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Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Frugal Fall Garden Tips for Cheap Gardeners!

It's fall and the gardening season is winding down, but it's not too late to save a few dollars for next year.  There are lots of techniques gardeners can do this time of year to save money for next season.  Today I'm going to give you five ideas that will help you save money on next year's gardening budget! So if you're frugal ...read on!  If not... read on anyway!

5 Frugal Fall Garden Tips!

  1. Save tender perennials like coleus by taking a few cuttings and bringing them indoors for the winter.  Coleus makes a great house plant and is very easy to get rooted.  Sticking a few trimmings in a pot of moist soil will work fine.  You could also go the jar of water method and simply wait until roots form before potting your cuttings up.  In the spring time you can pot the whole plant back in the garden.  If you take additional cuttings over the winter your increases could fill up your garden!
  2. Save the seeds as they mature.  Plants are nearing the end of their production cycle and are putting on seeds to sustain the species next year. Collect your seeds and overwinter them in your refrigerator or a cool, dry, and dark place.  I like the refrigerator because those plants that enjoy stratification get some additional cold which will help germination.  If you are gathering seeds from hybrids don't expect them to come true.  I grew 'Oranges and Lemons' gaillardia for a while and its offspring, while beautiful, were red and yellow - not orange.  Be sure to leaves some seeds for the birds.  Coneflowers are a finch favorite.  After I take what I want to collect I leave the seed stalks alone for the winter so the finches can have something to nibble on throughout the winter.
  3. Compost!  Keep that composter active during the fall by mixing green waste with brown waste.  What's a great source for brown waste?  Leaves!  We have leaves in abundance this time of year to get busy collecting and add some to your compost bin.  If your neighbors bag and leave their leaves by the curb get yourself dressed up like a ninja and sneak out in the middle of the night and grab them - then put them in your bin!  (OK you could just ask.)
  4. Plant those potted mums.  You bought mums this year didn't you?  Lots of people do, but I've also seen lots of people trash them once the blooms fade.  Plant the mums in your yard or garden and you'll get to enjoy them next year.  If you don't have a great place for them and prefer them in pots build a temporary holding garden bed and you can transplant them next year.  I bought mums this year some were about $3 and others were $5 so with four mums saved over the winter I could save $12 to $20 on next year's fall mum budget!
  5. Visit those discount clearance racks!  I've filled my garden with many fugal finds from the clearance sections.  Don't buy annuals - that would be silly.  Buy perennials that have ended their flowering periods.  Buy shrubs or trees that have gone dormant.  Don't buy dead stuff!  Check an upper limb or two of a tree by scratching a teeny tiny piece of the bark off.  If you see green then that branch is still alive and should do fine in your garden.  A word of caution here - don't buy stuff that looks diseased - or you'll bring that home to spread around your garden.
  6. Yes I can count but I had to throw in one more frugal gardening tip: dig tender bulbs and store in a warm location.  Plants like caladiums or elephant ears may not be reliably hardy where you are but you can dig the bulbs (really tubers) and store them in a temperature above 50 degrees.  Let them dry for a little bit before bringing them indoors.  Or you can bring them indoors in a pot to grow over the winter.
  7. OK so here's another tip I couldn't resist adding: divide plants like hostas, daylilies, and irises now to increase your stock for next year!  When dividing irises cut the leaves back to prevent the wind from knocking them down while they reestablish their roots.  

What frugal fall gardening tips would you add to the list?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paving Stones for Pathway Entrances

One of my recent projects was to complete two entrances to our front sidewalk from the lawn.  The openings were already there but didn't have any definition - or at least any good definition that a person walking along would see a clear path to the sidewalk.  I had some paving stones in the backyard set aside for another project (an extension to our patio) that I haven't had time to get to yet so I thought they could be used for these short sidewalk entrances.  I spent a little time with the assistance of my 2 year old son and 4 year old daughter clearing our the weeds and clumps of grass that were in the way.  They had a good time moving the weeds to their wheelbarrow and dumping them!

Then I laid out the stones.  Some were 6"x9" and others were 6"x6" which allowed me to create rectangular shapes with sets of 4 paving stones.  Ideally I would have also laid out some sort of landscaping fabric to keep weeds down then put sand over top to level it but I didn't have either of those handy.  I ended up just laying it down on bare level soil.  Any stones that were not level were lifted and fixed up underneath to level them either by adding soil or removing soil.  Simple!

Powis Castle artemisia and Sweet Potato Vine next to Paving Stones

Then I merged the stones with a larger stepping stone that I had used there before.  I put the stepping stone in line with the stone borders in the front garden area and completely merged the sidewalk garden and the front porch garden borders with a slight curve.

Clara Curtis Mums are to the right of the path

It took about and hour and a half to complete this project from start to finish.  Of course I had a couple good helpers!

Now the sidewalk entrances are ready for walking!

My 7 Year Old Daughter and 2 Year Old Son

Friday, September 21, 2012

5 Signs of Autumn's Arrival

The autumn equinox is this weekend which means fall will be officially here but along the way nature has been telling us that fall is here already.  Let's take a peek at some of the signs of fall around my garden.

5 Signs of Autumn's Arrival

  • The annual discussion of what causes allergies begins when the golden rod blooms.  Goldenrod is completely innocent when it comes to your nasal issues.  The real culprit is ragweed.  Ragweed pollinates sends its pollen to other plants (and your nose) through the wind but goldenrod relies on its attractive golden plumes to  bring in beneficial pollinators! Don't blame the goldenrod, its just a sign of fall!

Goldenrod (Solidago)


  • Other weeds begin to sprout this time of year too.  Cool season weeds like chickweed get their start when the weather gets more suitable to their liking.  Chickweed is also one of those plants that can be eaten and is in fact very nutritious.  The next time you're foraging for food in your backyard consider a salad of chickweed with some dandelion greens.  You might just eat your way out of a weedy yard!  (Don't eat any plants from yards that have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides!)

  • 'Autumn Joy' sedum and mums are two more signs of fall's arrival.  I try to cut my sedum back during the summer to create more blooms and sturdier stems.  Otherwise 'Autumn Joy' likes to flop open in the middle under the weight of the heavy blooms.  I should cut my mums back a couple times during the year but usually don't.  As you can see these mums are happy despite my pruning neglect!

  • One of my favorite shrubs, beautyberry, is showing off this time of year.  The purple berries form in clusters all along the stem.  Pollinators love the small white flowers in late spring and early summer.  The birds love it in winter when they can't find other things to eat.


  • The sassafras trees are beginning their transformation.  In our yard the sassafras trees are the first trees to begin turning each year.  The mitten shaped leaves change from green to a beautiful red.  

While this last photo isn't a sign of fall I wanted to share it with you anyway.  It's a yellow rose that has bloomed prolifically this summer and continues to fill the backyard with its fragrance.  It was devoured by Japanese beetles in June and bounced back.  Japanese beetles are a nuisance but are not a death sentence!

How is fall shaping up in your garden?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A New Daylily and Iris Bed

Last week I put together a daylily and iris bed to cultivate and divide more plants for my little plant nursery.  Daylilies and irises are great plants for any garden since they offer so much for so little.  They grow strong without too much attention, enjoy the sun, and are tolerant various soils - which is good since this area has quite a lot of clay!

My daylily and iris bed is a small one but will be expanded onto later.  It's about 12 feet long and 4 feet wide.  I tilled it first - which was a challenge since it was on a slope, then raked it smooth and tried to remove any grass clumps left behind.  Ideally I would have located it on level ground but I wanted to keep the level areas of the yard open for three crazy children that need room to run.  Who knows when we'll need to turn the backyard into a baseball diamond, volleyball court, or kickball stadium?  Kids need room to run! The bed itself is leveled and sloped inward toward the hill to allow water to stay present in the bed a little longer.  Sloped areas have a tendency to dry out faster than you would like.

A month ago I picked up several highly discounted daylilies.  At $1 per pot it was hard to pass up.  I divided (more on dividing daylilies) the three pots of 'Fragrant Returns' into about 15 plants and one pot of 'Entrapment' into 4 and filled up a row.  I added a few more divisions from my garden including 'Primal Scream'
'Primal Scream'
(which is awesome) 'Crimson Pirate' and an iris called 'Solar Flare'.  There's still room in the rows but it's really amazing how fast it all fills in!

I used some old tomato stakes that i broke in half as plant markers for some of the daylilies.  I didn't have enough stakes to label them all so the re-purposed mini-blind tags were used for some.

I have quite a few unnamed irises that need divided so it won't take long before I need to add more area to this bed.  I may have to terrace the slope in some fashion to make it more usable for my growing needs!

'Crimson Pirate'
I'm continuing with my plans for hybridizing daylilies and irises.  I did some experimenting this year and successfully managed one cross between 'Crimson Pirate' and another daylily.  Most of my other attempted were foiled by the dry June weather we experienced.  I didn't label the cross and so I don't know the other daylily.  Currently I have two seedlings growing from that cross.  There may not be any value to that cross what so ever aside from the hybridizing learning experience. But you know, knowledge is valuable!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Color Project 2012 News

I mention yesterday that I would share a couple more things with you about the Fall Color Project 2012 so today here are they are! The first news to share today is that there is a prize available for the participants.  All you have to do to win the prize is to join in the Fall Color Project between now and December 1st, 2012 and you will entered to win a really awesome solar water fountain from WaterFountainPlace.com!

There will be a random drawing on December 2nd and all participants of the Fall Color Project will be entered to win.  Unfortunately only those who live in the U.S. or Canada are eligible for the water fountain due to shipping.  If you live outside of those areas please go ahead and share your fall colors with us!

The second bit of news is the new logo for the 2012 Fall Color Project.  I would greatly appreciate (although it is not required) if you would link to the fall color project on your blog with this logo.  I've put three different sized logos below for you to choose which one fits best on your blog.  Make sure the link goes to the Fall Color Project Information page so that as many people as possible can join in!

How to link the image on your blog:

  • First right click on the picture below and copy the url. 
  • Then use this html on your blog: <a href="http://www.growingthehomegarden.com/2012/09/the-fall-color-project-2012.html"><img src="PICTURE URL"></a>.  
  • Last insert the copied picture url where the words PICTURE URL are and the link is complete!
  • If you need to resize the image for your blog add style="width: 340px"; into the <img src="PICTURE URL"> section somewhere after the img part.  i.e. <img src="PICTURE URL" style="width:340px;"> - The number of pixels can be changed to whatever fits your blog.

1600 Pixel Width:

 800 Pixel Width:

400 Pixel Width:

Thank you for putting up the banner on your blog!  And also a big thank you to WaterFountainPlace.com for offering the solar water fountain as a prize!

If you would like to donate a prize for the random drawing please send me an email at thehomegarden@gmail.com!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mr. Tomato, Sphinx Moth, and a Garden Fresh Pizza

Please forgive the randomness of my title for today's post.  It's hard to sum up a weekend in just a few words!  Weekends are always busy times in the garden when the weather is as beautiful as it has been.  Sunday's humidity was a bit high in anticipation of the rain that's falling on the rooftop at this moment, but otherwise the weather was sunny with occasional clouds with temperatures in the 80's - great gardening weather!

In the garden on Saturday we harvested a good batch of tomatoes.  They were mostly Amish paste tomatoes which were destined to become our dinner in the form of pizza!  I skipped a step on my pizza making and completely left off the sauce in favor of sliced tomatoes.  After the dough was rolled out I put a little olive oil on the dough then layered it with tomatoes to completely cover the pizza. It tastes pretty good and is a good option if you don't have time to go through all the pizza sauce making process.  I added some basil on top along with several other toppings.

While I cooked pizza our friend Mr. Tomato watched. He was a good friend and we appreciated his presence in the next two pizzas!

We also discovered a sphinx moth resting above our front door.  Sphinx moths are one of the nighttime pollinators for moonflowers which we have growing on our front porch.  His camouflage would have perfectly hidden him from my view had he been on a tree.  However it isn't so effective on vinyl siding!

Among other garden business from the weekend I prepared and planted a new propagation bed for daylilies and irises.  It's about 12 feet long and four feet wide.  I show it to you later in the week.  There are almost 40 daylily and iris divisions planted there at the moment.  While I still have room for more plants I will need to add more rows very soon.

My next Lowe's Creative Ideas project is coming up.  This month the theme is Mum's!  I need to find and interesting way to display some mums.

Looking ahead at the fall season I still have a lot to do including cleaning up the summer vegetable garden, planting my fall vegetable garden, putting together some new raised beds, and even putting up a small greenhouse.  If only time could freeze so I could get it all done!

Don't forget that the 2012 Fall Color project is underway!  I'll be posting tomorrow with a logo you can share on your blog to help get the word out and I'll be telling you about a cool prize worth almost $100 that we'll be giving away to a Fall Color Project participant!  Get ready to share your fall colors!

Friday, September 14, 2012

5 Reasons Why Growing Organically in the Home Garden is Still Better

By now you've probably heard about the study that says organically grown vegetables are not any healthier than their "conventionally" grown counterparts.  If you haven't I'll sum it up in a nutshell.  The study examined the nutrients and vitamins present in organic produce and compared it to conventionally grown vegetables and didn't find a significant difference between the two.  This might be true, however it's not the end of the story. The study only measured the nutrient capacity of the vegetables and didn't factor in other significant factors.
Side Note: Conventional is used to denoted plants grown with use of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers.  These are more modern advances.  Before the advent of these chemicals all vegetables were grown organically!
So let's take a look at why growing organic vegetables at home is still better than conventional vegetables!

5 Reasons Why Growing Organically in the Home Garden is Still Better
  1. Organic gardens use a minimal amount of pesticides when used and when pesticides are used they are created naturally.  This keeps synthetic chemical residues off of vegetables produced in the vegetable garden.  To me this is the single most important factor in buying or growing organic foods.  I don't worry about the nutrition, I just don't want to eat the chemicals!
  2. Organic gardens are healthier for our environment.  They don't contribute chemicals into the watershed or leach dangerous chemicals into the soil.  Some chemicals break down over time and their impact may be minimal but extended use over time or massive amounts of chemicals used by farmers and gardeners could have a significant impact on the ecology.  
  3. Natural additives like compost contribute to a healthier environment for earthworms and microbes.  The happier your earthworms are the more castings they produce and the happier your plants will be! Many synthetic chemicals will leave salts behind in the soil which can adversely effect the soil.
  4. Chemical pesticides kill off beneficial insects as well as the damaging insects.  While one single cause hasn't been defined for colony collapse disorder among bees pesticides may be a factor.  Sometimes killing off a few bad bugs can hurt a great many other bugs. It's much better to use techniques like companion planting to control the insect population.  Encourage the predator bugs to visit your garden and the prey will move on to less dangerous pastures - or get eaten!
  5. Another thing the study did not cover was the freshness brought to you by growing in the home garden.  When you pick a tomato you pick it ripe.  You pick a tomato with a shiny red color that makes your mouth water (unless it's supposed to be orange!).  When a tomato is shipped across the country to sell in another state it's picked early.  Most likely when it is just beginning to turn orange.  The tomato doesn't have time to sit and bask in the sunshine to develop all the nutrients it should have.  Fresh from the garden tomatoes have that time! 
While I understand the study's purpose is to discover and validate science keep in mind that this isn't the study you need to use to determine how you grow or buy your vegetables.  Keep the pesticides in mind.  The fewer chemicals you consume the healthier you'll be!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wrong Plant Wrong Place

When we first moved into our house back in 2007 and were discovering what our garden had in it we found very little.  A nandina, a couple cedars, some reblooming daylilies, and a teeny tiny spirea were all the plants that were there. Not much to start a garden with but I was excited about the challenge.  The spirea had been cut back to nearly nothing.  It was so small that when it sprouted colorful yellow and red tinted leaves I wasn't sure what it was.  I dug up the little shrub and replanted it in another spot along our sidewalk so that I could plant tulip bulbs in the spirea's original location.  That was five years ago.

Today this is how that little itty bitty spirea now looks:

My spirea is now at least 3 feet around.  I'm sure that you noticed that the sidewalk to the left has lost about a foot of walking space.  If you look beyond the spirea to further down the sidewalk you'll see some other plants hanging into the walkway.  I love the look of plants that envelope a little bit of the hardscape.  They soften the edges and make things more natural but they need to be limited or sized correctly so that the plants don't take a way the pathway and make it difficult for people to walk.

I have two options:
  1. Trim it.
  2. Move it.
Trimming isn't the best option since the branches will regrow so it looks like moving it this fall to another spot is the best choice.  I'll wait until later in the fall to attempt moving the shrub but we'll add this to the ever growing things to do lists.  I'm sure I'll take the opportunity to propagate a few more spirea before the move - just in case!

What plants have you planted in the wrong place?

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I'm Growing on the Porch

For several years before we bought our house we lived in an apartment.  I still had the gardening bug and couldn't resist planting a vegetable garden in pots on the porch.  While today I have ground to plant in I still utilize the porch and deck on our house to grow a few plants.  Here's a look at a few porch and deck plants we're growing.

I planted the coral red honeysuckle but the blue morning glories were volunteers.  Morning glories are beautiful plants but can be very prolific if allowed to go to seed.

I plant moonflowers every year.  The extremely large white flowers that open in the evening are fragrant.  I planted 3 of these along the front porch but they did not all grow as I had hoped!

Vine plants work great on the porch rails but that isn't all you'll find on our porch.  Check out this Japanese maple called 'Beni Schichihenge' I bought this year. 'Beni Schichihenge' sports variegated foliage.  I put it in a pot since I wasn't sure where I really wanted to plant it yet.

The front porch also has quite a few of my propagated plants.  Hydrangeas, variegated weigelia, beautyberry bushes, heuchera, and mums.  There are also some hostas that I've potted up and haven't planted yet in their new homes.  I have a good area for that now so I should get out there and let them get settled in before the cold weather gets here.

These heucheras were made from one small segment of a stem that I cut into severn pieces.  I made sure each piece had a portion of the stem and one leaf.  All but two have put out new leaves since the cuttings were made.

Here are some hostas I ordered earlier in the year. To the right side of the photo are several 'Longwood Blue' caryopteris plants I propagated.  The caryopteris row is in boom right now but I'm afraid we're getting too much shade over there for them to stay in that spot.  To insure I don't lose a plant when transplanting  I make a few cuttings and plant them where I want them.

Mariessii hydrangea is a variegated hydrangea variety with lacecap flowers.

Here is a variegated weigelia.  I bought the plant last month on the discount rack and planted it.  I made two cuttings from it then the main plant died!  That's why I like plant propagation!

I use the back deck for potted herbs that enjoy more sunshine than the north facing front porch gets.  the back porch holds three types of mints including apple, orange, and a mystery spearmint I found growing wild.  That mystery mint has some of the best spearmint flavor I have ever tasted!  I normally plant mint in easily controlled areas since it typically spreads like wildfire.  This fall I hope to build a  couple raised beds in the yard just for our mints and other herbs.

The back deck also is home to our potted stevia plant.  I was amazed that this tender perennial came back last winter.  I fully expected it to succumb to the cold winter - but it wasn't a cold winter.  I'm not taking any chances with it this year.  Since my stevia is in a pot I can bring it indoors to overwinter.

Our chives, which are now flowering, are on the back deck too. Very convenient to the kitchen!

Don't let the fact that you only have a deck or porch for your outdoor area limit your gardening experience.  Lots of plants are easily grown in pots!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Growing Dogwoods (Cornus kousa) from Seed

A week ago we found ourselves at the doctors office for one of my children.  Nothing major (this time), just a regular check up and physical so she could run cross country (Very cool that a 7 year old wants to run cross country!).  After her appointment we left the doctor's office and found a dogwood tree, Cornus kousa, that was loaded with fruit.  To make a long story short (actually the rest of the story is below - otherwise there wouldn't be a post) we gathered a small bunch of berries(drupes) that had already fallen to the ground and brought them home to try and grow.

Cornus kousa

Cornus kousa is a dogwood that is native to Asia.  It's becoming more and more popular here in the U.S. due to its resistance to diseases like anthracnose which is brutal to our native dogwoods.  In fact a number of cultivars are now on the market which are a cross between the native dogwood (Cornus florida) and the Kousa dogwood including one called 'Appalachian Spring' which was introduced by the University of Tennessee.  If you compare the drupes of the two types of dogwood (native and Asian) you will notice some big differences.  Size is the most obvious with the Cornus kousa dogwood reaching about 3/4 of an inch in diameter where the C. florida dogwood drupes are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch.  (You can see a picture of the cleaned C. florida seeds here) Our native dogwood has drupes that are elongated where the Kousa is spherical.  The native dogwoods bloom earlier than the Kousa dogwoods by several weeks.  This gives the landscaper or gardener a nice option when planning spring flowering trees to ensure a succession of dogwood blooms.  Plan for the natives first, hybrids second, then the Kousa dogwoods for about 4-6 weeks of dogwood blooms.

Planting the Dogwood Seeds

When we got the drupes home I dropped them into a cup of water and let them soak.  I didn't keep track of how long I left them in the water but it wasn't more than a week.  Then I separated the seeds from the flesh of the fruit.  Here is where I was very disappointed.  Out of ten drupes only two had seeds.  That's the way it goes sometimes!  The two seeds were already beginning to put out roots so rather than stratifying them in a moist bag of sand in the fridge I planted them directly into a pot.  Dogwood seeds normally need a cold period to trigger germination so putting them in a cold refrigerator over the winter months is often a good idea.  Dogwood seeds are great candidates to try winter sowing too.

Assuming my two little dogwood seedlings spring up from the soil before cold weather hits I may have to bring them indoors to overwinter.  Otherwise I'll store the pot in the shed for some natural stratification!