanese Beetles. Several “clumps’ of them. They are mating, and as that clump hits the ground, the Males crawl off and die, and she lays 7 eggs, over and over again. Then they hatch in September, move out towards your tender lawn roots, and there ya go, looks like fungus, but not!!

Anyway, have a safe vacation, get me a t shirt or a bumper sticker, since I’m not going anywhere this year.. Watching for the Beetles!!!

Hay Bale Gardening, Sounds Great, But…

A few years ago I wrote an article for passing on info about using free composted manure and issues about crop failure in gardens. Got a lot of emails about it. So here it is again, but a little further.

I had some folks, who were Horse Farm folks, trying to do the Organic thing, by using their horses manure in their beds, flowering, shrubs, veggies, and all of them had the same failures, damages. They were thinking about selling it to the public as well, which was also why I was there, to help them get started. So I was at one of the farms, and a few of the friends were their, hammering me with questions, had to wait until I had an opening to ask this…

“Where do you get your hay”. They all looked at me like I was just trying to change the subject, a few disputed my gardening knowledge, kinda got heckled a bit so I asked again… Crickets…. Then one blurted out, “We all get our hay from the same guy, what’s that got to do with our dead gardens”?

Now there was some wine drinking going on, and if any of you other writers have tried to get in a word with this type of group, then you feel my pain. Took several times of me just asking the same question.

So then I started on chemicals, how they work, what they attack, their break down times, lingering effects, and more wine was opened, then when I saw I was finally losing them, I grabbed a bottle of wine, and as I walked amongst them, refilling their glasses, now they are quiet, I stated, “These chemicals are in the hay, absorbed through the plant, and then eaten by your horses, and is eliminated through their urine and fecal matter…. It’s in the manure for up to four years, and killing your plants”. Hmm. I was looking for the door now, seemed it was all of a sudden my fault. So I suggested someone call this “Hay Guy” and ask if there were chemicals used in his crops. You can say you are “Organically Grown“, but if anyone asks specifically, by Federal Law, you have to disclose what chemicals if any. So you folks that have a lawn service, you have the right to know what the chemical is when they hang that thing on your door, “Treated for weeds…”. Also you Water Gardening people, if you use baled Barley Straw in your pond to control Algae, same thing. Ask…… I have heard of retention ponds, sterile, devoid of life a few feet up into the marginals, except for grassy weeds.

So, back to the manure, one of them called, asked, got kinda verbally abusive, hung up, looked at me and asked, “OK, so now what do we do”? “Make new Veggie gardens, the chemicals are splashing onto the leaves when it rains, killing all your Broad Leaf Veggies”. That’s when I pointed across the room, yelled out, “LOOK, something shiny!”, and left.

So you see where I’m going with the Hay Bale thing? Your plants are above the hay, so no worries about killing them from the chemicals used during the producing the hay crop, Oh, did I say chemicals in the hay crop? Your plants are absorbing these chemicals, also leaching thru to the soil they are on, contaminating your surroundings, and you are eating them. Doesn’t sound very Organic to me. Same thing with Pallet Gardening, unless it’s a heat treated pallet with an HT branded on it, well you’re eating that chemical too.

If you want more info, here is one of the articles I had already read a few years before I stepped foot on this horse farm, yes, I came packin’! Kinda knew what the outcome was from the concerns from their original complaint. When I arrived there, saw the dead gardens, I knew. I even made a small bucket of Manure Tea from the soil in the Veggie Garden, poured it on some weeds, and said wait a week, see if they die. They did. So if you are doing the Hay Bale thing, make some “Hay Tea” first, try it on some weeds, if they die, well…

Just a side note of concern, If you are doing the Organic Thing, and you use Corn Gluten to suppress weeds, you need to think about your veggies absorbing it as well. Make sure your family or guests know you use it, in case they have Celiac Disease, it can trigger health problems, they can’t ingest Corn Gluten. It’s in the plant. I know a few folks that this happened to, as they tried to be Organic. Just think about it.

Is Manure Tea, The Right Way?

Making Manure Tea, The Safe Way

There are hundreds of recipes out there for making Manure Tea. The last decade or so, some issues are arising, and I have been caught up in the middle several times by readers, clients, audiences.. My recipe is included below, but here’s the seemingly abundant issue coming in large with those who are trying to stay on the Organic side.

“My garden dies off after a few weeks of planting. I top dress with old horse manure (or cow),in the Winter, and everything dies except my Onions, Dill, Celery, or any other “stalky” types, seems that anything like Tomato, Squash, Cucumber, Pepper, Melons, Herbs, etc., just die an early death”…

Well here’s the deal. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in someones kitchen as they make the call to their manure supplier, to call their hay supplier, to get back to them, about this. “Do you use 2-4d on your hay to kill Broad leaf Weeds, to make it a more pure crop?”
“Yes”…… Federal law, they have to tell you, they don’t need to disclose it, but they have to tell you if asked, now ain’t that something?

Now, I’ve seen a few, go just super ballistic after they tell me the outcome. My issue is, I’ve tested manure in several composted piles at several ranches, and made Manure Tea, applied it to several different plants, and if all the broad leaf plants that died, well, the answer from the hay farmer was right, they used the chemical. That chemical, can be eliminated by the animal in their waste, and can linger in their waste, for four years, if there is no broad leaf plant (Tomato, Vinca, etc.) to consume it. It’s in the garden bed, in the manure, and as it rains, or watered, it splashes onto the leaf of the plant, and kills it…… Same as Weed and Feed, in your lawn, FOUR YEARS. Barefoot in the lawn is not so attractive anymore is it? Stop using it, you can get better results by “spot treating” with a spray, or feed at the right times. You won’t promote weeds, there’s always another chemical in the next AD to counter, what was promoted wrong.

Just educate yourself folks, ask!!! All you have to say to privately owned is “are there any chemicals in the product”? And they have to disclose. Some actually use Glyphosate (Round-Up) to kill the whole crop at the same time so it’s more “pure”, no greens left.

Now, here’s the twist, bagged goods labeled “Organic”. Look at the label, adds up to what, about 85%? On the flip side, by Federal Law, these Vendors only have to claim as 85% Organic, the other 15%, they don’t have to tell you, they can add what ever they want, to stay ahead of the other guy. And don’t have to tell you. Money thing, Monsanto stockholders, most of our Government owns this stock, all the way to the White House, and placing the outcome on our dinner tables, recreational areas, water.. What do they care, they are making millions.

My recipe.

Black Cow Manure or Chicken Manure

A little Milorganite


Bt Israeli

Lavender Leaf

4″ Drainage Pipe cover and coffee can.

I take a piece of the “sock” and tie one end off, place it in a coffee can, cut it so it drapes over the side. Pack full with the manure, add 1/4 cup of Bio-tone, a little Milorganite, 5 or 6 pieces of Lavender leaf, and sprinkle a little Bt. Tie the open end with a longer string, about 18″, and pull out the “Tea Bag”.

This bag will treat a 5 gallon bucket about 5 times refilled. Let it steep about a week each refill.

TEST it on a weed at first batch!! You never know if there may have been a chemical introduced in your products. If the weed grows, good batch, if it dies, spray your driveway or wherever you have weeds.

The Milorganite will supply Iron, as well as a critter deterrent, as well as the Lavender. Bt, will keep Mosquito Females from being able to coagulate blood, for her eggs, Bio-tone, promotes root strength and growth.
Free Manure can kill your broad leaf live goods. They don’t want it, they want it gone, and then the deciphering about the non-success you had is buried way back in the conception of you wanting to be “Organic” . Test a batch first, make the decision after.

Ask questions.

Poison Ivy, Can’t Touch It?

Start Looking Now In The Early Stages, Easy Kill

Over the past several days it seems, I have been asked what to kill this vine with. Yes, it’s beautiful Fall foliage is striking, in the tops of trees, but does it belong in the Gardeners Landscape? Is there a reason it survives? Recently, I have been in on some conversations about how to kill it. Bad thing is, it will grow anywhere, any soil, high or low Ph in most cases. So how do we control or kill it?

First good way, is to watch Lilacs, as the blooms emerge, so does Poison Ivy. That’s when to really try to eliminate it, as it starts to leaf out. If are persistent in removal of the “Tru Leaves”, you can starve it out, just by removal of them, but takes a while, that root is a mile long, right? Those first leaves aren’t pulling from the ground yet, they are needing Sunlight to perform Photosynthesis to feed the root. So removal, will starve the root…. UGH!!

So many folks are highly allergic these days, can’t even look at it. So how can it be eradicated without harm to them? Some garden beds, it just shows up, from nowhere, from seed from your Avian friends. So Mathilda, here’s your removal remedies.

First way to try, would be with a chemical. But the vile vine is in your Rose Garden. Can’t actually spray, and most likely, don’t want to. Never use Round-Up, that chem has Diquat and Glyphosate. Diquat is a defoliant, and this vine, IF the chem works, alerts it that something is attacking it from topside, and it will detach from the root, before the Glyphosate can reach the root bed to do the actual kill, to save itself. Glyphosate takes 7 days to kill grass, imagine how long to kill a vast root system. See? Get it? But most likely, most won’t be affected, because of the oily leaf coating, it won’t stick to it to make a dent….. No Surfactant.

Second, Organically. Yes there are thoughts of Vinegar, Bleach, FIRE!!! And other Kitchen things. But breaking down to what ratio, and how the plant actually lives, and protects itself, is the key. There are 3 ways, with any concoction, or chem to kill. A couple, you do have to “disturb” it, not actually handle it.  So pick your poison (pun intended} on how safe you feel.

Wicking, the application of a chemical to each leaf, using a cotton swab, rag on a stick, whatever, carefully not getting on wanted plant life.

Spraying, but only if the plant is not within the combined area of desired plantings. (Same concoction as below, but remember as a foliar spray, “if its green, it’s dead”)

Siphoning, (Systemic Induction) this may be you Mathilda, which only requires you to cut it, and put in a can with a chemical, and allow it to suck it down to the root bed. Actually, if you use one of those long pick up grabber things, you can work about it in a safe distance.

Your Non $$ chem can be as simple as one gallon White Vinegar, one cup Epsom Salt, and two TBS of Dawn Dish Detergent. Got your Bean Cans and rocks? OK, lets go. Mix your grog, and pour in can to about 2/3 full, not 1/3 empty, but 2/3 full make sure, 2/3 full, and under no circumstances, should it be 1/3 empty (MP Royal Hand-grenade?) Next, using your mile long grabber, pull a piece of the new tender growth vine until it rips off, and put the end of the still rooted intact vine in the can, put in a rock to hold it in, but don’t wedge it in, you will pinch the “straw”, and it usually will siphon it out within a day or two this time of year. Don’t forget to bag the piece you ripped off and toss in garbage. There, ya did it, but try to do several places around the base of the plant. If it’s winding around a desirable plant, won’t hurt it, it’s IN the vine. Soak your grabber thing in same solution or straight Dawn and rinse to sterilize.

Takes a bit of doing, but keep following up for a month or so after you see it dying off. As you see new leafs shooting up from time to time, simply snip, yank, shoot, whatever, them off. The plant is trying to do the last ditch effort, send out leafs to get Photosynthesis to occur to save itself. The more it loses those leaves, it dies a bit more each day.

Vinegar, lowers the Ph below it’s feeding capabilities, does burn anything, the Epsom Salts, Magnesium, supercharges plants to intake all that’s available (vinegar). Dawn Dish Detergent, animal fat, your surfactant, either in a foliar spray, adheres to slick leaves, or keeps the inner woody stems open to induce the vinegar.

Diquat, a defoliant, most vines and tuber/rhizome plants will disconnect when trouble above is occurring. Glyphosate is an axcellerant in cellular growth in a plant (and as Humans, we are plant like make up) and makes the plant grow so fast the cells rupture, making it look burned, in other words, gives the plant cancer. Takes 7 days to get to the root, so if the plant detaches in a day or two, no kill. So in actual fact, straight Glyphosate is better than Round Up.



That Solarize Thing

So how did your Solarized bed do? Mine fried like I wanted it to. If you missed the Frost last week, I believe you will have another chance on April 3rd on the Eastern Seaboard, just watch your weather, and remember when the weatherman says, “Cover your tenders” then uncover your Solarized bed.

Uncovered the evening before Frost

Uncovered the evening before Frost


Next afternoon after Frost

Next afternoon after Frost. And will Continue to die off.


Tomato Complexity

When Did It Get So Hard..

…just to grow a Tomato? Most of the time in your life, you wanted either just a nice slicer, or a bushel of canning Tomatoes, and we knew what to grow. Hybrid vs Heirloom, Indeterminate vs Determinate, was about all there was. Bit since the long adjusted hybridizing of this great Summer treat, now there are letters on the tags with some secret code.

So, I have the breakdown of the letter codes here for you.

V – Verticillium Wilt
F – Fusarium Wilt
FF – Fusarium, Races 1 & 2
N – Nematodes
T – Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A – Alternaria Stem Canker
St – Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot

Normally, I wouldn’t care about these codes, I pick what variety I want, and plant, but I have already gardened my soil, and know what to look out for during the growing seasons, issues. But I have had several asking about these mysterious letters, so here they are.

Somewhere in my life I have read a few articles about the chemical processes in any one Tomato plant, it’s like 428 at any given time, and if one, or a combination of a select few, are interrupted, the plant starts over, for example, Blossom End Rot. I know it’s been too wet, a couple of yellow leaves at the bottom in late April, and I add 1/3 cup of whole milk to the root base, one time. Calcium has dropped out, the plant is confused, so this believe it or not, corrects it. Old school…. So I guess the lettered codes have some meaning to folks that had plants die last year, from one or more of these diseases, and they will pick from the codes? But, in most cases, the disease is still in the soil, and the “Hybrid” plant will process the disease, in one part? Hybrid is 2 or more plants crossed into one? So will it happen?

I just want a Tomato.