Gardeners are always coming up with great ideas to make their work easier, their vegetable gardens more productive and their landscapes prettier.
Thankfully they love to share their successes — and even their failures — so others can benefit from their adventures.
The industrious volunteers at Germantown Farm Park have provided frequent fodder to this column because they are passionate about gardening and always willing to try new techniques.
They seem to never stop making refinements in their gardens even when winter weather keeps me indoors with a warm throw, a hot beverage and a book.
When Gail Easterwood read about using slinky toys to keep squirrels out of bird feeders, she decided to give it a try with a pink Slinky cadged from the toy box she keeps for her grandchildren.
Using twist-ties, she secured the Slinky at the top and bottom of the pole that supports her bird feeder. Despite taking running starts to scale the springy Slinky, most of the squirrels fall off before getting very far.
“Once in a while one will get up there, grab a few bites and jump off,” said Easterwood, a GFP volunteer. B.S., “before Slinky,” they were up there every day eating the food before the birds could get to it.
“The birds seem a lot happier now,” she said.
Evelyn Mosely, another farm park volunteer, and her husband Phil are always tweaking the edible beds in their Germantown yard. This year they are lengthening their growing season by planting broccoli, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, arugula, curly kale, Chinese and other greens in a high hoop greenhouse.
Even though the plants are under a covering made especially for greenhouses, insect pests manage either to get in from the outside or to emerge from the soil beneath.
The couple deterred some of them with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth — the sharp fossilized remains of tiny fish that are fatal to all insects but harmless to humans.
But recently they called in the heavy hitters — their grandchildren and some (mostly) beneficial bugs.
After their daughter-in-law told them about the swarms of pesky Asian ladybugs seeking warmth in her house, Evelyn suggested the grandchildren nudge the spotted beetles into jars and bring them to the greenhouse to do battle with the bad guys.
It’s too soon to know which bugs will win, but their experiment is a fine example of gardeners finding creative solutions.
There’s nothing like seeing pretty flowers indoors and out on drab winter days. Some of the best are the camellias many of us grow outdoors with success during mild winters and disappointments during colder than average ones.
Former Californians Heather and Stephen Olney brought their love of camellias with them to Memphis about 35 years ago.
They purchased numerous varieties of camellias so they can expect blooms from November through March. They installed them in a row along a south-facing wall of windows of their East Memphis house.
Cold winter temperatures and strong winds sometimes cause the camellia flower to become so mottled with brown blotches they were not pretty at all. Most years their problem is solved by Stephen’s innovative way of attaching a polyethylene sheet to the wall and a row of nearby crape myrtles.
This year, Heather has cut dozens and dozens of flowers that she gladly shares with friends who float them in water in shallow bowls.
“I love giving away camellias, roses and other flowers from my garden so others can enjoy them, too,” Heather said.
If you want to bring more butterflies to your garden, you might want to attend a workshop on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park.
The Dixon’s garden education coordinator Suzy Askew and other staff members will reveal the nectar and host plants butterflies love and provide guidance for designing an area for those plants.
Participants may bring a copy of their garden plan and a photograph to get specific siting recommendations. Cost: $20; $10 for Dixon members. Call 761-5250.