Saturday, March 31, 2012

Plant Protection on the Cheap | Seedlings & Transplants

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves. 
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Greetings my fellow gardeners,

Spring is finally here and like many of you I yearn to experience all the wonder this season brings.  However, the weather here is still temperamental.  The lows in our area are ranging from the mid 20’s and the highs around the upper 40’s.  It is normal for this time of the year, but I’m already missing the warm spell we had earlier this month.

My babies (seedlings) are growing vigorously and are most anxious to go outside, but it’s not quite time yet. While planning for the hardening off schedule I was thinking about some ideas that I have used in the past for protecting and promoting the health of young transplants. Here they are:

Glass jars – Salvaged mid- to large-sized food jars are great makeshift cloches.  Generally, I remove the lids and labels and wash the jars with a mild bleach solution, rinse and dry.  Depending on the size of your transplant, place the jar over it and make sure no part of the plant is touching the jar.  Check the plant regularly.

Plastic bottles and milk jugs- I use the same process as with glass jars. After they have been cleaned, I then cut the bottoms off the jugs or two-liter bottles and gently place them over the transplants.  Again make sure no part of the plant is touching the plastic and monitor regularly.

Old sheer curtains – I typically use these for insect barriers because they keep bugs at bay while allowing plants to receive much-needed sunlight and moisture.  I purchase cheap sheers from thrift shops (during discount days, of course).

Old blankets – Who needs pricey burlap? These are great for protecting plants from frost.  I generally receive them from family and friends, but I also sew some from scraps of worn-out clothing.

I hope things are going well with your gardens.  Until next time, take care.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Garden Friend or Foe?

Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul.  ~Linda Solegato

Hello everyone.  I have been working really hard trying to clean and wake up my garden.  Recently we had a strong storm come through the area and I had enough debris to fill my large container twice and enough left over to make a large donation to my small compost pile.

We also had a little surprise left in our backyard courtesy of our local utility company (a small, invasive Tree-Of-Heaven).  We do not have any trees in our yard, but they were trimming trees in a neighbor’s yard and one fell over the fence onto our property.  This tree has been sitting in our backyard for a while despite numerous calls to have it removed.  The excuse I am given is, “we have to have our arborist look at the stump to see if we our crew cut it”.  Dude…seriously?  My husband is anxious to cut the tree but I am not happy out this.  Oh well, I will let it go and make the hubby happy.

During my outdoor excursion I was happy to see I have new volunteer plants out back in an area I rarely use.  I have a daffodil, coreopsis and a plant I can’t identify.  I am reluctant to remove it at this point so I will watch it until I can identify it.  My garden typically receives a few volunteer plants each year such as Johnny Jump Ups, tulips and red clover.  I typically relocate them to my garden (free plants).

Earlier this week on my way to work, I noticed a neighbor placing pallets out to the curb.  I was so excited to see them and circled around the block to have a little chat.  Of course, I simply had to ask him if he was throwing them out for garbage or utilizing the pallets for a project.   Thank goodness he stated the former and I asked him if I could have the pallets and explained my wish to have my hubby create a small potting station from the wood.  I offered him payment for the pallets (secretly hoping he wouldn’t accept it) and he stated he would give me 7 pallets and would drop them off at my home for $5.00. Yikes!!! I agreed and he dropped them off within the hour.  When completed I will post pictures.

Well, I have to run.  For anyone curious about the tree I mentioned, here's a link: 



Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Favorite Planting Methods

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation.  It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. 

~Karel ńĆapek, The Gardener's Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931

You sow them, you feed them, you entertain them, and you nurture and encourage them and you cry when they fall.  However, it is time to prepare the younglings to leave the safety and security of your home.  To whom am I referring to?  You guessed it, your new seedlings or as I call them, “the newbie’s”.
Hello gardening friends.  The weather is changing for the better here so I have begun the process of preparing the garden for planting.  In the past, I have used many methods for planting, but I would like to share the techniques I have been utilizing the past several years.

I have a very small section of the yard my hubby has permitted me for gardening in the backyard.  He refuses to let me dig up any more of his “perfect lawn”. I typically use my area for the Native American Three Sisters method (an explanation).  I create my mounds in the fall by placing fish at the base so it can fertilize my soil over the winter (the fish is donated to me by my neighbor).  To warm up my mounds, I will place a sturdy lawn bag on top for a week.  At the end of the week, I will remove the plastic and plant my seedlings (corn, squash and beans).  This method is my favorite and is extremely productive.  If you have the space, I highly recommend it.

I have used small row gardening as well for my cowpea crops (purple hull and black eyed peas) and okra.  I generally work in soil amendments and to get the soil warm for these heat lovers I placed black plastic (lawn bags) on top of the planting area for several weeks and after the duration, I burn holes in the plastic for the seeds.  I do not remove the plastic because it acts as a weed barrier and continues to provide warmth to the plants.  I am pleased with this method and my plants are generally very productive.
Right now, the majority of my plants are grown in containers.  I have a large concreted area (formally a garage) where I place the containers and the area receives about 90 % of sunlight.  I use all sorts of containers beginning with your basic terra cotta to unique items found in my home or a thrift store-if I can drill holes in the item, it will become a most welcomed addition to my garden.  Most of my newfound items I live natural but I also paint my containers with bright and beautiful pastels.  For the plants which need enormous amount of heat such as eggplants, I paint the containers black to preserve heat.  All vining plants I use various items for vertical trellising such as old branches, bamboo and untreated wooden stakes given to me as leftovers from a co worker. I received a gift of 10 five gallon grow bags from a friend recently, so I am going to try my hand at growing various potatoes this year such as:  Adirondack Red, sweet and fingerling potatoes.  Please wish me luck with this and if you have any advice, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading my posting.


P.S.  I have listed below a few helpful links regarding the Native American Three Sister Garden method and history.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More Ideas on Free and Low-Cost Compost

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Greeting fellow gardeners,

Due to high level of input about compost in my last posting, I thought I'd share a little more about obtaining it or materials to increase the amount of compost you generate. 

I realize that some of these suggestions imay sound strange, but can definitely pay off in the long run.

  • Check your local Freecycle board ( or Craigslist site ( and check for postings offering free or discounted compost.  If you can’t find any ads, create your own.  You can express your interest in obtaining compost or items to jump start your own compost system such as aged manure, leaves or other yard waste.
  • Speak with your friends, family and neighbors to express your interest in composting.  If they don’t have compost, see if they are willing to provide you with various materials to add to your existing pile.  In return, you can share the competed product with them as an incentive.
  • If your town does not offer a yard waste recycling program, advocate to see if you can help jump start a program.  Do a little research, for example: check with your local refuse companies and enquire about their disposal process.  Take a visit to your local landfill when they provide open houses to obtain information about waste processing.  You will have to be persistent.
  • Call around to local farms to see if you can obtain aged manure.  Some will give it to you for free or at a discounted rate.  Please inquire about their operations before hand.  Are they using antibiotics or other types of medications to treat their items?  What type of feed do they provide their animals?  They are valid questions so don’t be shy about asking.
  • Check with local coffee shops to see if they are willing to give you their coffee grounds for free.  I have noticed most shops are doing this now and some have special spots in their shops where they placed used bagged grounds for your convenience
Finally, here are a couple of resources for frugal types interested in building their own compost tumbler:

I hope you find these suggestions useful! :-)


Friday, March 2, 2012

A Few Words About Compost and Seeds

A garden was the primitive prison, till man with Promethean felicity and boldness, 
luckily sinned himself out of it.  ~Charles Lamb, 1830

Hello fellow thrifty gardeners. Recently, I took a work related field trip to our county’s newest recycling center and I just had to share my experience with my like minded, earthly friendly and frugal gardening acquaintances.

I have visited several landfills and other waste disposal centers in this state; however, I was truly impressed with this particular location. The center accepts all types of recyclable wastes such as standard household materials, electronics, hazardous chemicals, fluorescent bulbs, clothing, appliances, yard debris, etc. The building itself is cavernous, but extremely well maintained. 

But what really excited me was the large, free compost pile.  Yes, free compost my friends!  A frugal gardener’s favorite word. You simply have to provide proof of your county residency and bring your own containers and shovels and load the containers yourself.  Best of all, there is no limit to the amount you can take for residential purposes only.

In the future, I plan on creating my own homemade compost system when the hubby and I move to the countryside, but until then, I plan on utilizing this extremely valuable resource for potting, mulch and fertilizer in my garden this year. 

Please, check with your local county and townships to see if free compost, mulch or topsoil is available.  You will not regret it.

Taa….taa… for now.


P.S.  Attention Fellow Seed Collectors: Locally the home improvement stores, garden centers, and Dollar stores have begun to place garden seeds out on display.  Most have seeds selling from 10 to 50 cents a pack.  From experience I can tell you they sell very fast so you might want to take advantage of this right away.
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