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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Arbor, Daffodils, and the Front Garden

It really seems that spring has sprung already. The warm temperatures have brought everything to life, I only hope that the plants aren't doomed by the next freeze happens to come along. It's reminiscent of the spring of 2007. Back then we had an early warm-up followed by a hard freeze that damaged a significant number of Japanese maples and crape myrtles. I'll keep my fingers crossed but everything is growing in full spring growth mode and I know we have a few freezes ahead. The daffodils have come alive this week and the front porch garden is starting to thicken up with early spring yellow blooms. There are some gaps to fill in and maybe I can make more by dividing a few of the bulbs later in the year.

My arbor has seen some wind damage lately. The diamond shaped decorations on each side have been battered by heavy winds that pulled the chains apart from the structure. It's cosmetic and easily repaired but still another thing to add to the to do list.

In the front porch garden that I began remodeling last fall the glossy leaves of the camellia above are on the same plant as the frost burnt leaves on the tips of the branches below. I have two 'Winter Snowman' camellias in the front garden and one did fine while the other got a little singed. I'll give them both a little pruning this spring and they will recover nicely!

The front sidewalk garden is the home of my tulips which are pushing through the mulch. I planted pansies here in the fall but the tulips will overtake them and you won't even know the pansies are there.

This will probably be the last look at the winter jasmine this year. The picture was taken yesterday before the high winds of last evening and today that blew most of the petals away. You can see the new green foliage beginning to emerge from the stems. Spring is here again!

Has spring arrived where you are yet?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Blooming of My Lenten Rose (Hellebore orientalis)

For a couple years now I've watched and waited for our hellebore to bloom. Every year I jealously read the posts of other gardener bloggers who are happily displaying their hellebore blooms but alas, I had no flowers to share! But now the single Lenten rose I have has grown into an 18" little bush with glossy green leaves and has finally flowered.

Shade is hard to come by in our yard - at least in the cultivated areas - and so the space where other hellebores could grow has been occupied by other shade loving occupants, namely hostas and heucheras, which left little room for Lenten roses. But perhaps I should make some room?

I do have a location that might be perfect for more Lenten roses. There's a little garden in the very back of our yard near the garden shed that could be a new home for hellebores. The deer have feasted there before on my hostas but since hellebores are deer resistant plants they might be safe. (Hellebores are poisonous so do not ingest!)

My hellebore may reseed and if that happens I could move any offspring to the back garden but most likely I"ll have to propagate more hellebores through division. Although from what I've read about dividing hellebores it could be tricky and it may be easier to make more plants with seed.

When the leaves aren't frost bitten they really make a nice groundcover. My poor plant somehow managed to get itself singed by the cold. I'm sure it will bounce back with new growth once we have consistently warm temperatures. The only real downside to a hellebore is that fact that the flower face down! As you can see I had to hold up the flowers for the pictures.

Do you grow hellebores in your garden?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Starting the Tomatoes! (Seed Sowing Saturday)

This week finally found me getting into some real seed starting action. The first of my seed orders came in within three days of ordering (here is my seed order for 2011) and today I started my tomatoes! Tomatoes are always the main crop in our garden and without them our garden is incomplete. Fresh from the garden tomatoes are simply a gift from heaven! We can them, turn them into sauces, make pico de galla combined with our cilantro crops, eat them plain or with a little dab of sea salt, and most importantly... make sandwiches! A turkey and tomato sandwich with mayo is a summertime favorite of mine. I know it sounds so simple but it is good! Of course the traditional BLT is pretty awesome too.

Starting tomatoes is pretty easy. I used square peat pot starting cells filled with seed starting mixture to get things off right. Before planting the seeds I moistened all the soil then added the seeds and pressed them into the soil to make good contact. After that I simply covered the seeds with soil. Now I have to wait. Once they begin to germinate I'll lift the plastic lid to allow better air circulation which will help prevent fungal diseases like damping off.

I started 'Brandywine', 'Woodle Orange' (you should Google this one with 'Orange Woodle'- Google will ask you if you meant "Orange Poodle!" I haven't seen many orange poodles, have you?), and 'Black Krim'. All heirlooms and all delicious! 

The shallots are doing OK but seem a bit spindly and may need to be moved closer to the light. So far I haven't seen any germination in my other starts but it may be too early yet.

Have you started your tomatoes yet?

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Oh, and a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing! Happy Seed Sowing!

This Week's Seed Sowers!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The First Daffodils of 2011

The daffodils are officially in bloom here in my Tennessee Garden! Every year I like to mark the beginning of the daffodil blooms as it is one of the many signs of spring. (Coming very soon: Forsythia) It's hard not to get excited about spring's arrival after such a cold winter isn't it? The first daffodil of 2009 was photographed and posted on February 12th! Very early while the first daffodil of 2010 didn't shine until March 17th. It looks like we're right in the middle this year with February 25th!

This year the daffodils in the birdbath garden are the first ones to appear in full bloom.  You'll notice that the birdbath is actually that copper piece of metal resting beside the daffodils. Looks like it's time to solder. 

These daffodils are planted among some daylilies. You can see the fans emerging in nearly every garden.

Also appearing in the birdbath garden are the hyacinths. These were from Valentine's Day of 2008 and were transplanted in the fall to the birdbath garden. Originally they were three but the bulbs multiplied of the the years into more than 12.  Some are planted here and others are planted on the other side of the garden.

The stone edges of the birdbath garden bed needs cleaned up before the chickweed invades! At least it's an easy weed to pull, you can even eat it, or so I've been told!

Are your daffodils up yet?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Henbit is Here!

Coming soon to a lawn or garden near you ... Henbit (Lamium amplexicauli)! The cover-all-lawns-with-purple-spring-color ground cover. If you're tired of the green look - consider purple. It's easy care with absolutely no maintenance and pollinator friendly! You don't even have to plant it as henbit will find its own way to your lawn.

It's a weed but sure is another purty one!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seeds for My Vegetable Garden

When selecting seeds for the vegetable garden it always pays to be early - in this case I was not. Several of the selections I had planned on making were in fact sold out when I finally got around to ordering from Baker Creek. The early bird gets the worm is the old saying but maybe it should be the early gardener gets the seed! In any case procrastination when it comes to gardening and purchase inevitably will lead to disappointment in some way. With that being said I was still able to make some great choices for this gardening season. I'll list them below!

2011 Vegetable Garden Seed Selections!

Tigger Melon - An orange and yellow striped melon that is said to be very sweet and has small serving sized fruit up to 1 lb. This was my second choice but still a good one!
Brandywine Tomato - One of the most delicious tomatoes EVER!  We'' that's just my opinion but you know I'm right! ;)
Cherokee Purple Tomato - One of the most delicious tomatoes EVER!  I think I may have said that about another selection... it's true for this one too though!
Sweet Dumpling Winter Squash - My wife picked this one out. I'm eager to see how winter squash will work out in our garden.
Stevia - I like my tea sweet and this potential sugar substitute might make a nice addition to the herb garden.
Red Zebra Tomato - If you like striped tomatoes this one has them! We orginally selected the Green Zebra but they were sold out.
Orange Icicle Tomato - It's orange, it's shaped like an icicle, it's ... Orange Icicle! 
Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean - This pole bean is said to have been carried by the Cherokee Indians along the Trail of Tears from Tennessee. I like a vegetable with an interesting story, don't you?
Saint-Esprit à Oeil Rouge Bush Bean - Such a fancy name for a bean!
Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpea  - My wife lose Purple Hull peas, I wonder how she will like shelling them?
Six-Week Purple Hull Cowpea 
Rotonda Bianca Sfumata Eggplant - This round eggplant will hopefully turn into a nice eggplant Parmigiana at some point! 
Golden California Wonder - I wanted an Orange Sweet Pepper but I missed the jackpot again - I've learned my lesson this year!

I have other seeds coming in that I'll tell you about later, what selections are you trying in the garden this year?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yellow Crocus - The First

The first yellow crocus of the year has emerged from the front garden!

Many more blooms to come!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Over the Weekend

The weather this past weekend was perfect for outdoor gardening activities! Unfortunately we are still a good six weeks away from safe outdoor planting and many of the tasks on my long term spring agenda need to wait until the frosts are done, but there is always something that can be done! Garden preparation!

By far the biggest job my garden requires in mulching. It's essential. Mulch keeps the weeds at bay, keeps the water from evaporating from the soil too quickly, breaks down and feeds the soil, and looks pretty spiffy too! On Saturday I picked up two yards of mulch and began the cleanup and mulch process. Each ornamental garden bed was weeded, edged (I did that prior to this weekend), and mulched with a fresh layer of hardwood mulch. You can use stone mulch if you like but I always prefer the organic mulches that feed the soil. It's more work since you need to add more each year but as the mulch breaks down the soil quality improves. When you have heavy clay soil that extra organic matter is a major asset.

Two yards of mulch and 6 garden beds later - not to mention one sore back - my front gardens were prepared for growing. The front porch garden is ready. The daffodils are springing up fast. I still need one more 'Otto Luyken' Cherry laurel to complete the evergreen backdrop. The crape myrtle on the left will be gorgeous this year - it has no choice... ;) One problem with this bed is the natural stone border. I love the natural look but the stones tend to sink quickly into the grass once the growing season starts and they become hard to see, even after trimming. We may have a solution: I'll buy some cheap concrete cap stones about 4 inches thick as a bottom layer to raise up the natural stones. No one will see the concrete and the natural stones will remain above grade to give us that natural stone border look.

The front sidewalk is cleaned up now. The scraggly sprigs of stuff on the right are the leftover stalks of the salvia. To the left is my winter jasmine just barely making the shot. I still need to trim the yews - I just ran out of time. 

One newer bed that received a mulching is the one under this Bradford pear tree. The pear tree is slated for removal soon but we thought we would give it one more bloom before cutting it down. This bed already had irises, agastache, penstemon, and a viburnum. 

My goal is to get all this mulching stuff done way before warm weather comes. That way I can simply enjoy the garden and maintain it rather than work myself to exhaustion - but most likely I'll end up getting myself into some other project!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Flowers in February! Winter Jasmine

You just have to love a flower that brings the sunshine down into the bland February garden. Winter Jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum)  is a perfect fit for those gardeners who are fed up with winter and can't wait for spring. It isn't very showy the rest of the year with its normal looking deciduous green foliage but just before spring this Jasmine puts on a show!

Bright yellow flowers cover the leafless vine/bush all along the length of the branch. I planted my jasmine along one side of our front porch but it really deserves a home in more locations. Can't you just see the yellow flowers cascading over a trellis before your neighbors even have forsythias blooming?

I traded for this at a plant swap a couple years ago and I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the results! Last year it began blooming in March but this year it's flowers are three weeks earlier. Have you planted Winter Jasmine in your garden yet?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sowing in the Garden (Seed Sowing Saturday)

This week I actually found myself outdoors sowing seeds directly into the soil of my garden. Thanks to wonderful Tennessee weather, where you can count on a few days of warm even in February, we're able to plant a few cool season crops this month.

So far in the vegetable garden I've planted:
  • Lettuce - two varieties Little Gem, and Tom Thumb
  • Spinach - a hybrid
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Garlic (done in the fall)
  • Cilantro (self-sows regularly in the fall)

I planted the lettuce and spinach into my circular raised bed that just recently was put together. I arranged three sticks to divide the area into six sections. Four of the sections are planted and soon I'll fill the last two with my red lettuce. If we get some really cold weather these plants may need some covering.

I'm planting the sugar snap peas everywhere I can this year. They are delicious right out of the garden and we never seem to have enough. They rarely even make it into the house! Once they have stopped producing we'll let the foliage die back and nourish the soil with the nitrogen it fixed while growing. Legumes are a great resource! About that time I'll be able to plant my tomatoes in the garden in and around the fast fading peas.

To plant them I just dig a trench with a trowel about 1.5 - 2 inches deep, place my seeds, cover, and water! Now if only the deer will stay away...

How are your seeds coming?

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Oh, and a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing!

Visit these Seed Starters!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Birdbath Garden in February - What a Mess!

Its that time of year, just before blossoms begin to bloom when the garden looks it's worst. Mulch hasn't been spread - or at least not enough, old dead growth from perennials hasn't been cleared away, and in general things look like a mess. But that's OK! You have to start somewhere right? Every garden has it's low point and I think we're now starting to rise again.

These daffodils seem to think so:

The daffodils are very close to the bird bath which unfortunately is in great need of repair. A soldering iron and a new coat of stain (for the wood) would work wonders. 

The garden as a whole will fill in nicely - eventually. I seem to expand it a little bit each year and this past fall is no different than falls in the past. I expanded the stone boarder and planted two small arborvitae in the new areas to flank a short pathway to the bench seat. The pathway needs landscape fabric and gravel of some kind before the grass gets growing. The butterfly bush needs cut back to about 18 inches tall and the redtwig dogwoods should probably be trimmed to encourage fresh growth this year. All of my red twig dogwoods came from cuttings. That 'Powis Castle' artemisia looks rather ragged but when the frosts are no longer in sight I'll trim it back and let it grow. I trimmed an artemisia back early one year and it died so I don't plan on repeating that mistake.

The irises are pushing up new blades but you can still see the old ones hanging around. Many people trim them into fan shapes after they have bloomed but I just leave them alone. Most of the time they get covered up by other foliage and you hardly even know the irises are there.

Last year was the first year my Burkwood viburnum bloomed and I loved its scent! I can already see this year's blooms beginning to appear.

Is your garden a mess like mine?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A February Garden Shed Update!

It's been a very, very long time since I mentioned anything new with the garden shed. Today I went out and took a look around at my overwintered plants, watered a few things, and saw some good signs that most of my plants made it through the winter - at least so far!

A Thank You!

I wanted to say thank you to Barbara Wise for an excellent container gardening presentation this past weekend at the Spring Hill Garden Club Meeting! The slides and photos of the work you do were fantastic and the garden club appreciated seeing the ideas created by a expert in the field of container gardening. It was definitely a perfect start of the year meeting!

If you couldn't attend the meeting this past Saturday because you live in some far away land please stop by her blog to see the kind of container work Barbara does - you won't be disappointed!

Barbara answering questions from a club member

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Give Things that Live!

When gift giving holidays are upon us (and happen during the growing season) I like to find gifts that can be planted in the ground and will give back the pleasure of the first gift many times over. I did that again this year with Valentine's Day.

My usual gift to my wife is the sweetly scented hyacinth.  The flowers won't bloom outdoors for another month or so but inside we can enjoy their fragrance then plant them in the ground after their foliage fades to enjoy again next year.

I took two more pictures, one with the flash and the other without. It's amazing how different resulting colors can be.

The other plant is nothing other than a good ole' dogwood tree! Cornus florida is common around here but it's value as an ornamental tree and as a wildlife nourishing tree sure makes it worth planting. Especially so when you consider that I'm going to get to replace a smelly old invasive Bradford pear tree!!! Can you tell that I don't like them? ;)

Here's the actual dogwood tree and not just a picture from the plant tag. When choosing the right the dogwood I was looking for a tree with nice branching for plenty of flowers and foliage. Many of the short lower branches will need pruned later as the tree grows.

Together we'll enjoy flowers now and later! 
Sure beats a dozen long stemmed roses doesn't it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mulching a New Garden

This weekend's weather was a sign that there really is a light at the end of this dark tunnel we call winter - and it's not another trains headlight! Spring is coming and the warm weather that we're having this week has me itching to get in the garden - which is exactly what I did over the weekend - without the itching part! I managed to accomplish many of the clean-up chores that I've been putting off for weeks due to the cold weather and I even mulched up a new garden area.

The new garden is in our front yard and was mostly planted back in the fall. I moved transplants of coneflowers and Russian sage and also put in a few discount plant dwarf crape myrtles. I hope they made it through our winter - right now they look quite rough! We'll see how they do when the weather gets warm enough for them to grow. I also found a Montauk daisy on discount sale and put it into this garden. (I took cuttings from it in the fall and kept indoors over the winter which I haven't shared here on the blog yet - it's very easy and I had a 100% success rate!) Daffodils and irises were planted to create a river of spring time flowers from the top of the garden to the front. The daffodils will need to fill in more before they look as impressive as I hope! The irises were passalong plants that needed divided and moved, isn't that a great excuse to start a new garden? The garden itself is in a triangle shape and is cornered by three trees - 2 redbuds and one Yoshino cherry - all three are favorites of mine. The redbuds were transplants from my in-law's woods and haven't bloomed yet but this may be the year. They can be tricky to move because of their root systems.

The base of the garden would look great with a small stone retaining wall which may come later if I can get around to building one.  I always seem to come up with more projects than I have time to tackle.  Ask my wife and I'm sure she'll agree. ;)
Happy Valentine's Day Jenny!

It doesn't look like much yet since none of the plants are growing yet. I went ahead and mulched most of the area this weekend but came up a few mulch bags short. I used a combination of grass removal and newspaper layering to take care of the grass that was underneath but there are a few patches that still need some attention. I'm planning on filling the gaps with zinnias, annual rudbeckia, and verbena that should blend in perfectly with the coneflowers and Montauk daisies.

I love spring, don't you? That's good because it's almost here!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sowing in Recycled Containers (Seed Sowing Saturday)

I never let a good container go to waste (much to my wife's dismay - admittedly, I do save way too many)! These foam containers are perfect for sowing seeds just like the store bought flats. Just poke a few holes for drainage in the bottom add soil, seeds, and water and you have an instant garden. Well, maybe not instant, it does have to grow a bit.

Into these three makeshift flats I planted dianthus, Asiatic lilies, and clematis seeds that I collected back in the fall. In case you're wondering these containers previously held mushrooms - I know that was a hard one to figure out. ;)


Those newly planted seeds are now sitting under a grow light along with the shallot seedlings I planted a couple weeks ago. So far they look pretty good. They are germinating at different times but overall the germination rate has been great.

Our last frost date here in Middle Tennessee is in mid April which means we have a little over 8 weeks until it's safe to plant tender plants outdoors. Pretty soon it will be time to start one of my favorite vegetables --- Tomatoes! But until then the cool season crops are just about ready to start. I can't wait to taste some sugar snap peas from the garden!  How about you?

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Oh, and a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing!

This Saturday's Seed Sowers!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nashville Lawn and Garden Show

The Nashville Lawn and Garden Show is coming up soon, here's the info!

Press Release:

Tennessee’s Largest, Most Popular Gardening Event !

Thursday, March 3 – Sunday, March 6 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds

Live Gardens + Thousands of Blooming Plants + Free Lectures

Floral Design Gallery + 250 Exhibit Booths

Tickets are available now for purchase online at www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com.
Enjoy the convenience of online purchase; tickets cost the same online as when purchased at the ticket window.

Adults: $10.00
Seniors (age 65 & up): $9.00
Children (12 & under): $1.00
4-Day Show Pass: $15.00

Want to purchase your tickets at the Show?

Here are some special discount offers:

$2.00 off coupon available at participating Middle TN Regions Bank locations

$1.00 off coupon can be printed from website and redeemed at ticket booth

Coupons are not applicable to internet purchases. Coupon offers cannot be combined.

Coupons cannot be used for children’s tickets. One coupon per person, per day. Remember:  Parking is free at the Fairgrounds!

Produced by the Horticultural Association of Tennessee

For more information call 615-876-7680 or visit www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Impulse Buy Time

Last week I was in one of the home improvement stores and started wandering the gardening shelves...always a dangerous thing! I looked around at all the packaged plants which in most cases are way too early to plant out and got sucked in by the displays. I ended up coming home with one Arapaha thornless blackberry plant. I love blackberry jam and of course fruit right off the vine is pretty good too.  Since I have kids I figured the thornless would be the best choice. I only bought the one since blackberries are so easy to propagate and I figured I could easily have several by the end of the season.

The problem with the plant racks this time of year is that they are all kept indoors and the plants begin sprouting in the nice warm indoor store temperatures. It's not a big deal unless the temperatures outside are freezing! Once the dormancy is broken you risk damaging the plant in a freeze outdoors so you have to keep it protected. When I picked my blackberry plant from the mass of blackberries I made sure that it wasn't growing and still had tight buds so that I could place it in the garage until the weather warms. I probably could plant it out right now in the garden but I haven't found just the right place yet. That's another problem with impulse buys - you don't always have a location planned for that new plant - but you can always find one!

As for propagation blackberries can be easily propagated through stem tips, division of the suckers, tip layering, serpentine layering, and trench layering.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Merry Christmas...In February?

This winter has just been weird. The weather, despite the weather prognosticators claiming a milder winter back in fall, has been colder than usual. Today's snowfall just makes it seems like a second white Christmas here in Tennessee. Now before those of you north of here disparage what I'm saying keep in mind that Tennessee normally only receives 1-2 decent snowfalls and by decent I'm talking more than 1-2 inches.  Rarely do we receive repeated and significant snow events, otherwise our Department of Transportation would not be running out of road salt. In the nearly 21 years I've lived here I remember two very large snowfalls: one in March of 1993 (Johnson City, TN) and the other in the winter of 1995-1996 (Cookeville, TN) and those were big ones (2 feet in '93). It's been crazy, the snow is nice, but I think I speak for most (adults - kids seems to be enjoying getting out of school so much) that we're ready to move on! The schools usually let out 2-4 days of school each year and this year my daughter's school system will have been out for 9 after tomorrow. Next week good weather will arrive and maybe the groundhog prognosticator will turn out to have a better grasp on the climate than those well educated weather folks who were thinking milder thoughts.* Although historically our biggest snowfalls happen in March...we could be in for it!

One thing is for sure...the white snow allows for some very nice pictures.

My blue Garden Shed in the snow with cardinal watching over the feeders.

A Towhee flitting about a potted ornamental peach tree.

There's food around here somewhere - he's sure of it!
"Is this really more snow?" says the white-throated sparrow.

"Yep, sure is. When is spring supposed to be here again?"
The pictures were taken about 15 minutes after the snow started here. It piled up fast but seems to be over for now with about 2 inches. I remember snowfalls in Pennsylvania that were much greater when I was a kid but it's not about how much snow per se, it's about how much snow we're supposed to have. And I think we've surpassed our quota...just a little...

* I appreciate the hard work that goes into such an unpredictable field of expertise. The miscalculation of the "mild" winter just shows how hard it really is to predict the weather!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Witch Hazel Blooming

The other day I mentioned that the Winter Jasmine would be the first thing to bloom...

I was wrong! It's the Witch hazel!

It's the first time it has bloomed in our garden. So what's blooming in your February Garden?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Food Production Systems DVD Video (Review)

Recently I received an email asking me to review a video all about backyard food production systems. I was curious so I said sure. I grow a large vegetable garden in the backyard every year and if there were ideas inside this DVD that I could use and incorporate into my garden it might be worthwhile for others who read this blog to learn more about as well.

The video is simply titled Food Production Systems for a Backyard or Small Farm and is about 110 minutes long. Through the video Marjory explains why her family set out to become as self-sustainable as possible and how they've sought to accomplish it.  She tells in the video right from the start that what they have tried to do A) isn't easy and B) they've made a lot of mistakes along the way. Because they have experienced it you can learn from the mistakes they have made.

So what has her family done exactly? They've installed a significant rain collection system for their water uses, learned about food crops and management, composting, protecting livestock from predators, raised chickens and rabbits as well as a whole array of other subject areas. They have put together some ingenious methods of sustainability like with their rabbit composting system. They raise rabbits as a food supply but also receive the added benefit of their composted manure. Rabbit cages are suspended over hay which eventually becomes compost for the garden. The method she uses for fertilizing her fruit trees is pretty clever too. She puts out water troughs for geese to come bath in underneath the trees. Every now and then she dumps out the messy water underneath the trees which of course is full of geese manure.

The video has many ideas that could be incorporated into a backyard garden even if complete sustainability isn't your goal. It also comes with a resource disc with PDF files that cover subjects like aquaponics, seed saving, home composting and several others. I do have to caution you though that this video isn't for everyone. Their goal is to become self-sustainable which means that the animals they raise aren't necessarily pets and they explain and demonstrate the whole process which may be a little tough for younger folks and those who might be a little squeamish.

Overall I found the video very interesting. We're frugal and I like the thought of becoming more sustainable through our backyard food production and now I know what to do with those annoying rabbits that continually eat my plants...

...make compost!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Jasmine About to Bloom

It won't be long now until the first bloom of the new gardening season will be on its way. In just a few more days the Winter Jasmine will be coloring our front porch with its bright yellow blooms. I traded for the jasmine at plant swap a couple years ago and have found it to be a very welcome winter bloomer. This is definitely one plant I need to propagate a few more of to plant in the garden. Before the daffodils, crocuses, and even forsythias the winter jasmine brightens up the garden and gives us a preview of spring!

Soon...Soon...It will be spring...I keep telling myself!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winter Sowing, Shallot Seedlings, and Seed Sowing Saturday!

Last week was the first Seed Sowing Saturday on The Home Garden! Starting Seed Sowing Saturday has  definitely motivated my planning, thinking, and preparations for the seed starting this year. I failed this week in one element of my seed plans - the planning! I had intended to put together a list of the seeds I was going to purchase and who I was buying them through but never quite got around to it. But I did manage to at least get something started...

I've been wanting to start winter sowing for a few plants that like the cold weather and finally got around to starting the first type of seed. Winter sowing is very cool because it doesn't require much time, space, or maintenance to get some quality plants growing. All you need is a container or two, some soil, seeds, and a back porch to grow it all. I decided to start with one of my favorite plants: eachinacea! This particular coneflower is Echinacea paradoxa, a yellow coneflower. It's one of the coneflowers that when hybridized with purple coneflowers has helped to develop all those nifty new coneflower colors we see.  I have to admit, the propagator in me dreams of coming up with my own special variety of coneflower but that day is very far down the road!

Here's how they start, tiny little seeds in my hand. Not as tiny as some but it's amazing how small plants begin and how large they can grow

For my container I took a plastic juice bottle and made a cut about 6 inches from the bottom of the container and continued almost all the way around. I left one part of the plastic connected to act as a hinge.

I poked holes in the bottom (before I added dirt), planted the seeds lightly on top of the soil and watered (which is why the metal trays there - no reason to have water all over the kitchen table!) Echinacea is a plant that likes a little light to germinate so never bury the seeds under the soil. A light soil dressing is all that is required - if even that.  (I like to think about how the natural growing conditions of the seeds then try to simulate the same. Coneflower seeds (when not eaten by the birds) fall on top of the soil in the fall and winter and don't have soil gathering on top.) I taped up the sides of the container with an item that can do nearly anything - duct tape! Two things I learned from MacGyver - always carry a Swiss Army knife (and I do) and you can never have enough duct tape! Now if I only had a Jeep...

Back from TV land...
then I put the plastic container outside and the waiting begins. Mother nature will do most of the work from here on out. If we get a dry spell I may need to water the bottle but otherwise the seeds should be mostly alright on their own.  I have some redbud and heuchera seeds I want to sow next. I've been keeping them in the refrigerator so they shouldn't need much stratification time.

And a quick update from last week's shallot sowing:

So(w) far ;) we have about 8 shallots peaking up from the soil. I'm hopeful that we'll get at least 20 of the seeds to germinate and the signs look good. It's so(w) nice to see something growing!

Join in on Seed Sowing Saturday! Just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences of the week. be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post!
I'll be out for a while on Saturday but I hope to visit everyone's posts this weekend!

Check out this week's Seed Sowers!

Colleen - In the Garden Online
 Sarah - Green Love Grass
Tervy - Garden G'Imp