Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Freshen Up Planter Box 1

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In 2007, the hubby built these wonderful planter boxes around some of our trees in the yard.  Since then, the stain has faded and the soil has eroded somewhat.  As a part of our curb appeal project, my mission is to refresh the boxes with more dirt, new stain, fresh plants, flowers, and mulch.

It’s been tough finding time to do this with 2 kids and a million things to do.  Yesterday, we pulled together as a family and tackled it while Evelyn took her late afternoon nap.  Even Oliver helped out bringing flowers from the back!

The hubby had already translplanted the mums and hostas from this box to the side yard.  I then raked the box clean and turned over the existing soil a bit.  The hubby threw in an additional 6 shovelfuls from our “excess dirt” pile from other projects. I split 2 geraniums to make 4 plantings and also planted a host of marigold flowers in between.  I’ve been told that marigolds will keep the mosquitos away.  I am crossing my fingers that it is true.

Luckily for me, I scorched and destroyed my favorite little sauce pot on the stove earlier this week.  The pan is absolutely perfect to use as a scoop to dig soil out of the big bags.  I added several pot fulls of Miracle Grow potting mix to each planting section and worked the soil in with my hand trowel.  When I planted each plant, I tickled the roots apart and nipped flower buds off to encourage new growth.

The last thing I managed to do before I passed out from 90+ degree temps and high humidity was to mulch with large pine bark nuggets.

While I was busy planting, Oliver helped clean up the random bricks in the yard.

Look at that form!  Children naturally know the proper way to move heavy objects.  How come we forget that as we grow up?

This morning I was able to duck out and restain the boxes while Evelyn slept.  The hubby had already power washed the box when he did the porch earlier.  I took a stiff broom to brush off the dirt and went at it with the stain.

Here’s our little box all complete.  Looks much better!  I will hit up the other boxes next week.  I have one little one up front and a monster one in the back.

Project Costs: $24.50
Time: 4 hours
2 Geraniums – $10
1 flat of Marigolds – $10
1.5 bag Pine bark mulch – $4.50
Stain – leftover from original project

To save money on labor costs, hire a toddler to help.  They work for cookies…

Landscaping Side Yard

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

On the kid’s side of the house, there was a huge, unruly, thorny, and ugly holly bush that had grown out of control.  When Oliver scratched his face on the thorny leaves while running past it, the hubby took a pickaxe to the roots and buh-bye holly.  Getting rid of the holly left a big crater in the ground and the house seemed a little bit naked.

We bought an azalea to replace the holly bush, but it looked so lonely all by itself.  We hatched a plan to landscape around the bush over the weekend.  The hubby turned over all the dirt and sunk black plastic landscape edging.

Oliver loved this part!  He got to dig in the dirt with daddy and actually turned dirt over all by himself.

I went around the yard to scavenge for plants to move.  Two years ago, we saw an ad on Craigslist for free liriope.  The lady had it growing out of control in her yard and she said we could have all that we could dig out and carry.  Well, we hauled quite a bit away from her yard and used it here and there at our house.  At the time, I had split each liriope plant into 2-4 clumps and planted them with hopes of transplanting them later. 

Well, now is later.  Those little clumps have grown into large healthy plants and were ready for us to dig up, divide, and replant.  I also dug up some hostas from a planter box and had a few new flowers to add to the mix.

Water break!  The temps were in the 90s, but Oliver played and played like it was nothing.

I used pine bark mulch to tie everything together and voila, project complete.  We are doing something similar on the opposite side of the house where the chimney is at.  This will match the work we’ve done on the front of the house.  

Project costs:  $55
Azalea bush – $8
2 Geraniums – $10
13 Impatiens – $10
4 bags Pine Bark Nuggets – $12
20+feet edging – $15
2 Hostas – free
6 Liriope – free

Milk Jug Plant Markers

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

My seedlings are taking off and I’m ready to label the individual pots now that I have some plants growing.  I’ve tried all sorts of ways to mark plants in the past from popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, wood flags, store-bought plastic markers, etc…  Anything made from wood pretty much got destroyed by the end of the growing season and buying markers just didn’t make sense.

The solution came in the form of a solid white milk jug.  I cut the jug into strips big enough to sink into each pot and wide enough to write on with a permanent marker.

The permanent marker worked wonderfully and didn’t bleed.  The plastic markers will be nigh indestructible even after moving the plants outdoors.  This project was so easy that even Evelyn wanted to give it a try.

Evelyn wasn’t able to write anything, but she did give the plant markers her drool proof seal of approval! 

Do you have creative and frugal tips for crafts you do for your garden?

Seed Starting

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

This past weekend I finally started my seeds indoors for the summer garden.  I’m about a month late, but I’ll still be able to transplant some seedlings near the end of May.

I have been saving up yogurt containers to plant my seedlings in.  I bought seed trays from Lowes for $1.50 a piece to hold my containers and I’m using Miracle Grow potting mix to fill the containers.  I also have one Jiffy 72 pellet set that I am using for bedding plants (impatiens and coleus).  I bought 1/2 of my seeds at Lowes and the other 1/2 I ordered online at Evergreen Seeds.  Evergreen Seeds specializes in Oriental/Asian herbs, fruits, and veggies.  To round it all off, I have a 4 foot long heat mat that I bought on e-Bay for $32 and 2 borrowed 4-ft long shop lamps that hold 2 flourescent tubes each for a light source. 

After last year’s horrible seed starting venture, I have found the mats to be a necessary expense.  In year’s past, I have never been able to start seeds without a mat.  The mat keeps the soil in the containers consistently between the 75 and 85 degrees needed for germination.  Without it, my results were always spotty and mold/mildew killed most my plants from the cold and wet conditions.

We drafted all sorts of wacky plans to build a structure that would suspend the lights over the seed trays in a single and double stack formation.  We even went so far as to buy $60 worth of PVC pipe and fittings, which we returned after a visit to Costco.  There in Costco, they were selling a 5 wire shelving rack unit for $80.  The shelves are 4.5 feet wide and are adjustable.  We could have several rows of plants growing at different heights if we wanted to and the shelves could be repurposed in the future in my hubby’s dream workshop or garage.

With that said, we drilled drainage holes in all the yogurt cups and filled them to the brim with potting soil.  We thoroughly watered the cups and the pellets in their respective trays, then drained the trays of excess water after 15 minutes or so. 

To plant the seeds I sprinkled some onto a white paper plate.  I then moistened the tip of a chopstick and dabbed at 2 or 3 seeds to stick them to the end of the chopstick.  I then deposited the seeds into the potting mix.  For the superfine seeds, like mint, I used a toothpick to plant the seeds with. 

The paper plate was very handy to use as a funnel to pour the excess seeds back into the seed packets.

For my yogurt cup tray, I wrapped the top tightly with 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  For the pellet tray, I just put the lid on it.  Once some seeds sprout, I will vent the trays until all the seeds have sprouted.  At that point, I will remove the covers entirely and turn on the flourescent lights.  I labeled the outside of the trays to keep track of what I planted.  I will be making some individual plant markers this weekend for each cup.

Here’s what I planted:

6 Thai Holy Basil
6 Thai Chili
3 Purple Eggplant
3 Thai Green Eggplant
3 Siam Queen Basil
2 Oregano
2 Thyme
4 Peppermint
4 Mint
36 Impatiens
36 Coleus

Once the seedlings are a couple weeks old, I will move them to the upper rack under the second light setup, sans heat mat.  I will then start another batch of bedding plants with the heat mat. We should have a constant flow of seedlings being grown and transplanted from now until the fall when I grow Pansies and Mums in September.

Have you ever started seeds before?  Share in the comments any tips and tricks you have for growing platns indoors.

Planting Holly Bushes

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

After having our weekends derailed by rebuilding the porch for the past 2 weeks, we have finally planted our holly bushes.  These were the bushes that we had on our February “To Do” List.  We faithfully checked our local garden centers all through February and they didn’t get any bushes in until some time in March.  Home Depot had small holly bushes on sale for $2.50 each.  Lowes had the same bushes for $6 each.  We ended up buying 18 bushes from Home Depot to create a hedge along two sides of fencing in our “back 40”.

Evelyn got to charm daddy while mommy checked the placement of the bushes.  She was so excited to be with him she barfed all over and had to go inside!  That’s baby love for you…

We planted the bushes 4 feet away from the fence and 4 feet apart from each other.

Here’s one of the reasons why we need the hedge.  We have dogs on pretty much every side of our house.  Oliver likes to go up and poke his hands through the fence at the animals.  Not a good idea.  Currently, we have a couple pieces of plywood and a shredded tarp tacked to the fence.  We chose holly because 1) they are fast growers, 2) they are nigh indestructable/drought tolerant, and 3) they are prickly and hopefully will be good child deterrents.

Evelyn changed into one of Oliver’s outfits and rejoined the party.  This might be Oliver’s old jumper, but Evelyn is just as cute in it!  It’s for 6 month’s old and is already too small for her.  She’s growing as fast as those holly bushes!

Oliver had a piece of mommy’s pop tart – a rare treat.  He actually carried it around the yard savoring it with tiny nibbles for a good 1/2 hour.  (His hair looks much better, doesn’t it???)

We ran out of hollies faster than I thought.  We did make it to one of our neighbor’s wood panel fence, so that’s not too bad.  Our plan to shut out the world is in motion.  Only one length of fence open to the public is left and then we can potty train Oliver outside bare butt without anyone watching! (just joking … or are we?)

How do you screen out unpleasant views from your home?

Tending to my sweet peas

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

My sweet peas are doing great!  Both the sugar snap and the Evelyn varieties.  I had to leave this sweet pea inside due to the 40mph wind gusts outside while I tended to my spring garden.

The peas have bloomed prolifically and are ready to be thinned out.  If you don’t thin them, they will start to choke each other off and die.  The roots will compete for nutrients and the tendrils will literally grab the plants on either side and choke the stalks.

The arugula and lettuce look great, but will need to be thinned next weekend.

Here’s what a 4 week old pea plant looks like.  You can see a good root is starting to form at the base.  I pulled this one out of curiosity, but the rest I used a pair of scissors to snip the plant at ground level.  When the plants are very close together you risk disturbing the soil by pulling the plants out of the ground.  You can also pinch the plants with your fingers at ground level.

Looks much better doesn’t it?  I may have to come back and thin out a few more plants in a week or so.

While I was weeding the garden, I noticed these sprouts poking out from under the wood beam I was kneeling on.

It looks like there were seeds left in the lettuce packet that I had tucked under the beam to use as a marker!  Experimentally, I broke this bunch up into small chunks and planted them in the ground.  I wonder if they will continue to grow?  With all the rain we’ve had, I haven’t needed to use the soaker hose once this past week.  So far so good!

Did you start a garden yet?  How is it doing with the strange weather we’ve been having?

Spring Garden Ready to Grow

Monday, March 21st, 2011

It’s official! The garden is in and ready to grow.  :-) I’ve planted sugar snap peas, green onions, yellow onions, arugula, green leaf lettuce, and 2 different salad mixes.

The sugar snap peas had been going strong for a week before I planted the rest of the seeds.  All I needed to do to sow the seeds was to loosen up the soil with my rake.  Most of the seeds only needed to be planted at a 1/4″ depth. 

After raking over the soil, I broadcast the seeds over 3 foot sections.  Then I used my hand to smooth out the dirt to cover the seeds and to pat it down.  A quick watering from a watering can and we were all set.

After a week, we have new sprouts!  You can see how well my peas are doing in the background.

Next weekend I’ll have to start thinning out my peas.  I may even thin out the rest of my plants while they are still small.  The best part is that the hard work is over.  Now I’ll turn on my soaker hose twice a week, weed the bed, thin the plants, and wait for harvest time!

Easy Way to Grow Sugar Snap Peas

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Sprouts, sprouts, everywhere…  My sugar snap peas are breaking through just 7 days after planting them. 

Sugar snap peas are one of these easiest veggies to grow.  I’ve had great success with sugar snaps year after year and have some tips to share with you.  Sugar snap peas are cool weather veggies.  Check the zones on the back of the seed packet, but they generally like to be planted in the early spring. 

For fool proof peas, you’ll need a trellis, a soaker hose, and sugar snap pea seeds.  See my post about preparing the garden to get yourself ready to plant. 

After you’ve dug your garden up, laid your soaker hose and installed your trellis, we prepare the seeds.  If you plant the seeds straight from the package into the ground you’ll probably lose 50% or more of the seeds to rot. 

A trick I learned is to sprout the seeds indoors to boost your success rate to 90%+.  Place your seeds on a dinner plate in between some paper towels.  Significantly wet the paper towels to soak the seeds, but don’t use so much water that it pools on the plate.  Every day, sometimes twice a day, check to see if the paper towels have dried out.  Keep adding water to the plate to keep the seeds moist.  After 4-6 days, the seeds will produce little roots. 

Here is a pic of the original dry seeds versus my rooted seeds. 

In the garden, I used a chopstick to drag a line all the way down my fence/trellis.  I followed up with my hand to create a trench about 2 inches deep.  Next, I dropped in my rooted seeds and covered them up with dirt.  With rooted seeds I normally plant every 1 – 2 inches and have less to thin out when they grow in.  For this year, I rooted way to many seeds and sort of scattered them all down the trench.  I’ll have to do some heaving pruning when they start growing to thin them out.

After planting I ran the soaker hose for 30 minutes and that’s about it.  A week later, voila! we have sproutage.  Check your garden throughout the week to see if you need to water before they sprout.  We were lucky to have a rainy week.

When they are a few inches high I will go back and thin out the seedlings per the directions on the seed packet.  As they grow, the peas will grow little tendrils that will cling to the trellis.  Sometimes I provide extra support by using twist ties to loosely secure the stalks here and there in the event of a bad storm.  Otherwise, I’ll water regularly and sit back until my  peas come in!

Preparing the Spring Garden

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Ready to get dirty?  Two weeks ago, we prepped the spring garden. 

My hubby turned over a plot of dirt 18 ft long by 3 feet wide to a depth of about 8 – 10 inches.   We ran it down the length of chain link fence to take advantage of a natural trellis for our sugar snap peas.  I had previously gardened here before and had amended the soil with a ton of compost in the past.  Can you believe this used to be red clay???  I was serious when I said a TON of compost…

My sweet baboo helped to turn over the dirt with his daddy.  He worked on his little plot for almost 1/2 an hour!

We used a nifty little hand tiller to break up big clumps of dirt and to pull small weeds out.

Next we layered on the Moo-nure! (I love saying that)  Following the instructions on the bag, we only needed 1/2 the bag.  The hubby raked it into the soil and leveled out the garden bed.

We are using the chain link fence for the bottom half of our pea trellis.  We staked some simple fence posts into the ground and clipped in some wire fencing for the top half of the trellis. 

We are using a soaker hose for the spring garden due to the nature of the plants.  We are growing sugar snap peas, lettuce, radishes, and green onions.  Since there will be so many of each plant, it made more sense to use a soaker hose and deeply soak the ground.  We are using drip irrigation for the summer plants as those are lesser in number, are much larger, and require more water. 

We laid the soaker hose out overnight to uncoil and relax.

The next day I dug a 2 – 3 inch trench and buried the hose under the ground.  I did one straight run about 6 inches away from the fence to water the sugar snap peas.  Then I came back down the plot and made big curves. 

I choose to do curves for 2 reasons:

1) I didn’t want to spend the money on extra soaker hose to make 3 straight runs in the garden.
2) I’ve found that plants like leaf lettuce and arugula grow great between the curves.  Not too much water and they can be grown in clusters.

I placed broken pieces of sticks at the peak of each bend to mark where the soaker hose was buried.  I can reasonably follow the path from stick to stick to know where to plant.

After installing the hose, I ran a test for 15 minutes.  You can see my pattern and saturation after 15 minutes.  During the growing period I’ll water for about 30 minutes, once a week.

We are ready to plant!  The only thing we’ve purchased so far was the Moonure and the soaker hose.  The rest we already own or we’ve borrowed from friends or neighbors.  You’d be surprised at how much you can save if you ask around.

Garden for 2010

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

To plant, or not to plant, that is the question.  Almost a year ago, I wrote a great post about Saving Money With Gardening.  Even though I wasn’t able to tend to my garden properly last year, we still reaped the rewards with an ever blooming tomato plant, hardy bell peppers, and bundles of herbs that grew well into the fall.  This year we are going all out and will be trying many different methods to generate a bountiful harvest as frugally as possible.

Here’s how we got organized last month:

1) Make a list of what you want to plant.  Flowers, veggies, herbs, etc..  and the space, light, and water requirements for each.

2) Determine which item loves cool weather or hot weather.  Examples of cool weather crops: sugar snap peas, lettuce, radishes.  Examples of hot weather crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers.

3) Figure out the technical details: irrigation (drip, soaker, rain barrels, garden hose, etc…), garden supports (tomato cages, bean trellises, etc…), animal barriers (protection from rabbits, deer, etc…), weed barriers (mulch, garden borders, etc…)

With items 1, 2, and 3, create your garden plan.  Go out in your yard and figure out where you can put your garden(s).  Do you have ample space?  Will you use containers to grow in?  Do you want raised beds?  Will you have separate spring and summer gardens or will you do a succession planting of summer stuff amongst the dying out spring crop?  Where is your water source located?  Where do you get the most sun?  Sketch out some ideas on paper to get you started with your plan. 

Next steps:

4) Decide if you want to start your own seeds, sow in ground, or buy seedlings?  This all depends on what you want to plant.  Spring crops do great by sowing in the ground directly.  Some summer crops should get a head start indoors, whether by yourself or by buying seedlings from a store to plant.  The reason for that depends on how long your summer is.  By the time some plants mature to produce fruit, summer is nearly over.  For example, last year I grew Thai pepper plants from seed and by the time the plant was producing fruit it was already late September.  If you are new to gardening, you might want to pick up some established seedlings at your local garden center or home improvement store when they come into season.  If you want to start your own seeds, stay tuned for my post about seed starting.  After my miserable seed starting failure last year, we are starting from scratch and going semi-pro.

5) Now that you have the beginnings of a plan, you can start talking budget.  Gardening takes money.  On the low end, you can buy a big pot, a bag of soil, stick a tomato plant in it and water it with a glass.  On the high end, you can build a raised bed, haul in truckloads of soil, and install drip irrigation on timers.  Figure in the costs of the plants, whether you plan to purchase grown seedlings or start your own (extra expense there).

We fall in the middle.  Every year we keep adding to our gardening treasure trove.  We have trellises, tomato cages, and drip irrigation built up from years of gardening.  We also have 3 very large areas of our yard that we’ve tilled truckloads of compost into over the years to go from clay to rich soil. This year we are adding seed starting to our budget.  We will spend very little for everything else.

6) Determine date for preparing garden.  This includes digging it up, checking the pH and amending the soil (compost, fertilizer), and taking care of any of the details from #3 that you can (ex. bury soaker hoses, dig in rabbit fencing, lay your border around the garden, setting up trellises, etc…).  Some things will have to wait until your plants are in the ground (ex. mulching, drip irrigation, staking, etc…).

You should now be ready to go shopping.  You have thought about your garden carefully and all it will require.  You have weighed the pros and cons of all aspects.  You will grow what your budget allows, even if it’s only an herb garden on your window sill this year.  Next year, you can expand upon what you already have.

That’s pretty much what I’ve been up to last month.  We dug our spring garden up, setup the trellises, and buried the soaker hoses.  I planted my sugar snap peas last weekend and will plant everything else this Saturday.  I’ve been stymied by thunderstorms for the past 2 weeks.  I can’t plant delicate lettuce seeds only to have them washed away during a storm.  It’s supposed to rain like the dickens for the next two days and we are cutting it close for a spring crop.  I’m starting our summer plants indoors this weekend, so at least we’ll have a bumper harvest mid-year.

Feels so good to get my feet dirty again!

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