Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

If you are financially struggling, or just wish to save a few dollars and yet still have seeds for a garden during your next trip to the local farm market or grocery store consider purchasing a few carrots to use to bring to seed for next years garden planting. Carrots are simple to grow and during their growth period product a rather pretty fern like plant to display in your yard or home.

To begin sprouting your own carrot tops, you simply need to cut off the tops, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch of flesh remaining.  Place the tops in shallow bowls filled with water.  Keep well watered and wait.  Before long they will begin sprouting little green “buds” which then proceed to leaf out.  At this stage you can transplant them into a pot filled with dampened garden soil.  Water well and secure in either a clear plastic bag secured with a rubber band to create a mini greenhouse, or place in a opaque Rubbermaid style tub with lid. The Rubbermaid tub makes it’s own nice little greenhouse effect.  Keep out of direct sunlight but be sure it achieves strong light.

If you wish to not be  bothered with the above greenhouse steps, you can plant directly into your garden or flower bed.

Let the plant grow, eventually flower heads will appear.  Once they die back and produce seeds, remove the flower and shake carefully over waxed paper or newspaper to catch all the tiny seeds.  Store seeds in air tight container or baggie.

There you have it, a way to try new carrot strains, increase your own seed supply, beautify your home or flower beds and put to use something which you would normally discard.

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Yep, I love worms..lots and lots of worms.  These beautiful and yet simple creatures are exceptionally skilled at turning my kitchen scraps into the most beautiful and rich gardening soil imaginable.  They ask for very little as well.  A box or pail to call home, little dirt , some newspaper to read and scraps to snack on.

There is a special name for those of us who “raise” worms, we’re called worm farmers. I like the sound of that.

Worm beds can be stored almost everywhere, inside in your kitchen, in basement, garage or outside.  They can be in a 5 gallon bucket, a storage bin, garbage can or something more elaborate more for your benefit then theirs.  They really are not very fussy creatures.

As my worms had already outgrown their first home, a large storage bin, today I pulled out a old plastic diaper pail from storage and started a second farm.  A five gallon bucket would work the same.  This is the method I used in creating my new starter worm home.

Take your bucket and drill holes around bottom for drainage holes.  Drill additional holes around the top of the bucket to allow air flow circulation. Inside the bucket you need to layer moistened shredded newspaper, yard waste and some soil in bucket.  Add your worms (red worms known as Trout worms, or earthworms work best for job.), and a handful of scraps. Mist with water once more and cover with lid.  Place on top of cinder blocks or wood scraps to allow the “liquid fertilizer” to drain and place a form of catch basin under to gather it.

Feed your worms weekly to start a handful of scraps which can include fruit, vegetables, tea bags (minus the staple), and coffee grounds.  Do NOT feed them onions, garlic or egg shells which all can be harmful to your worms. Be aware worms reproduce quickly so be prepared to offer food more frequently as they consume it.  Alter ends and sides you place food at to move your worms through their bed.

Water when it begins to dry out, I find this is usually twice two three times weekly.  Do not let temperatures get below 40 degrees in location worms kept, or above a hundred degrees in their tub.

One of the most rewarding things for myself is to share these lessons with my children.  To be able to show them, teach them, that humans and nature can work together to sustain each other.  That things do not need to come from stores, manufacturing plants, or labs and that some of the finest things can be created right at home with a little time and effort.  I hope, when my time here is up, they will carry on the knowledge for themselves and future generations.

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Did you know that rather then send the bottom of that onion to compost bin or garbage you can plant it and let it grow to seeds for next seasons garden?  As you bought the onions anyway, the seeds are a free bonus with purchase.  The type of onion doesn’t matter, this can be done with yellow, Spanish, white, reds, scallions or green onions.  This is the method I have used time and again to great results for maintaining a steady supply of onions in garden from home harvested seed.

The first step is removing the rooting base from your onion of choice.  It might already have roots visible such as one in picture, or it might merely have the clump where the roots form. Either is suitable.  Be sure to leave some flesh on the onion, you want approximately 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches of flesh remaining with the root bulb.

Second step, after cutting place onion to side, uncovered or contained for a few hours to a day to let some drying out of the flesh occur.

Third step,  fill your pot 3/4 full with good potting soil slightly moistened.  Insert your onion, root ball side down against the soil and gently twist back and forth to create a well for it to rest in.

Fourth step, cover with soil 1 to 2 inches deep over onion root ball.

Fifth step, water as needed and keep in well lit location.

Sixth step, be patient..it takes a couple weeks for the new roots to grow and set and a few more for new leaves to sprout. 

Seventh step,  Once leaves are visible remove new onion plant from starter pot and replant.  Either in a larger pot inside or directly into your garden.  The old onion will become “mushy” as it breaks down.  You can choose at this time to remove it or to allow it to stay.  I just let mine stay as it provides added nutrients as it breaks down.

And there you have it,  how to grow a new onion from a discarded onion base.   Once the onion stalk grows it will seek to flower and then seed.  These seeds can be gathered to use in your garden for next years harvest.

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Now, I know most of you know you can plant seeds and grow strawberries, or root cuttings to establish new plants…but did you know that you can actually grow strawberries by planting the actual berry?

If you have ever tried to plant strawberries from seeds, you know those little suckers are TINY!..yet the entire outside of the flesh of the fruit is dotted full of them and they are nicely held in place just waiting to germinate.  This is how wild strawberries repopulate as well, they don’t wait for someone to come and pick every single seed off the flesh for them.  This is also why at times, strawberries come up in unusual places where a bird ate the berry and..well…voided the seeds.

Ok, enough bird talk.  How you can grow your own strawberries using the fruit.  The first step is assuring the fruits you have are not sterile.  Some commercial strawberries are bred to be this way.  Annoying I know, and yet I imagine it’s how they keep others from replicating their particular brand.  One way to help overcome this is to look for a local farmers market or a pick your own and go gather some berries.  Now I am not saying you can’t use those out of the produce section at your local store, I have tried this just to see if they would grow and some did, but I personally recommend a pick your own or farmers market.  Not only do you assure good quality produce, but also you support the Mom and Pop growers.

A second thing you need to realize is this.  Some strains of strawberries have been …for lack of better term…mutated.  Through seed germination you do not guarantee your fruit will look exactly like that you purchased.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Often the resulting plant you manage to grow returns more to it’s ancestral nature, or what we consider a heirloom.

Now for my method.  Strawberry seeds need a period of cold before they will germinate.  Your refrigerator is ideal for this as we store them in refrigerator to keep them fresh.  So, without thinking, you already most likely have done this step of the process.

The second step is to assure your berries are ripe and ready.  Green, unripe, semi-ripe does not mean ready to seed.  In fact the best ones you can plant are those which are already on their way to the trash pile.  You are looking for overripe, these will be the ones you slice up for planting.  Some will argue with me and say you need to throw the berries in a blender with water first, drain off the water and any floating seeds and use only the sinkers.  I find this step unnecessary and prefer just to use the slicing method.  The rotting flesh becomes part of the compost and benefits the growing seedlings.

Third step, remove over helpful cat from table and catch daughter about to tumble off the chair beside you…oh wait, that’s just in my house.  Third step!  Prepare the soil mixture.  Any seed starter soil will work fine for this.

Fill the cups 3/4 full, leaving a finger size indent in center to place your berries in.  You want them near surface and just covered with a layer when finished.

Place your berries and remove cat off table again.  Then cover berries with the top layering of soil.  Don’t be afraid to “smush” some up to fit, this won’t hurt them at all.

And, there you have it…and yes, that is the ever so helpful cat coming to offer assistance once more.

As a final note, be prepared for some seeds to just not grow. This is just the nature of the beast.

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So I mentioned I had some beautiful blue hydrangea’s which bloomed this fall for me from cuttings, now the second batch of transplants I did are offering me a beautiful showing of purple flowers.  I’m still not holding my breath that they won’t end up going pink in the future like the mother bushes did, but I’m hoping I have the right soil mix now to keep them these beautiful shades.

If you are lucky enough to have your own hydrangea’s, or can get cuttings from friends they are fairly easy to propagate yourself.   My prefered method is to take a branch during the plants active growing season, and bend it down so it makes contact with the soil.  I then put a plank or rock on top to hold it in place and wait.  This is the same method used to propogate roses.  Once the roots have set the new plant can be cut away from the Mother and transplanted.

Another method that I have used in past when it comes to cuttings, is to cut a branch from the Mother plant just slightly below the leaf nodes.  Strip off the bottom sets of leaves leaving only a few leaves at the top of the cutting.  Dip the bottom of the cutting into rooting hormone and poke it in moistened soil.  Cover with a plastic bag and mist well.  These cuttings take six to eight weeks to root and you will be able to tell when roots set by the new growth forming.

One thing I have determined about Hydrangea’s is that they are indeed a “Horse of Many Colors” flower.  Just because the mother is one color, does not mean the offspring’s will carry it over.  Soil, even just moderate alterations in acid, texture and such can produce entirely different color flowers depending on where in the yard planted.  Perhaps that is why I adore these beautiful blooms so.

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Freesia’s and Day Lilies are sprouting. Neither had come up this summer as I had expected, but first true cooler weather and rain burst brought them to life.

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I decided it was time to propagate my blue hydrangea bush again.  I’ve had little luck in past with it holding the blue coloration, usually turning pink with the soil.  The drought didn’t help, and I was certain I would not be able to keep these cuttings alive long enough to see blooms.  Normally I would have put them directly in ground, but really wanting to avoid scorched and brown foliage I opted for trying planters instead.

The hydrangea’s shocked me and not only survived, but bloomed in the most beautiful blue hue.  I’ve not had them bloom in October before but I am so glad they did. What a fitting farewell to Summer. Now….just to keep them alive in the frosts of winter.

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Looks like something from a crime scene doesn’t it? Trust me it isn’t.  One of my white shirts had a very bad stain on it, as it no longer fit me but the material was still good I figured I would dye it to use the cloth to make another project.  As I was canning beets at the time and had plenty of left over beet parts and juice remaining I figured it would be as good a dye as any for the occasion.

There are so many items nature provides us with to dye cloth, yarn and wool into amazing colors.  With very little work, one can gain wonderful results, though granted they are not as broad ranging as synthetic dyes.

To use natures dyes for dying your cloth or yarn you will need to take a few steps to assure the colors stay.  Salt and Vinegar are your best friends for this.  For berries you will need 1/2 cup of salt per 8 cups of water….for plants its 4 parts of water to 1 part of vinegar.  Add fabric to these fixatives and simmer for an hour. Rinse materials and squeeze out excess water.  The fabric then is ready for the dye process.  Place the wet fabric in your dye bath and simmer until you get the desired color you wish.  The color of the fabric will naturally be lighter once it’s dry.

Shades of Orange: Alder Bark, Sassafras leaves, Onion skin, Carrots, Lilac (twigs), Giant Coreopsis, Tumeric, Pomagrante, Butternut (Seeds).

Shades of Brown: Oak Bark, Sumac (leaves), Dandelion (roots), Walnut (hulls), Tea bags, White birch (inner bark), Juniper berries, Fennel (leaves and flowers), Coffee grinds, Acorns (boiled), Hollyhock (petals), Colorado fir (bark), Pine Tree (Bark), White Maple (bark), Birch (bark), Coneflower (flowers), Goldenrod (shoots).

Shades of Pink:  Strawberries, Cherries, Raspberries, Roses, Lavender, Lichens.

Shades of Blue:  Dogwood (bark), Red cabbage, Mulberries, Elderberries, Grapes, Blueberries, Cornflower (petals), Cherry (roots), Blackberry (fruits), Hyacinth (flowers), Red Cedar (roots), raspberries, Red Maple Tree (inner bark), Dogwood (fruit), Sweetgum (bark), Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Iris.

Shades of Red:  Elderberries, Sumac (Fruit), Sycamore (bark), Dandelion (roots), Beets, Bamboo, Crab Apple (bark), Rose (hips), Chokecherries, Hibiscus flowers (dried), Canadian Hemlock (bark), Japanese yew (heartwood), Wild Ripe Blackberries.

Shades of Grey-Black:  Iris (roots), Sumac (leaves), Sawthorn Oak (seed cups), Walnut (hull).

Shades of Red-Purple:  Daylilies (old blooms), Safflower (flowers, soaked in alcohol), Huckleberry, Basil.

Shades of Green:  Artichokes, Spinach, Sorrel (roots), Foxglove (flowers), Lilac (flowers), Snapdragon (flowers), Black-eyed Susan’s, Grass, Red Pine (needles), Lily-of-the-valley, red onion (skin), Yarrow (flowers), Peach (leaves), Peppermint (leaves), Hydrangea (flowers), Chamomile (leaves).

Shades of Peach/Salmon:  Virginia Creeper (all parts), Plum Tree (roots), Weeping Willow (wood and bark).

Shades of Yellow:  Bay leaves, barberry (bark), Crocus, Safflower (flowers), Sassafras (bark), Red clover (blossoms, leaves, stem), Yellow Corn Flower, Onion (skins), Alfalfa (seeds), Marigold (blossoms), Willow (leaves), Celery (leaves), Golden Rod (Flowers), Dandelion (flowers), Daffodil (flowers), Hickory (leaves), Paprika, Peach (leaves), Tumeric (Spice), Sunflowers (flower), Tansy (tops),

Enjoy the colors of fall leaves? Any of the fall leaves will yield a color similar to their fall colors.

I know we all are accustom to the colors we see in stores, but sometimes it is pleasant to step outside the synthetic color wheel and enjoy what is right outside our doors.

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I couldn’t help but stop and ponder today as I was walking through the grocery store about recycling, note I’m all for recycling and do so myself, but this little bottle made me stop and think.  The bottle is made of 30% plant based sugar or sugarcane ethanol to be exact.  It therefore is capable of being recycled and thus reducing the carbon footprint.  It sounds great, wonderful in fact and at one time I might have jumped to buy it…but now.  My first thought involved that I can my own ketchup.  In this the only -waste- that results for a landfill is sometimes a canning lid.  Note I did say sometimes, those lids also have amazing other uses when removed from canning jars.  They hang in my bushes and fruit trees to ward off pests, in garden also.  I’ve painted them, decorated them and hung them in Christmas trees as decorations.  They have become bases for quilted drink coasters.

My second thought involved the actual process of canning the tomatoes.  The water I use to blanch the tomatoes to get skin off becomes water and nutrient for my garden.  The skins and seeds if I don’t use them to make tomato powder are fed to chickens which in turn produce eggs or meat. Even if they did not eat it, wildlife would which includes not only furry creatures , turtles, toads and lizards but also useful and necessary insects.

I then moved on to the plant and growth of them myself.  The flowers produce pollen for the bees which then provide us with honey.  The plants at end of harvest get turned into compost and returned as more fertile soil the next year.  Worms thrive on them and in this soil . They benefit the ecosystem rather then destroy it.

Now other then the factories needed to go through the process of returning these bottles into something capable of being recycled, not to mention the fact that few places truly do recycle and if you are lucky your higher priced recycling pickup doesn’t go to a dump anyways. Some of us, okay many of us throughout the United States do not hold the luxury of having recycling pickup.  We then have to drive to a location to drop off our recycled goods, this uses gas and creates our own carbon footprint from that trip. Some of these locations are not anywhere near where we live so it becomes quite a trip. I honestly have no idea how much waste is produced from the factories that are reprocessing these items back into a form to be reused.  I can only wonder if they are really doing good or if they are just creating another mess in the toxic soup situation.

So, with all this thinking I came to a conclusion.  They can keep their bottle and I will keep my “waste” to a single ring of metal and the rare cracked glass jar.

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This week my son had a very busy day working on his science project.  My daughter had a very rough time not being able to do the “big kid” stuff too and kept interrupting him.  It was obvious some running interference between the two was needed before it came to blows. Thankfully my “Rainy Day” box had just the answer.  Last fall I had stopped at a local yard sale and lucked upon a bin of sun-catcher kits thirteen in total for $1.00 a piece.  I of course snatched them up.  Walmart, Kmart, Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and many other places sell these kits for about $6.00 a piece, I supplied a link to JoAnne’s HERE.

The project is very simple, but it keeps children entertained for a few hours making it.  First let them paint the sun-catchers as they desire. I literally threw away the “paint by number” and let her use her own creativity.  Set them aside and let them dry while making the circle top.  Mine as you can see is not fancy, it is a ring cut out of a used milk carton, good way to recycle a bit.  I imagine I could have had her paint it, or wrap it with some scrap fabric to make it fancier, oh well, next time.

To the ring I punched four holes at the top, one on each “side” to which the hanging wires would be attached to.  I then punched eight more holes along the bottom around the circle.  I didn’t bother to measure or do anything fancy, more just eyeing it.  Once the holes were punched. I went ahead and added the string that it would be tied up with.  For this I wanted something that could sustain weather, I chose a fishing line, but the beading line would work well also. Cutting four 15″ lengths of line I fed it into the top four holes and knotted it securely. I also glued it to be sure it held.  I left the strings untied at top as I would be tying it directly to the branch.

I used the same process to attach the ornaments.  Pull the string through each ornament and knot it securely, then pull and knot it onto the ring.  Continue until all the sun catchers are hanging.

Now comes the most exciting part, with your child leading way.  Take the new sun-catcher windchime outside to the tree and hang it securely from a branch.  I love the soft “tink” sound the chimes make at the slightest of winds and the colors with the morning and evening sun shining through are beautiful.  Although, I think the most important part of it all, is the memories the sounds and colors provide of a little girls “rainy day” project.

On another note, my son was outside in the yard the other day looking for bugs to photograph when he happened upon this little cutie.  A small leopard frog had taken up home in one of my water garden beds.  I’m sure there is a more proper name then “bed” for these little ponds, but I don’t have one.  I’m fairly certain my water garden is about as untraditional as you can get.  There are no fancy fountains or preformed ponds, rather there are several flipped over plastic trash can lids set down into small recesses to make them ground level.  A few chipped pottery pieces also adorn out there of various depths and there is a larger heavy plastic “cooler” bucket for the deepest water source.

To help with the transition and more “natural” look, I added peat to the bottoms, through time the trees have added to that.  Some rocks and old logs rings cut off downed trees are used to make levels for smaller creatures, like the frog, to perch on or get out.  Also for birds to stand on to take drinks.  If you are concerned about mosquitoes in the stagnant water, mosquito fish are wonderful and can be obtained free from your local vector control office.  To help protect these air breathing fish from predators placing rocks allows them places to hide near, duckweed, algae, leaves and other sticks and branches make excellent protection areas.

So, the next time you dream of a water garden, or want ways to bring turtles, toads, frogs, snakes, and other wildlife into your yard and garden. Think out of the box, you will be amazed at the items you have laying around which will work perfectly.  As they say, if you build it, they will come.

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