Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Easily Remove Fall Web Worms from Your Trees Without Chemicals

Fall web worms appear this time of year but it doesn't have to be a problem. You don't need chemical sprays to remove them, just one simple thing!

Check out the video to learn how to remove fall web worms without using any chemical pesticides!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Few Gardening Tips Before Fall Arrives

You can feel it in the air can't you? The coolness of an approaching autumn. The each passing day is getting noticeably shorter. We're beginning that transitional period from the hot summer growing season to the fall growing season and that can mean a lot of changes in the garden. The vegetable garden may still be going full speed ahead at the moment but it is time to prepare for the arrival of the fall gardening season.

Here are some gardening tips for you to use to prepare for fall gardening:

  • Continue harvesting everything you can from your vegetable garden through the fall. Put away canned vegetables or pack them in the freezer so you can savor them this winter when fresh vegetables are not available. You will think very fondly of your garden in January when you are cooking garden beans on the stove!
orange and red tomato
  • While you are harvesting be sure to save seeds from the most delicious and best growing vegetables you grew. The seed may not produce the same fruit, if it has been open pollinated, but the odds are it will be a pleasing addition to your garden. Tomatoes and pepper flowers are self fertile but insects can cross pollinate between varieties - and do so frequently!
  • Leave several of the best looking bean pods on the plant to dry. Once they are dry you can save them for next year!
  • Dry those herbs! Dried herbs are never going to be as great as fresh but you can still use your own garden's herbs for flavoring your meals throughout the winter. An oven put on its lowest temperature will help you dry them faster or you can purchase a Dehydrator (Amazon Link). Drying racks work well too. Just make sure that there is a good airflow around the herbs to help speed the drying process and prevent mold.
  • If your plants are getting blight or leaf spot try to remove the damaged leaves without contaminating other plants. Dispose of those branches and leaves somewhere other than your compost bin (a firepit is a great idea!) or if the plant is done producing remove it entirely from the garden. Plan on planting something else in a different vegetable family in that location next year. Those diseases can persist for several years in the soil so plan on a crop rotation strategy.
  • If your tomatoes are still going strong consider planting your fall crops underneath them. The summer sun can be a bit strong for plantings of fall vegetables which may enjoy the shade the tomatoes provide. When the tomatoes begin to fade out prune them back to the ground to allow the fall vegetables to receive full sun.
  • Add some compost around the base of each plant periodically to refresh your plants. A little compost is never a bad thing in the vegetable garden!
Fall gardening - vegetable seedlings
  • Start your fall vegetable seeds! You may need to begin your seeds indoors where the temperature is cooler then transplant outside. What fall vegetables are good to grow? Just about anything you can grow in spring! Try Brussels sprouts, beets, spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, and many others. If your climate is mild enough they will continue to grow (albeit slowly) through the winter months. If your climate is too cold you may want to cover with a small hoop house or use cloches. 
  • Keep on weeding! Those weeds will continue to grow and will do their best to reproduce. Remove them before they go to seed to minimize their impact next year. Ragweed is beginning to flower (here in TN) which will cause allergy problems so try to remove it everywhere you can. (Don't get it confused with Goldenrod)
Prepare for fall now and you will be able to reap the rewards well into the gardening "offseason"! How do you prepare for fall gardening?

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Building a Paving Stone Pathway

Several years ago I built a patio using paving stones. I intended to complete the patio by adding a sidewalk that would bring the paved surface area all the way around to the garage and driveway. This weekend I finally made major progress on this neglected project. Making a paving stone patio, sidewalk, or pathway is not an easy task. It's not that building a patio is complicated but rather that the stone can be heavy and the work is repetitious with a good deal of digging, bending, and lifting. Excavating a space for the project can be difficult too depending on the soil type but this project is definitely one a determined gardener and homeowner can accomplish! I purchased my materials at Lowe's in conjunction with Lowe's Creative Ideas.

Using paving stones to build a pathway, patio, or sidewalk.

The first step in building a paving stone project is excavating a level area. In this project I had to accommodate a rise in the grade that moved up to an existing sidewalk. I planned on building a two step sidewalk using retaining wall blocks as the step risers. I also used retaining wall blocks as the borders for the step areas as they are heavy enough to keep their contents in place.

Once the soil was excavated I mapped out where the patio sidewalk paving stones were going to be. I set the retaining wall blocks in place and planned how the stones were going to go. I allowed for a lawn step off location in the lower level that would be even with the soil grade. Once the outline was made I adjusted the grade more so that the soil would angle away from the house. We want water to flow toward the yard and garden not toward the home!

After leveling the soil I put landscape fabric down. This would keep the paving stone base gravel and sand from mixing with the soil underneath. It also keeps the weed seeds that may be still in the soil from germinating and penetrating through the patio. Then I covered with paving sand and paving gravel. The fine particles make setting and leveling the stones easier.

Using paving stones to build a pathway, patio, or sidewalk.

Finally (for this post) I used the patio paving stones to create the walkway. I used a combination of 6"x9" and 6"x6" stones. I set each stone making sure that they were level and even with the other stones. I set the paving stones visually but using a level string line and stakes can help insure a perfect installation. When put together a group of four of these paving stones would cover a 15"x15" area or 1.56 sq. feet. To do a 10' square patio you would need about 128 of each type of stone. Taking measurements in advance and planning out your project is important because now I need to make another trip back to the store to complete this walkway!

Using paving stones to build a pathway, patio, or sidewalk.

Using paving stones to build a pathway, patio, or sidewalk.

Check in again or follow the Growing The Home Garden Facebook page for updates! Part 2 will be coming soon!

Using paving stones to build a pathway, patio, or sidewalk.

Disclosure: Lowe's provided the funding for this project in conjunction with their Lowe's Creative Ideas Program. All work, writing, and opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Growing for a Farmers Market Part 2

When growing products for a farmers market you have to keep your eye on what sells. In my last post I mentioned a few of the products that sell well at our local farmers market. Today here are a few more good selling products that you may want to consider selling at your local farmers market!

Baked goods and other ready to eat items are very popular at farmers markets. Many people today are looking for gluten free options but often shoppers at farmers markets are more than happy to bring home fresh baked bread for dinner. Our market has a mixture of baked goods including breads, sweets, and granola. We also have a vendor who sells homemade ice pops made with real fruit. She has quite a few customers!

Teas, tinctures, and herbs are good items to sell. The important thing is to keep them unique and different from what is available in the grocery stores. Growing the herbs all natural and local often is enough of a hook for people but creating unique teas and tinctures is a great idea.

Homemade and natural cosmetics do well too. Soap vendors with goat's milk soaps with a variety of fragrances are popular. We even have a vendor who has a high demand for her all natural bug sprays (which really do work)!

Craft items are more difficult to sell than other items. Most people go to a farmers market looking to purchase food for the week. If your craft has a food or agriculture element it will be more successful. Just because craft items don't sell as well doesn't mean it is a bad idea to attend a farmers market. It can serve as a informational venue for your product where you can gather leads for potential future sales. You can get your business card out to individuals to use for when your product is needed. Create a mailing listing at the market where customers can sign up for a newsletter that will keep you connected with the customer outside of the market.

Candle Holders made from logs are a neat craft idea.

Tips for Selling at a Farmers Market!

Over the last couple years of helping to manage our farmers market I've also noticed a difference in HOW people sell their products. Not everyone is equally successful at selling the same types of items. Those who are successful make a connection with the consumer. The vendor discusses the product and even if the customer doesn't buy anything that connection becomes the groundwork for future sales. There have been many times when I discussed plants or gardening tips with someone who didn't buy from me that day but then came back another week and purchased something.

The most successful vendors at our farmers market do these things:
    spiced pecan samples
  • Create a positive connection with good genuine conversation. I think this is the BEST thing successful vendors can do. There is no substitute for building a strong relationship! Conversation is a trust building tool and that not only builds a relationship but also a reputation. 
  • Stand Up! - Vendors who stand up and greet customers bring in more business than those who sit and wait for customers to come to them. Successful vendors greet the customers and start the conversation! 
  • Offer Samples - If your product is something that can be sampled then offer it. Free samples are a great way to entice customers - it's bait for the mouse trap! ;)
  • Create a mailing list. Mailing lists let you reach out after the market and even throughout the year when the market may not be in session to continue your sales.
  • Use a Facebook page or other social media sites to update customers.
  • Have a website! People today look for information on products online first. If you have an online location that directs customers where to find you you not only build your business but bring in traffic to the farmers market which helps other vendors too.
The most important thing to the success of our local farmers market and its vendors is that our goal is to build a community. It's not just about the sales, it's about connecting. When I am not selling plants I bring the kids and we just hang out. We visit and talk with the vendors, with the customers, with the people of our town, and just enjoy the weather (when it isn't 100+ degrees)!

Do you attend a local farmers market?

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