Sep 082018
 

The raised box for my strawberries is precisely that –  a raised box.  I made it out of a free pallet this past spring.  It was my first pallet project and not the prettiest of things.  The strawberries do not seem to mind, though, as they are setting runners left, right, and over the edge.

Per plant the 6 All Star plants, my June bearing plants, are setting a lot more runners than the 2 Eversweet plants, my everbearing ones.  Out of the 8 mother plants there are currently 10 babies trying to set root with more still growing.


With the hope to disturb the babies the least when I move them to a yet-to-be-built box, I used what I had to create pots inside the current bed for them to (hopefully) root in.  With a lack of small pots around, I turned to my pantry for a solution.  Disposable cups it was.

After making a drainage hole in the bottom, I labeled each as to the kind of plant it was – Eversweet or All Star.

I then used what I had on hand for a filler – wood chips.  It would be preferable to put potting soil in there, which I will do at a future date.  For now I wanted to get it started and at least the framework in place.

The pots cups were then placed into the existing bed in appropriately the location the runners fell naturally.  By cup number 10 it was starting to get crowded in there.

For the rest of this season and next I will pinch off runners from these plants so they can focus on growth rather than reproducing.

 

Aug 072018
 

This post may contain affiliate links.
This morning found us having a wonderfully yummy “Not-Back-To-School” breakfast.  That is right. While all the neighborhood kids were already at school my kids, both of them, were just waking up.  They were not tardy or skipping the first day.  Our first day is not for two weeks.  And that is a cause for celebration at the moment.

After much aggravation this past year, I knew something had to change.  Among other things is the schooling of George.  No worries, he will still be learning.  Only this time it is at home. With no homework all evening. With no early morning bus rides. With no wasted busy work during the day.

Well, that last one depends on what you call ‘wasted busy work’.  There is a lot of things he finds himself doing which I do not necessarily consider productive, but it is not ‘work’ to keep him busy while everyone else is doing something.

His schooling this year will look similar to Jack’s but with a few key differences.  For one, he is getting tutored in math outside of home two days a week.  A wonderful friend has tutored in math for years and already had another kid George’s age who was needing help this year.  By placing them both together there is now a ‘class’ of two plus the teacher.  You can’t get much more individualized than that.

With an added kid but no particular time I have to be home to meet a bus, we are able to stay for all of our play/nature groups, add in an outside class or two, and have an added voice when we talk about books we have been reading.

It also means more organization on my part.  And that, Dear Readers, is what I have been trying to work on these past few weeks.  Currently it looks more of a mess than organized, though it is getting there.  I have sold several things, recycled others, shredded papers to make a mulch for the garden, pulled up dead plants and replanted random seeds from almost empty packets, begun laying down cardboard in order to create a bed along the back fence for trees, added hooks in the attic to hang a quilt frame for storage, and rearranged the attic (still in progress) so the less needed items are no longer right by the door.

Okay, I may have also binge watched all the episodes of a vlog on YouTube. Motivation comes in many forms.

There has also been a lot of thought to my goals for this year.  While they are under the umbrella of our overall education goals, each kid has different needs.  This has helped guide me in decisions about possible activities, curriculum, planners, orders of the days, etc.  There is more to go, but any little step is closer than I was before.

Little steps seems to be the theme for me this summer.  I have accomplished several things, though all have been in little steps.  The new bed along the back fence is a great example of this concept.  First, I considered my goal – block out some of the view of the neighbor’s house.  Then I set about going through different ideas.  Next I did some research, then decided upon specifics.  After that came the first plant, then the marking for 3 more yet-to-be-purchased tress.  Once those were marked I began laying down cardboard as an initial layer for a planting bed.

Layers of cardboard are good for killing grass, keeping moisture in, and decomposing after some time.  Finding someone getting rid of their moving boxes helped the progress of this step immensely.  While doing all this, I also have been earning Swagbucks to use toward purchasing landscaping and concrete blocks to edge in this bed.

Later this week I will begin adding wood chips.  I had delayed this step as I did not want to spend $$$ at the store to purchase bagged mulch.  A search on one of the local For Sale groups returned a result for free wood chips.  Perfect.  Now to haul them to my house a bit at a time every week as I am in that part of town.

It’s that time of the year again! Swagbucks is holding a Back to School Team Challenge to help you earn free gift cards! For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web!

If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes and earn points towards free gift cards and PayPal cash! The challenge runs from Monday, August 6th to Friday, August 10th

Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:  
1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team.

2. In addition to earning SB, you’ll contribute to your team’s total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.
3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.
All members who participate and contribute at least 600 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Shop Bonus on their next gift card!
Not only that, but if you sign up under me this month and earn 300 SB before September 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 100 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate!

Jun 172018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Earlier this year I was looking at rain barrels to add to the garden. I was not sure what else I wanted to add to the garden, but I knew my main garden planning goal is to set up a good framework for the future. Rain barrels fit into this overarching criteria, we needed them to help balance out the moisture of the soils.

The first rain barrel was added a few months back.  The puddle surrounding the back patio after each rainfall disappeared.  It worked so well I began to consider where I wanted to place my next one.

Before I got to that stage, though, I added a raised bed to the yard as well as a fig tree.  Our first fruit tree!

While adding rain barrels never left my thoughts, it was not the immediate thing I was working on.  Summer is not really our wet season, so I knew I could focus elsewhere for a while before we really needed them.  What I needed to be focusing on was adding a planting bed along the back fence.  The plan is to add more trees and other plants to it come fall/late winter.

The soil here is not exactly nutrient rich…unless you count clay and more clay as a nutrient.  If I want to give the new plants a leg up on growing, I need to begin amending the soil with compost, mulches, and other detritus. Not only will this give them the nutrients they need but help hold in the moisture.

In order to begin amending the soil I need create an edge barrier to do so.  Taking a page from the new flower bed, I decided to use concrete blocks along the back and edging stones along the front.  This will serve a few purposes:

  1. saves on cost
  2. allows me to plant along the fence, inside the holes in the blocks, thereby saving room horizontally
  3. hopefully makes it harder for the rabbits to come in under the fence

This will be done in stages.  First, I am going to block in the areas I want to put the trees.  I will add cardboard and other items inside these blocks, beginning at the most important parts of the planned bed.  Second, I will begin to expand this areas until they connect, adding cardboard (weed barrier) and other compost items as I go along. I am hoping in this way not to overwhelm myself with the project, nor have a lot of out-of-pocket at one time.

Knowing the trees I want to plant, as well as the area I have to work with (there is a shallow drainage ditch between our fence and our backyard neighbors), I am planning to make the bed rather narrow.  At 2′-3′ wide I think there will be enough room for the trees, all of which have a mature crown diameter of about 10′.

So far I have purchased enough concrete blocks to mark where I want to plant three of the trees.  There were purchased from a home improvement store with a $25 gift card I earned on Swagbucks.  By earning a gift card earned each month I will have all the materials I need in a few months time with minimal out of pocket.  If I am able to take advantage of deals or discounts, it will happen even quicker.

All throughout June you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before July 1st, 2018. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!

I have also been adding to the compost bin and gathering used coffee grounds from local coffee shops.  This is a bit harder to do here than in Small Town as they do not save them automatically here.  I have to call, ask, and stop in that day or soon thereafter.  My best source so far as been the coffee shop inside the local grocery store.  Who knew so many people got their morning coffee from there?!

With some other, larger, more expensive things we are looking to accomplish this year, I am glad to have a way to save some money on gardening.

What are some of your favorite ways to spend money on gardening?

Jun 042018
 

A small space in your yard, either between buildings or along a border, can become a source of complaining if it requires maintenance yet does not seem to offer any benefit.  Such a space exists between our yard and our neighbor’s.  For the both of us this space is a dead-end, leading only to the backyard fence but no gate.  Neither of us have a door exiting the house at this point, nor a walk way.  While it holds utilities for the both of us, it is mainly a strip of usually forgotten grass which needs to be mowed.

When considering the garden as a whole this past winter, I realized I would rather transition this area into a large flower bed to attract butterflies and bees.  I also knew that it would be a big undertaking if I did it all at once.  Instead, I plan to take it on in stages, increasing it over time and as I have spare flower seeds to plant.

Limitations and Challenges

On our side it is about 7 feet wide, on a slight slope, gets partial light, and contains some utility ROWs (right-of-ways).  It is protected from rain by our house on one side and their house on the other, again about 7 feet further.  However, the bottom of the slight slope drains the backyard and a downspout from the corner of our house.  The result is a vast difference in moisture from the edge next to our house and the edge next to the neighbor’s yard.

These challenges actually created opportunities.  Flowers which grow in dry areas would do well next to the house, while those who can handle moisture or non-regular wetness would do very well further away.  I now was able to plant a larger variety of flowers by noticing the micro-environments happening in this area.

Beginnings

The progress of this bed did not happen over a weekend, but slowly over the past few months.  This has allowed it to grow organically rather than planned out to the detail.

{March}

Internal conversations as of late have tended along this line:

  • It is getting warmer outside.  I really need to get a move on with building some raised beds and lasagna gardens (for flowers).
  • Oh, it is cold again.  I must have been jumping the gun.  Good thing I did not plant anything.
  • Well, rain today.  Can’t do much work outside right now.
  • Warm…again. Yeah, I really should have gotten something built for outside.  I’ll do that tomorrow…
  • ::siren:: I doubt anyone would judge me too much for not improving the yard in some way while the tornado sirens are going off.
  • Oh, my, it is cold!  I think I will focus on an indoor task today.
  • …okay, so is it warm, or cold?  Warm, let’s go outside …(few hours later) my goodness, it is getting colder as the day goes on.

At first, I let this dictate as to whether I should start garden projects outside.  However, after a few back-and-forth’s I realized that if I waited till it was “perfect” I would miss the window.  Right now, something is better than nothing.

I grabbed some old packing boxes, box of shredded paper, shovel, kids’ wagon (filled with unfinished compost from compost tumbler), and headed outside.  Layering the items I began a lasagna garden.  While it is smaller than I would like, I remember that smaller can be better.  This is especially true when trying to do multiple things at once. Right now, something is better than nothing.

{April}

With a garden bed already begun, I realized I needed something for edging if I was to help keep out grass and hold the bedding in place.  A quick rough measurement of the area allowed me to pick up some bricks from the local home improvement store.  Jack was less than thrilled with this trip, though I think it had to do more with shopping in the rain than it did with the act of shopping itself.  Personally, I figured we would dry off and there could be worse things to do than shopping for garden supplies in the rain.

The total for the edging quickly added up, so I adjusted my expectations to have a shorter bed than I desired.

Once home I placed the bricks around the bed.  They reached 75% of the way around, but it was good enough for now.  The side which was not covered was against the house and a bit of the fence.

I found some more paper to shred and emptied the compost tumbler, again, to find more material to put on top of the cardboard.  We had received a shipment of cold items in the mail, the insulation of which was shredded cotton (jeans?).  This was added to the materials and has worked well at keeping the grass out.

After everything was dumped in the bed I covered it with a partial bag of peat moss I had in the garage.  While it is a light material it will mix well with the future organic material.

{May}

As seeds were bought or found I added them to the bed.

  • Daffodils from a science experiment found their home here, as did a few older daffodil bulbs from a long while back which never got planted.
  • Hollyhocks, a flower I always wanted to have in my garden, were planted in the spaces in the concrete blocks along the fence.  These should form a nice tall, colorful backdrop for the rest of the garden.  Not only will they help hid the fence, but they will attract insects as well.
  • Butterfly Weed and Chamomile seeds were spread around, as well as a few purple cone flowers.

I am starting to see several of these sprout, though I was not expecting much out of them as I planted them on my time schedule, rather than at their optimum time.

A watering dish was also created and installed in the bed.  One thing I have learned since installing this is that the water evaporates out of it at a quicker rate than I thought it would.  If we experience a few sunny days in a row I need to add water to it myself.  This is due to its shallow nature which appeals to butterflies and other insects.

What you can not tell well from the picture is the slope on which this bed is situated.  The far right block, along the front edge, and the far left top block are almost equal in height.

May 072018
 

There is a lot of “new” happening over here this growing season – new zone, new yard, new routines, new plant selections, new places to shop…you get the idea.  Among all the newness there are still some constants which help it all flow smoother.

One of the things I have learn while gardening in various ways over the years is that raised beds are my friends.  I do not need a tiller to break up the soil each year, weeds are greatly reduced, and I can grow more in a small space than I could traditionally.

From past experience I knew that an 8 foot by 4 foot bed would be a great place to start.  Large enough to plant several things, but not too big to become overwhelming.  Having paid attention to the sunlight over the past year, I knew where in the yard would get full sun through all seasons, and which areas were in full or partial shade from late fall through late spring.  As none of our neighbors have backyard trees to create shade, that was not something I had to contend with.

A few other factors to take into account when deciding on placement were: location to a watering source, distance from fire ring, discharge from rain gutters, and allowing room for the kids to play.  I did not want to be carrying heavy buckets of water across the yard all summer or trying to wrangle several lengths of garden hose.  I also needed it to be far enough away from our fire ring to not interfere if we happen to be outside after dark.  The rain gutters discharge a lot of water during a rain event, even a small one.  If the garden was too close the soil would be eroded away.

After settling on where to place the garden bed and carrying the materials to that spot I actually had to move the location over a foot or two.  Why?  The yard had a slight slope around the edges to it to aide in storm-water run off.  What is normally a good thing (good drainage) becomes a not so ideal situation when you are trying to build a level raised bed.  Moving the bed over meant it would be level, thereby saving me the effort of having to dig it down on one side or raise it up on the other.

My previous garden beds were made out of wood planks screwed together to create squares or rectangles.  While this method was more economical it meant more time in constructing the beds, as well as painting or staining the boards to ensure a longer life.  It also made it a lot more difficult to extend the beds as my gardening adventures grew.

I liked the look of raised beds made of decorative stones, but the budget would not permit it at this time.  I also felt like that beds were more permanent in nature.  At this time I was not ready to commit to a location long term.

Concrete blocks were more economical than decorative border stones, flexible enough to change or move if desired, did not require constructing a frame, and allowed me the option to plant in the open spots of the blocks.  While I did not prefer the look of the blocks, the other factors won out.

In two days time I had a bed created in my back yard.  A few days later it was planted and seems to be doing well.  After two years of not having a vegetable garden, it is nice to be able to look forward to produce from one’s own backyard.

Something to keep in mind when planning on using concrete blocks is their weight.  Not only the weight of the finished product, but also the weight in your transportation of choice.  I was able to fit 27 blocks in my car without overloading it.  20 of the blocks were for the raised bed, one block high.  7 of the blocks were being used in a flower bed located in a different part of the yard.

At the time of picking up the blocks I also grabbed a bag of peat moss, two bags of top soil, and a bag of perlite (meant to get vermiculite but didn’t want to make an extra trip to exchange bags). A 50 lb bag of manure, 4 more bags of top soil, and 2 large bags of compost were added to it later.  As I replant and fertilize more dirt will be added.  I will also need to pick up a few bags to finish filling in the open holes of the blocks around the border.

Once home I gathered up cardboard boxes which had been accumulating in our garage.  These I laid out in a rough rectangle shape.  Where possible I created multiple layers of cardboard, which will kill the grass underneath before breaking down in the soil.

After the first corner was located where I wanted it, I began the place the blocks in a line, measuring from the privacy fence to double check its alignment.  Due to the size of the blocks the planting area was not exactly 8 feet by 4 feet, but it is really close.  Add in the extra planting squares and I am happy with the result.

After the blocks were squared up as much as possible, the bags of peat moss, soil, and compost were added and mixed in place.  This may not be the “correct” way to do it, but without a wheel barrel it was an acceptable alternative.  It also created less work than mixing the ingredients on a tarp before adding to the bed.

The soil was watered, allowing me to check for levelness of the new soils and to help the contents settle before planting.

The bed is now ready to be planted!

 

Apr 262017
 

lion flower planter collage

As I begin to tackle the blank canvas called our new back yard, this is one aspect I was keenly aware of.  Seeing this post which I had previously shared, reminded me of some key elements to consider.

Our yard is surrounded by two story homes with NO privacy between them currently.  There is no need for boring sight blocking plantings, they can be colorful and interesting with a bit of planning.  This might also solve the problem of planting next to fences – raise the plants above the shade cast by a corner fence.

The planter above is one I came across while on a walk one afternoon.  The planter is actually so tall, I had to told my arms all the way up to get the picture on the right.  I did not even know which flowers were in it till I lowered my camera to look.

“Why would they put these up so high?!  No one can even see the flowers to appreciate them.”

After giving this some though I realized that I was not the audience the gardeners were going for.  Surrounding this spot are tall buildings.  From their vantage point, the planters are spots of bright colors on the green canvas.

The same thought can, and should, go into plantings you do at home or office.

  • Who is going to be seeing the plants?
  • From where will they be looking?
  • Will they be moving or standing relatively still?
  • Where is the light coming from?

The planter above is surrounded by bushes.  If the gardeners had put it at ground level, it would have been hard to see.  Placed above the bushes it is hard to miss.

  • Are there other planting nearby to interfere with the line of sight needed?  Or which could visually drowned out the planting?

Even though I could not see the flowers, the planter itself caught my attention.  Such a bold piece screams to be looked at.

  • How will your planter play into your design?  Will it blend in or be a focal point of its own?

After taking time to think about this design in the landscape, I appreciate it even more than I did before.  Sometimes you need to think outside (or above in this case) the box when looking to add to your garden.

Have you done something particular, such as placing a planter in a non-traditional spot, in your garden?  Why did you make the final decision?  How have other’s perceived it?

 

Mar 142017
 

This post from a few years ago came up in a search I did recently.  Reading through it, I was reminded of how our gardening can start off with great intentions, but time can make us forget the blessings and larger purpose it may serve.  

Botanical Garden Fountain
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

 

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

 

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

your  husband will appreciate your gardening efforts if you include items and varieties he likes.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

playing in the dirt is actually called “working”.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

it is okay to not grow everything. instead go to the produce auction or farmer’s market if there are things you want but can’t grow due to time or space.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
you don’t have to do it all yourself, hire help as needed. different stages in life call for different things.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

gardening … need I say more?

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

pulling weeds … and weeds … there are more? Didn’t I just pull those?!? (not such an issue with raised beds, but we did have to haul in dirt and build the boxes)

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

endless nights of canning, because you still have so much yet to do.  meanwhile, the next crop is ripe and ready to be put up.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

have you ever “blessed” someone with a random bag of zucchini?

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

all the canning and preserving serves a valuable purpose during the colder months. (or when a new child in the home meant not being able to shop as much for two months, those stores were very much a blessing.)

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

when not in the garden, you are allowed to do non-gardening related crafts.  even better if it is something useful.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

our gardening habits will also reflect upon the rest of our household.  let it be a good reflection upon them.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

otherwise known as running a produce stand, listing extras on Craigslist, trading for other items or services, selling at a local store, etc.  

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

all that planning means rejoicing when the first vegetable or bloom appears in the garden.  it wasn’t all for naught.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

learn from those who have done it for more seasons than you, and share kindly with the new gardener just starting out.  you were there once too.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

while it would be great to sit and watch the flowers and birds (or hang out on the favorite social media site), we can’t do that all day.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

gardening should not make you grumpy, short tempered, annoyed, or isolated.  instead it should add happiness to your home. if it doesn’t, then you need to sit down and redo you gardening plan.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

your house may be perfect; your garden beds weed free, organic and trimmed; and you may even be one of those gardeners who can work outside for an hour in the humidity without a hair coming out of place or breaking a nail.  If your heart is not in the right place, though, it doesn’t mean a thing.  

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

enjoy what you have worked to make happen.  now would be the time to get that cup of tea (or peppermint cappuccino) and enjoy the flowers and birds, knowing that you have worked hard and blessed others … till it is time to go weed again or put the next load of jars in the canner.

PROVERBS 31: 10-31 (KJV)

Vase of roses in window

Bible passage taken from KingJamesBibleOnline

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Mar 122017
 

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you click on them and purchase something I will receive a small portion, at no extra charge to you.  Thank you for helping support this blog.

Living in Reality with smokey border

(click here for Part 1 or Part 2)

Looking back at the list, waaay back at the start, you will notice I did not disregard everything on my “this is what life should look like right now” list.  There are still thing I can do where I am and with the reality I have in front of me right now.

can work on growing in knowledge.

can work gardening in the space I have been blessed with.

can have bees in an urban setting.

can do things on a smaller scale to help reduce energy usage, water waste/runoff, improve the soils, and teach my kids about nature.

can use solar power in various smaller settings.

can go for walks in the neighborhood.

can send my kids outside to play.

can take the kids to the local mountain/nature preserve/park/wetlands to see and experience wildlife without being surrounded by buildings.

can still recycle, reduce, and reuse. Or as my grandparents would say, “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

dad child walking by spring river

Once I got past what I could not do, i.e. stopped whining to myself, I began focusing on what was at the core of my desires and how it could be implemented where we actually were. I began to feel less confined by my circumstances and more free to find solutions.

I also have to realized that some of my life’s dreams have been fulfilled, just not all of them right now.  There are also many years ahead, God willing, to explore those ideas.

When I mentioned to George, who was watching the movie ‘Alaska‘, that I used to want to be a bush pilot, he looked at me with a serious expression and asked, “Why didn’t you?”  It was a great opportunity to point out to him that life only contains so much time.

“If I had pursued that desire, I would have had to give up so many others.  While it would have been fun, it was not what I was meant to do.”

And that, my friends, is when I realized all my contemplating and searching had finally come full circle and I was ready to move forward once again.

Mar 032017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Growing Through Reading

The coffee is already made, Jack is still asleep, George is off to school … sounds like the perfect time to catch up on some reading.  Sounds like the perfect time, but it is not.  Alas, we have an appointment over the lunch hour, so must spend time on other activities this morning.

Jack tried to convince me, yesterday, this meant we had no time for school today.  He tried. And failed.  Much to his disappointment.  “This is one benefit of home schooling, Jack.  We can make it work with whatever our day brings.”

I highly doubt he sees this as very  high on his list of reasons he likes being schooled at home.

Before I had a Kindle I was able to read ebooks on my computer.  If you are wanting to do the same, go here to download the free application.

After spending years gardening in various ways, assuming I knew it all, I have come to realized the error of my ways.  I have wasted money and time trying to recreate the wheel.  Yes, the lessons stuck, but so does the memory of frustration and disappointment when things were not working.

Spending a few hours reading about other’s experiences gardening, their lessons learned, both good and bad, can pay off in big ways.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here are three books, all with high ranking reviews, which seems to fit the motto – “learn from those who have gone before you.”

Compact Farms: 15 Proven Plans for Market Farms on 5 Acres or Less; Includes Detailed Farm Layouts for Productivity and Efficiency has 4.3 stars and is currently a #1 Best Seller.  The reviews, both in print versions and ebook versions, mention the great photos and plans laid out in the book.

“Small is beautiful, and these 15 real farm plans show that small-scale farmers can have big-time success. Compact Farms is an illustrated guide for anyone dreaming of starting, expanding, or perfecting a profitable farming enterprise on five acres or less.”

Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method – All-New Information On: Urban & Small Spaces, Organics, Saving Water – Make Your Own Bales With or Without Straw has 710 reviews and rated at 4.7 stars.  I have not personally gardened this way, but have seen a good friend of mine use this method with success.  

I can see where this method would be useful in overcoming various challenges – slugs, wet areas, limited water supply, poor soils, etc.  It is one method of gardening I plan to research more and possibly may utilize this year.

Though it says it is for “tight urban settings” at least one reviewer used it on a larger rural garden where the soils were extremely poor, and reaped great results.

“Straw Bale Gardens Complete contains all of the original information that has set the gardening world on fire. But it also goes much deeper, with nearly 50 pages of all-new advice and photos on subjects such as growing in a tight urban setting, making your straw bale garden completely organic, and using new fertilizers and conditioning products.”

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil has a rating of 4.8 stars and 508 reviews.  

This sounds like a great overall reference book for your garden.  The author is from Vermont and has a large (2,000 sq ft) garden.

“Everything you loved about the first edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is still here: friendly, accessible language; full-color photography; comprehensive vegetable specific information in the A-to-Z section; ahead-of-its-time commitment to organic methods; and much more.”

Tip: Don’t forget you can sign up for Swagbucks to earn free gift cards to use on deals on Amazon.

Jan 282017
 

thinking oustide the garden box books collage

This post contains affiliate links to books I would love to read this week, instead of washing the dishes or doing laundry or, well, you get the idea.  Perhaps instead you can read them and let me live vicariously through you.  If you choose to do so, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the book.  Actually, I have read one of the books on the list this week, which is why it is on the list.  I loved it so much that I will probably read it again … once the dishes are washed and the laundry is done. 😉 Who am I kidding, I will fall asleep tonight reading by my book light, as I always find time somewhere in the day to read at least a little something.

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3) by [the Good, David]

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3)

If you are looking for a new challenge or adventure in gardening, this might be the thing for you.  Meeting a plants needs leads to the results you are desiring, even if you have to artificially fulfill those needs.

My mother-in-law was great at this, being able to start and grow fruit trees several zones north of where they ‘should’ grow.  How?  She understood the need of the plant and was able to meet it.  Yes, it took a bit of extra attention.  However, she was able to reap the rewards – fruit she would otherwise have had to purchase at the store, shipped in from another country usually.

You might already know one side of your house has frost longer in the day than another part, or that the bushes on a particular side of your house grow larger than their counter parts around the corner, or perhaps you have found a particular plant will not grow at all in your yard, but the neighbor up the hill grows them so much they are a weed.  The difference could be as simple as a difference in microclimates.

I personally saw this happen with two different blackberry bushes, planted 3 feet apart.  One grew several feet higher each year than the other, due mainly to how far away from the wall of the house it was.  It happened to get an hour or so more of sun each day; everything else about their site (soil, water, impact of human traffic, etc.) was the same.  The extra sunlight created enough of a difference in the growth, and as a result the crop and spread of the second plant was much greater than the first.

Instead of taking the harder route, like I have done in the past, learn from someone who has already put in the work and research.

The author does give a disclaimer in the introduction: he can’t help you grow limes in a Minnisota backyard or find the girl of your dreams; but it may help you grow the desired plant that would grow if you were only a few hundred miles south.

All the Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses-How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by [McDowell, Marta]

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America

Are you tired yet of hearing me rave about this book?  Yes, I liked it that much.

Not only did I learn about the gardens found on our presidents’ lawns, but also about gardening history, history of our country, and an appreciation for life through the past several hundred years.

Can you imagine being able to walk across the lawn of the White House?  Let alone assuming it was the public’s right to do so?  How about the President’s family keeping the family milk cow on the front lawn? Or being expected the President’s family to personally host and cook for all dignitaries and visitors, usually from their own gardens.  Things have definitely changed over the years.

The ebook version of this book is only a few dollars right now.  This would make a great clutter free, early Valentine’s Day present for yourself, or a gardener in your life. 😉

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing by [Anderson, William]

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing

I miss the blessing of having frozen peppers available on hand; ones I was able to either grow of buy at a local produce auction, straight from the grower.  This fact is driven home constantly as I see the current price of peppers at our local grocery stores – $1-$1.50 per pepper!

With the warmer than normal winter and a move to a warmer climate, my body is screaming “It is spring! Get planting!”  However, I know winter is not yet done.  Then I saw this book and read the begging of the introduction, “I will tell you in the following pages about different types of peppers and how you can easily grow them indoors.” (emphasis is mine)  Wait, what?!  Grow them indoors?!  Now this is definitely making my gardening brain think outside the garden box in terms of which plants I can grow in the midst of winter, inside my house.

This 37 page ebook is currently free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Otherwise it is just over $5 (i.e. 5 store-bought peppers) for an ebook and also available in paperback.  There are currently no reviews, though for a price of a few peppers, it may be worth it to check out.

And yes, my brain often thinks in gardening currency, especially if I happen to be selling or purchasing produce at that time.