Thursday, April 17, 2014

Win a Firepit and Grill for the Garden!

How would you like to add a firepit and a grill to your garden at the same time?  Well today you get your chance!  The people at Serenity Health and Home Decor have given me the go ahead to give away this amazing firepit/grill.

All you have to do is comment in the comment section of this post on Growing The Home Garden and you will be entered to win.  The winner will be randomly selected at the end of next week.  Entries will be accepted until Midnight (CST) on Friday April 25th.  I'll announce the winner on the following Monday.  Please feel free to share this post around with friends and family so that they can enter for a chance to win the grill.

The grill is called the Outdoor Classics Cosmic Fire Pit Grill and can double as both a firepit and a grill for cooking. The moon and stars design allows oxygen to reach the fire for good air flow and comes with a firepit screen for safety.  It has a cooking grid great for grilling fresh zucchini, squash, or any other vegetable from your garden.  The grill retails for $143 and is on sale for $119 but of course if you enter the drawing you might get it for free!  Serenity Health and Home Decor has lots of other items like water fountains, bean bag furniture, natural alarm clocks, hammocks, fire pits, wind chimes and spinners so check them out while you read more about the firepit/grill.

All you need to do to enter the drawing for the firepit/grill is comment below and tell me what is your favorite grilled vegetable!

Don't forget to follow Growing The Home Garden on Facebook or Google+!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Preparing for a Freeze or Frost

Middle Tennessee and much of the south is expected to receive a freeze tonight.  We all know how damaging a freeze could be and we have no to look no further back than 2007 to see the results.  That year many gardeners lost trees like Japanese maples and crape myrtles due to the flow of sap in the trunks freezing overnight which then split the bark.  Unfortunately we can't alter the weather on demand so we have to prepare our gardens for the cold temperatures.

Tips to Protect Plants from a Freeze or Frost:

  • Use plastic only if you can make sure the plastic does not touch the plants.  The cold will transfer through the plastic easily and anything that touches it will be damaged.  Support plastic with plant cages, stakes, or hoops of some kind.
  • Cover with blankets, sheets, towels, or other cloth fabrics.  Covering will create an air pocket that will insulate your plants. Cloth fabrics do not transfer like plastic and are much easier to use.  Just lay them over the plant your want to protect!
  • Be selective with your landscape plants.  You can't cover everything so pick out the most important plants in your garden to protect.  Fruit trees, expensive exotic plants, or any annuals you may have already planted should make your list. Native trees are better adapted to frosts and freezes and may not need protection.
  • Make cloches to cover your plants from milk jugs, plastic bottles, or even plastic nursery pots. A cloche is a simple covering that creates a mini-greenhouse over a plant. Make sure your plants don't touch the plastic as mentioned earlier.
    Cloche made from plastic jug
  • Water the plants ahead of time!  Strawberry and fruit growers will spray water over their plants and allow it to form into an ice covering.  This keeps the water inside the leaves of plants from freezing which is what causes the damage.
  • Water the soil around your plants.  Water is a great heat sink and will help the soil retain more heat overnight which will result in warmer plants.
  • Bring in potted plants indoors.  Potted plants will get at least 5 degrees colder than the ambient air temperature which can be very significant!  Get them in a garage or in the house until the outdoor temperatures improve.
  • Set out jugs of water to warm in the sun near but not touching your plants.  They will absorb heat during the day then release it at night.  This may increase the temperature slightly near your plants.
  • Use hardscaping as a heat sink near tender plants.  Bricks, rock, and asphalt will all absorb heat and will release it as temperatures cool off.
  • Use a combination of the above. When the weather predicts temperatures as cold as they are saying there can be a lot of variation caused by microclimates.  A frost pocket or a shady hillside may be over 5 degrees colder than the predicted low so use a combination of approaches to protect your plants. 

You may not need to do all of these techniques to protect your plants but it is better to be safe than sorry. I always council people to plant tender plants after the last frost date and even wait 2 extra weeks just in case. That gives the soil time to warm up and gives a little bit of a safety cushion in case of another frost or freeze. What frost/freeze protection techniques do you use? 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five-Plant Gardens by Nancy Ondra (Book Review)

Available on Amazon
Recently I was given the opportunity to check out Nancy Ondra's latest book called Five-Plant Gardens. Nancy Ondra writes the blog Hayefield and has written several other books including The Perennial Care Manual.  She is definitely what I consider and expert on perennial plants! This latest book isn't about the care of the plants it's about how to go about creating a sustainable plan for your perennial garden.  If you are passionate about perennials then this book can help you plan a fantastic perennial garden that will return each year.

Five-Plant Gardens does just what the title says, it takes five types of plants and makes them into an easy to plant garden plan. Included in each plan section is a synopsis of the plants, a diagram showing the placement of the plants, and an artist's rendering of what the garden will look like.

The photography in the book is beautiful and just what I've come to expect when I see Rob Cardillo listed on the cover.

I've only just begun to explore the ideas in her book.  Nancy has put together 52 garden plans which make it a very diverse collection of garden plants for virtually any type of garden! The beginning of Five-Plant Gardens contains some expert advice about shopping for plants, plant selection for garden zones, and some basic design concepts for expanding the garden designs.

I highly recommend this book but it's only fair to point out that Nancy has shared seed with me for some very special plants in the past.  She's a generous person who loves to share her knowledge of plants to those willing to learn.  To me that makes this book even more valuable!

You can find Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plantson Amazon. Please make sure you visit her blog Hayefield, you will learn a lot!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What is a Dandelion Good For?

One of the most despised "weeds" in the lawn is the dandelion.  All sorts of chemical companies offer ways to get rid of them and get your "perfect" lawn.  It's too bad that we seek to eliminate this little flower because they have so many healthy benefits!  What is a Dandelion good for?  I'm glad you asked!

The Benefits of Dandelions

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are highly nutritious.  One cup of dandelion greens chopped up contains 112% of recommended daily value of Vitamin A, 32% Vitamin C, 9% Vitamin E, and 535% Vitamin K.  Dandelions contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and other elements our bodies need with very low calories. (See NutritionData for more info).


Dandelions grow prolifically and really need very little in the way of help to grow.  You really could forage your way to that "perfect" lawn!  If you take the dandelions and steep them in water for 24 hours you can pass on that nutrition to your plants through a tea.  I make a "weed" tea each year to water my seedlings and throw in some other plants for additional benefits like clover, willow branches, or comfrey.  The deep tap root of the dandelion is able to reach minerals that more shallow roots systems can't.

Dandelion roots have even been used as a coffee substitute.  The roots are roasted then steeped in hot water.  I've never done this so I can't verify that it is a good substitute, since it doesn't have caffeine I'm doubting I could make the switch!

If you really must have the dandelions gone from your lawn try these ideas.

How to Remove Dandelions from the Lawn and Garden

  • Gather the dandelion heads to prevent reseeding.  This can be a fun game for kids to play.
  • Dig out the dandelions individually.  Be sure to get the whole tap root.  Then eat the leaves fresh or compost it after it is dried out.
  • Water the dandelions with boiling water.  It may take a few treatments before it is completely dead.  
  • Don't use chemicals on the whole lawn just to remove a few plants.  In fact it would be better to avoid the chemical use all together!
  • MOW HIGH!  The lawns that have the most weeds are almost always cut improperly. Higher grass crowds out weeds and prevents weed seeds from getting the light they need to germinate.  

How to you use your dandelions?