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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Garden Project Review

It's that time of year again!  The end of the old and the beginning of the new.  It's at this time of year that I like to review my project list to see how well I accomplished my goals.  Every year I come up with a list of projects I hope to complete in my garden then review it at the end!  My 2012 garden projects are listed below followed by my analysis and evaluation.

2012 Garden Project Review

  • Continue the reorganization of the vegetable garden.  I adjust things every year and I've decided that expansion is not the way to go, better organization is.  The parterre style is where the design is going because of the ability to organize crop rotation and the attractiveness of the formal style.
It seems my vegetable garden will never be done! It will continue changing and evolving as I garden. I have some new ideas for raised beds I'd like to incorporate into the garden which may mean the garden's layout has to adjust again. I'll never stop tinkering and as long as I realize that I can maintain my sanity.  The parterre style is still where my garden is going but the makeup of the beds (the materials) will be different!

  • Plant a pyracantha boundary line border hedge.  In the back of our property is an area filled with trees. Deciduous trees.  There is little to no winter interest anywhere back there.  I want to add a pyracantha hedge area to limit deer encroachment, offer berries for wildlife, and create an evergreen screen that will provide privacy from our neighbors through the woods.  Where will the pyracantha come from?  Plant propagation of course!  I've already layered several branches that can be transplanted at any time.  More pyracantha can come from cuttings.  I like the concept of free plants don't you?
Juniper Berries
The privacy hedge line is a work in progress.  It takes time to propagate the pyracantha and grow them.  No I'm not making excuses why it isn't done yet - or maybe I am!  I've adjusted this idea a little as well.  I've found several juniper (Eastern Red Cedar) seedlings growing in my yard which make a perfect privacy screen plant.  As an added bonus they're a native tree.  I'll keep the pyracantha privacy screen project but I'll add the junipers to it.  Having an alternative line of evergreen plants and orange berries in the winter is just the thing our mostly deciduous property line needs!

  • Cultivate the hillside pathways.  I added a few hardwood cuttings of viburnum and red twig dogwood to various locations. My goal is to create some nifty pathways will something new to see around every bend.  This will have to be a multi-year project.  I'll focus on native plants that will add both ornamental and wildlife value.
Since I said this would be a mulit-year project I don't feel so bad in saying my pathways are still a work in progress! I've kept the hillside pathways clear of weeds and brush this year and sowed some cover crop clover to help feed the soil.  I also added a couple viburnums to the property-line side of the natural area.  These viburnums flank the walkway into the paths.  Next door to us is a house for sale that was foreclosed on and there is no telling how long it will be until we have new neighbors - or even if we'll have good neighbors like the others on our street.  The viburnums can be trimmed to allow a pathway through or can be left untrimmed to close in the pathway.  We'll save that decision for later - good hedges make good neighbors!

  • Purchase and set up a small greenhouse.  I have the garden shed which is great for storing equipment, overwintering plants, and propagating plants but I need more space.  The last item on this list is going to require a larger area for growing things.
I bought a small 6'x8' greenhouse that is under construction in the backyard behind the vegetable garden.  I'm going to use it for growing the plants for my edible garden business.  Right now I have most of the frame up and need to attach the panels.

  • And for the last project on this list, which will hopefully be my most successful one, I'm going to start dream of owning a small nursery! My goal for this year is to see if my idea is something that will work long term.  If so we'll expand as quickly the interest in it does. I won't be getting any loans or spending any money I don't have because I feel that debt is something to be avoided at all costs.  So I'll start small and sell locally.  I'll detail my nursery plans a little more when I'm ready but for now I'll be spending some time working on the logistics.  One of the most important things about starting a business I feel is doing the research and for that I'm so glad I bought Tony Avent's So You Want to Start a Nursery (link to Amazon.com).  If you are considering starting one yourself give it a read.  It's well worth the $17 I spent on it.
My garden business began last year with two divisions.  One I called The Home Garden Box where I delivered collections of heirloom vegetable plants for home gardeners.  The other was Blue Shed Gardens which was more ornamental in nature and participated in our local farmer's market.  I hope to continue both avenues and merge them into one solid business plan this year which I'll tell you about soon.  I have some more ducks to get in a row first!  The good news is that I didn't lose any money and made a small amount of profit last year.  It certainly isn't a financially sustainable business yet but I am hopeful that it will grow and propel our family toward a family owned business that not only will fund our lives but can be left for my children to run when they are ready.

There were a number of projects that I didn't foresee that popped up too.  Like the Lowe's Creative Ideas projects that ranged from a Shade Garden to a fancy Birdfeeder Light Post.  I also put together a raised bed for plant propagating back near the shed made with old materials like deck wood and a storm door.

Each year brings new ideas, new challenges, and new opportunities.  While we don't always accomplish the goals that we set, the important thing is that we enjoy the experience of trying to accomplish great things.  I highly encourage you to come up with a few gardening projects you want to take charge of for 2013. Will you start a new garden, build a raised bed, plant more natives, plant more trees, add an orchard of fruit bearing trees, or create a sustainable landscape?  The sky isn't the limit your imagination is! Make 2013 the year you turn your garden into a garden paradise.  If you've already accomplished that goal then help someone else do the same!

What are your project goals for your garden in 2013?  (Leave a link to your 2013 project goal post if you have one!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Easy to grow, Low Maintenance Plants for the Garden

Over Christmas we traveled a little.  Not much, we never go very far.  We just visited with family.  One evening a family member asked me if I knew of some attractive, easy to grow, low maintenance plants she could put in the front of her house.  She wanted something she could plant that wouldn't require a whole lot of time to maintain since she has a young baby and a busy work schedule.  Low-maintenance plantings shouldn't need much pruning, supplemental watering, and should continue to re-bloom without deadheading if at all possible.  Essentially low maintenance plants should thrive on neglect! The list of plants below includes the three I suggested as well as several others that several gardeners on Facebook suggested!

Easy to grow, Low-Maintenance Plant Suggestions for Home Gardeners

  • 'Homestead Purple' Verbena
    Verbena - annual or perennial verbena forms either a nice mound or a sprawling groundcover.  'Homestead Purple' verbena is a perennial favorite perennial here in our garden.  It comes back each year if it is planted in a location that is well drained.  A butterfly favorite!
  • Lantana - lantana looks great in pots or planted in the ground.  
  • Zinnia - zinnias come in all shapes and sizes from small little button ones to tall dahlia like flowers. They are an annual but can reseed and bring back blooms each year.
  • Marigold - Marigolds are often maligned as too common but for sheer impact they can be impressive!  Try looking for heirloom varieties for something a little different. Marigolds grow very easily from seed which you can collect at the end of the season and replant next year.  Marigolds are planted in companion planting designs with tomatoes to repel root nematodes.
  • Portulaca - a succulent bloomer that serves well as a groundcover
  • Sweet Potato Vine - Sweet potato vines are an excellent groundcover that really takes care of itself.  I like to put a lime green colored potato vine with a purple colored one.  Sweet potato vines root easily from cuttings which allows you to fill up large areas very quickly.  Pin down a vine to encourage rooting along the stem to spread the vine where you want it to grow.  Sadly it's only an annual here in Tennessee.
    Purple Sweet Potato Vine with Moonflowers
  • Nigella - also known as Love-In-A-Mist is a flowering annual easily grown from seed.
  • Annual Vinca - make sure if you plant vinca that you only choose the annual kind!  Perennial vinca is extrenmely invasive.
  • Heuchera - I'm a big fan of heucheras and try to adda few more each year.  Plant breeders are coming out with more varieties than I have places to put them!  Typically heucheras enjoy dry, well drained, and shady locations but newer more sun tolerant heucheras like 'Southern Comfort' are on the market.  They need divided every few years but generally are extremely low maintenance.
  • Monarda - Bee balm is a great plant for attracting bees and butterflies as you would expect based on its name.  Shorter varieties are available.  They can suffer from powdery mildew so make sure to water at the base of the plant and not the leaves.  'Jacob Kline' is one of the more mildew resistant varieties.
  • Sedums - sedums are another succulent that really does well when neglected. 
  • Rudbeckia - Black-eyed Susans are extremely attractive flowers that are very low-maintenance.  They can have a tendency to spread if allowed to go to seed but can be weeded out each spring.  Rudbeckia is a good plant for pollinators.

I hope these suggestions help you when planning your garden. This is a short list of many possible options and if you have other suggestions to offer please comment!  Please remember that your experience may differ from other gardeners due to soil conditions, weather, and other climate factors and the plants listed above may or may not grow as well in your garden as they might in mine.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

And though it's been said,

many times, many ways...

Merry Christmas!  

May your season be filled with friends, family, and joy!  

Friday, December 21, 2012

What Is The Least Favorite Plant in Your Garden?

For a long time now I have denigrated my Bradford pear tree.  It's smelly in the spring, although it looks nice.  It produces loads of inedible fruit that spawns offspring in my garden and everywhere else the birds decide to fly.  Bradford pear trees are generally weak trees that split because of their "V" shaped branch unions that cluster with more branches than a hydra has heads.  There are many, many, many reasons why you shouldn't plant these invasive ornamental Callery pear trees but they get planted anyway in gardens and landscapes by builders and homeowners looking for a cheap, fast growing tree that has an attractive and uniform appearance.  Remember looks aren't everything when planting a tree.

Obviously the Bradford pear tree is a good candidate for my least favorite plant in my garden.  I haven't brought myself to slaughter it yet, however that has never been far from my mind.  The size of our trees provides a privacy screen in the front yard that just can't be replaced quickly.  So I hesitate. The offspring of our trees sprout all over which won't stop should they be removed since the builder of our neighborhood planted two in EVERY front yard.  Good for cross pollination?  You bet.  Good for the sanity of gardener who has to weed them?  Not so much.

Last night we had wind like you wouldn't believe.  It sounded like O'Hare airport was in our backyard most of the day. I think I saw a lady on a bicycle fly by and there may have been a cow that mooed at me while flying past the window as well.  But amazingly the plants I would most like an excuse for removing are still standing.  They split in every other yard all the time, why not mine?  Which brings me to one of the many cosmic rules of gardening:

"Plants that you don't like (or don't want) are indestructible."

You've noticed that rule too haven't you?  It's always that one plant that you never get around to remove, feel bad for removing, or actually have a good reason for keeping but secretly despise that never, ever gets hit by pests, disease or acts of god.  It's indestructible!

I've told you about my most despised and least favorite plant in the garden, now tell us about yours!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Warm Weather Needs to Chill

I like warm weather, don't get me wrong. I like the warm spring sunshine that bathes everything in light and encourages the flowers to grow. I like the summer days - when it isn't above 90 degrees and 65% humidity - I'm not picky. I love the warm fall days where the sun trickles through the falling leaves. I even like the warm winter days, but we need a change in the air to bring us some cooler temperatures.   The warm weather isn't giving the plants the necessary hours before spring to chill out.
It's also not going to kill off enough of the insect population - which means we'll probably end up with a bad mosquito, tick, and chigger season next spring. Not to mention squash bugs, squash vine borers and other vegetable garden pests.  I've seen cherry trees flowering - months early.  If the sap begins to flow in sensitive trees too early and we get cold temperatures we'll end with damage from the freezing sap.  That's what caused death to many trees in 2007.  We need some cold air to move in and bring us winter.  We need to chill out. Winter is coming, I know. It's only a few days away on the calendar but the weather systems don't read the calendar. For now though we'll just have to wait and see.

Winter Jasmine
We can enjoy what the warm weather does bring us and try to think positively. Warm weather brings a longer growing season. It keeps the vegetable garden growing without need for covering. It let's my winter jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum) bloom earlier than it has ever bloomed in our garden before. It's bloomed in March, February and even January but never in December.  I've seen daffodil foliage begin to emerge, but that's not unusual. Daffodils typically start growing now then bloom in February and March around here.

Cilantro in the lawn
February and March are also when our gardens in Tennessee have the highest chance of being covered in snow.  I won't give up hope that we won't have an appropriate winter, not yet.  There's plenty of time for the temperature to drop and provide a corresponding drop in the insect population.

And one more thing we need winter for...the sleds I bought last year for a winter without snow need to be broken in!

Friday, December 14, 2012

5 Seed Starting Techniques a Gardener Should Know!

Seed starting time is just around the corner!  OK it may be a little more than around the corner for some gardeners but while we are planning our holiday gatherings those seed catalogs are coming in, enticing us to get started!  Today lets look at several seed starting techniques and methods that you can use to effectively get good germination and get our gardens off to an awesome start.

Winter Sowing

Winter sowing is a really cool technique! Forgive the pun (that was a bad one) but when winter sowing the gardener creates mini-greenhouses that protect the seed from some elements (like critters and wind) while allowing them to be exposed to others like temperature fluctuations!
  1. Just take a used plastic container.  Milk jugs, juice containers, butter containers, or even yogurt cups will work.   
  2. clean it out - important step here.
  3. add some drainage - also important 
  4. cut around the container to leave a hinge 
  5. add soil - gotta have it. 
  6. add seeds - very important step - indeed critical
  7. water - do I need to point out that water is critical too? 
  8. then tape the container shut.  
  9. Place in a semi-shady place outdoors and let nature take its course.  

Check on the winter sowing containers every now and then to make sure they stay moist but not soggy.  In the picture the caps are on but should be taken off.  These four containers have echinacea, dianthus, Dutch iris, and something else I just can't seem to recall off the top of my head while I'm writing this post...I'll edit this when I figure it out. Don't you hate it when you can't remember something?

Scatter Sowing

I scatter sow quite a few things in the garden.  Generally anything that has small seeds that I can either thin out or want a whole bunch of gets scatter sowed.  Lettuce and basil are two of my favorite scatter sowing plants. Both have small seeds that respond well to light exposure.  When you scatter sow (or broadcast sow as you may want to call it) you let the seeds land on the surface of the soil and water them.  Small seeds benefit because they need the light to germinate.  It's also a really easy technique for the lazy gardener!

  • Just clear an area of weeds, 
  • lightly tamp it down, 
  • scatter the seeds on the surface of the soil, 
  • and water.

Keep it watered as needed until germinated and beyond!  You can do the same technique with wildflower seeds too.

Starting Seeds Indoors

I start many of my seeds indoors on flats with heat mats.  While I say indoors these are actually in my garage under some shoplights.  Is a garage indoors or outdoors? Or does it depend if its open or not?  In either case I'm getting heucheras and hostas ready for this year's production!  In mid January I'll be getting tomatoes and other vegetable plants started in flats like these with a plastic "dome".  The dome keeps the heat and humidity in the flat where the seeds need it.  I have a thermostat set to 70 degrees for these heucheras and hostas.  When starting seeds in the garage the heat mat is a necessity but when you do seeds indoors the ambient temperatures of the room may suffice.  Lighting though is critical!  Some seeds don't need light to germinate while others do but all need light once they have germinated.  In general the smaller the seeds are the less deeply you should cover them with soil when you plant them.  For teeny tiny seeds (like heuchera) I'll just scatter them on the surface of the soil.

Update 2013: I began using plastic cups as small greenhouses in addition to the large flats.  They create a terrarium-like environment that keeps the seedlings moist until they are ready to transplant.  I can grow 20 seedlings in each cup with ease which makes them a great space saver!

Cold Stratification

Cold stratification is where you simulate the natural cold temperatures that eventually break through the seed coat and trigger germination.  In the picture below the dogwood seeds have been stripped of their fleshy outer coat and placed in plastic bags with moist sand.  When warmer days are in the forecast I'll plant these seeds into pots and hopefully get to enjoy some white dogwood trees.

I also store many of my seeds in the refrigerator in a plastic box next to the yogurt and oranges.  The cool temperatures help to preserve viability and also may help them to stratify if needed.  This is our second refrigerator so don't worry, my seeds don't replace our food!


Scarification  is a useful technique for those tough shelled and tough to germinate seeds.  Essentially you chip through the shell to create an opening for water to get into the embryo.  There are a couple ways you can accomplish this.  One method uses sandpaper to scuff up the outside of the seeds.  Just place the seeds on a flat surface and gently rub the sandpaper over the seeds.  This works for smaller sized seeds. Another method actually chips into the seed.  Use a knife or a pair of nail clippers to create an opening through the seed coat.  Scarification is a great way to help redbud seeds germinate.  Sometimes they need both stratification and scarification.  With scarification just make sure you aren't borrowing your spouse's best pair of nail clippers...

Hopefully this post is getting you fired up about starting some seeds this year!  I'm already growing - and I haven't even started on the holiday goodies yet!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gift Options for the Plant Propagator!

As you know I'm a huge fan of plant propagation.  I would bet that many of you reading this are too, or if you not a huge fan you are at least interested!  It's a fascinating area and can be an amazing benefit for growing your garden.  Just think of all the free plants you can make from cuttings, or how you can expand your garden with seeds, divisions, and layered branches.  You don't have to spend a fortune to plant your garden when you know how to propagate plants.  Today I'm going to share a few gift ideas for those of us who enjoy propagating plants.

Books on Plant Propagation

Books are a fantastic gift idea for any gardener.  I reference my gardening library frequently and as you can expect the books I utilize the most are the ones on plant propagation.  My most frequently reference resource is Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques from the American Horticultural Society.  It contains information on the basics of plant propagation as well as specific information for many plants.

Another book I reference fairly frequently is the The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture, Second Edition written by Michael Dirr.  It contains information on propagating shrubs and trees with references to different techniques.  It a little more scientific and provides rooting percentage rates on many of the plants based on the various techniques that are used.  It doesn't go into perennials but is much more in depth on shrubs and trees than the American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation Book does.

Together those two books have helped me propagate just about anything I've needed to over the last few years, but there are other resources you could choose.  The Plant Propagator's Bible by Miranda Smith is reported to be very useful (if it has the word Bible in it it better be!) as is Ken Druse's Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation.  Both are very highly rated resources for propagating plants.

Plant Propagating Supplies

Plant propagating supplies make a great gift for those of us geeky enough about plants to want to propagate them! To speed up rooting heat mats are a great tool to have.  Cuttings respond well from additional heat placed at the base of the plant.  They are also very useful for seed starting.  You can add a thermostat that can help to regulate the heat.  In general they can add up to 20 degrees of ambient heat to help you root or germinate your plants.

Rooting hormone is a great aid for getting your cuttings to root faster and easier.  Some plants are very difficult to root without it.  I generally buy the powder form to use but both the powder and the gel are effective at getting plants to root.  After opening its effectiveness dwindles over time so you will need to resupply periodically.

And don't forget a good set of pruners!  Clean and sharp cuts are necessary to make successful cuttings.

The links above are affiliate links and if you choose to use them I appreciate it!  

You are probably the one who wants these so you may want to share it with your family and friends to be "helpful." ;)  Sometimes folks need a hint when buying gifts for others!

What do you want to find under the tree with your name on it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Frosty December Morning

Over the last couple weeks the weather has been much warmer than it should be, but now we're getting back to a much more normal December weather pattern.  There was even the mention of snow in the forecast for next week.  We'll see.  I won't count my chickens but a little snow would make a nice scenery change!  For now though we'll have to enjoy watching the ice crystals form on the vegetation.  Here's a few pictures from this morning's heavy frost.

The blueberry plants that still have leaves are well frosted!

Catmint with frosted white leaf edges.

Even the grass looks cool - well of course it does - it's frost it has to be cool!

Shadows on the frosted grass. 

There's the blue shed!  There frost and shadows here too. 

Yes it's December, it should be thyme for frost!

Is it cold where you are yet?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Indoor Hanging Wall Planter Garden

I finally managed to get my Indoor Hanging Wall Planter Project up on the wall!  I ran out of screws so I'll have to run to the store to pick up a couple more and make sure it stays up securely.  It's fine for now but I definitely need those screws attached before adding pots and soil for plants.  I picked several seed packets with different varieties of basil as well as one packet of lavender seed to plant.

The LED light rope does a good job of creating ambient light around the wall planter but does make enough to serve as an actual plant light.  Since it's energy efficient it will make a good light in the evenings when it gets dark to help find our way through the room.  Our bonus room can be a minefield of children's toys that can invoke dire consequences to the barefoot parent!

The whole project cost less than $100 to put together which was provided by Lowe's Creative Ideas!

 Once I have some little plants growing I'll let you have another peek!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What Was the Most Unique Wildlife Encounter in Your Garden? (A Friday Free For All!)

This Friday I thought I'd try something new...an open post!  I'd like to hear what you think about the garden, gardening ideas, projects, or just your thoughts on various issues.  So here's what I'm going to do.  Every couple weeks I'll host a Friday Free for All Post where you can comment on a subject and share what you think about it.  It could a type of plant, a project idea, a method of planting, or any other gardening related subject.  If you feel so moved by the subject that you want to write a whole post on the matter feel free to take it back to your blog and tell us how you feel about it.  Just leave a link in the comments so we can read what you think!

So without further ado let's get started with our first Friday Free for All Post!

Today's Friday Free for All Subject:

What was the most unique wildlife encounter in your garden?

I think our most unique wildlife encounter was the time a family of foxes came through the yard.  Beautiful creatures.  I've seen hawks, turkeys, coyote, deer, and all kinds of songbirds birds but the foxes were the most exciting creatures to visit. Here is a slideshow of the pictures I took of the foxes when they came through the yard. I didn't have my video camera handy at the time so a slideshow of the foxes is all I have to share.  

So tell us What was the most unique wildlife encounter in your garden? (We'll alternate the Friday Free for All with The Friday Fives!)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Indoor Hanging Wall Planter Garden

The current project I'm working on for Lowe's Creative Ideas fits into two categories for me: indoor gardening and vertical gardening.  "Migration" was the theme given to us which means we were to bring the garden indoors but the issue with that for me is space.  I bring plants indoors to overwinter each year like coleus or my avocado tree but space for more gardening is limited.  With three kids there's lots of stuff and it's hard to bring in more!  The solution was to think about some sort of vertical garden.  We do have wall space an idea was developed to create a decorative planter that hangs on the wall!

After coming up with numerous ideas I eventually settled on a 5 tin bucket with a lightbox effect around it.  Lighting isn't a big issue where the hanging wall planter is going to do since we have south facing windows in the room. The plants will be on the south facing wall and won't be in the direct sunlight but will receive plenty of residual light from the rest of the room.

I bought a few things at Lowe's to accomplish this project including 5 small tin Buckets (2.5 qt.), Screws, small rubber gaskets, washers, a 12"x1" pine board, a 3"x1" board, LED rope light, and aluminum flashing.

I cut the 12" wide board to 42 inches long.  Then I measured out where I wanted the tin buckets to go on the board and proceeded to drill light holes for a sun pattern.  I used a paddle bit for the large sun hole then smaller bits to make holes for the "rays".

You may have seen this on the Growing The Home Garden Facebook Page!

On the back of the board I glued and screwed a center board.  I didn't buy this piece since I had a scrap piece just the right size already in the garage.  This board is where the rope light was wrapped and will also help to hold the planter to the wall studs.  I glued some scrap pieces of wood which came from the 3"x1" board to the corners on the back and clamped them down.  Clamps are the most wonderful thing in the world!  You need some!  Even if you don't think you do, you do.

Then I stained the wood with a cedar stain.

When the stain was dry enough to work around I wrapped the rope light around the center board and weaved it around the light holes.  I secured the rope light into place using the brackets that came with them and some drywall screws.  The screws became guides for the rope light.

After the rope light was secured I cut and added the aluminum flashing to the back.  It's purpose was to become a reflective surface for the light.  I cut and added a piece of the 3"x1" board to fit from the top left corner to the top right corner and the bottom left corner to the bottom right corner. This added a little depth to the planter and secured the flashing into place.

Next I added the tin buckets to the front of the board.  One tin bucket went under each set of sun light holes.  I pre-drilled the screw holes then used screws with a washer and rubber gasket.  Since water will be present in the buckets at some point  I thought gaskets were necessary to seal the screw holes completely.  Even though my plan is to put pots in the buckets there will still be moisture in the area that I don't want to spill onto the carpet, the wall, or my lovely 30+ year old orange couch! (It's the most comfortable couch in the world!)

All I have to do now is to hang it on the wall and add plants.  I'll do another post once I get it up on the wall so you can see how it all came together!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Feedin' the Birds!

Want to do something nice for the birds?  Feed them!  Here's an easy way to do it!
  1. Get a grapefruit (any suitable citrus will work).
  2. Cut it in half.
  3. Eat the grapefruit. (Important step)
  4. Fill grapefruit halves with bird seed.
  5. Set grapefruit halves on a deck rail
  6. Enjoy watching the birds!

Piece of cake - or rather a piece of fruit!

Organic Seed Starting from a CSA

Yesterday I watched and shared this video from Quiet Creek Farms and the Penn State Extension Service on the Growing The Home Garden Facebook page.  The video has some great techniques for seed starting including a recipe for their seed starting soil.  It has a business slant geared toward developing a CSA but the techniques described are very usable in the home garden!  If you don't use your local extension services you really should investigate what they have to offer.  They are an awesome free resources to utilize for growing in your garden!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Customers buy a share of the crop and receive produce that is in season.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reusing Materials for a Cold Frame

Over the weekend I spent about 30 minutes piecing together a cold frame to do some hardwood cuttings.  The process for building a cold frame is very similar to building a raised bed.  I used some old pressure treated lumber that used to belong to a deck, an old storm door without the glass, and a couple 4"x4" scrap pieces to make some secure corners.  Pressure treated wood, depending on its age, may contain arsenic but newer pressure treated wood used copper based treatments to preserve it.  Since this bed is for cuttings and not vegetables there's no reason to worry about the arsenic.  (I suspect the wood I'm using was treated with the copper treatment.)

I cut the wood to fit the storm door then used some 2" deck screws to secure it to the corner posts.  A flat surface is very helpful - mine wasn't!  Underneath the bed I laid a thick layer of newspaper to prevent any weeds from rising up and through the bottom of the bed.  Then I placed a plastic mesh that I had on hand to protect my trees from deer. I have voles in my yard and I need to protect the bed from them.  Most likely they will be able to nibble through the plastic but its what I had on hand.  I may get some 12" paving stones to place under the bed to discourage them further.

Once I had the bed itself in place I used the storm door hinge and screwed it directly to the bed.  I need to come back and place a piece of plastic over the storm door opening.  The glass went on my shed's skylight a couple years ago so I don't have that available.  I'll come back and fill the bed with a rooting medium which will probably contain a mix of peat, sand, and perlite.

From start to (almost) finished this bed took about 30 minutes to put together and could hold between 200-300 cuttings.  For cuttings I'll probably start with some viburnums and crape myrtles.