Oct 072016
 

city-garden-open-space-before-planting-spring

When I first saw this garden, in its wintertime bareness, I would imagine all the different ways it could be planted and decorated. Then I began to feel like a failure for not being able to do the same in my garden.

circular-garden-in-summer-bloom-2

Later I visited the same gardens. They were taking shape, colors were starting to appear, and the feeling was less of emptiness.

circular-flower-garden-in-summer-bloom

I also realized several things:

  • There are people who are hired full time to take care of these grounds. This is not solely a hobby.
  • There is more than ONE person taking care of these gardens.
  • The same pattern is used year to year. No need to reinvent the wheel each year.
  • Annuals are used, not perennials or bulbs.
  • There is a greenhouse used to grow all of these annuals. I would have to either build a greenhouse, spending months to grow these, or else pay retail.
  • This particular garden is larger than my yard. I could not replicate it if I tried.

Reminding myself of these things when the gardening doubts begin to creep in has helped me keep a more balanced view, to not judge myself so harshly. I am also able to enjoy the gardens more, appreciating all the effort others put in so I can sit and enjoy them. No weeding required.

Jan 302016
 
Comstock Ferre & Co.

Comstock Ferre & Co. in Wethersfield’s historic district. (Michael McAndrews, Courant file photo)

Routines can be great.  They help you be able to predict what is going to happen and when.  They save on brain power, enabling you to not really think, but just do.  In gardening, there are some routines that we accept will always be the same.

  • Winter will always turn into spring, and fall into winter.
  • Rabbits and deer will find their way into your garden, or keep trying.  Year after year after year.  Even though you chase them out, year after year after year.
  • Planting takes place before harvesting.

There are other things about gardening that we also assume will always be the same.  Consider your source of plants and seeds.  Whether it be ones you save yourself, get from the local hardware store, or order online, once you have found your Regulars you often do not put a lot of thought into where you are going to be looking once it comes time to think about this year’s garden once again.

What if what had once ‘always been there’ was no longer there?

While going through the list of garden catalogs, updating links, I came across an broken link.  My first thoughts were of a great loss, an old seed company having gone the way of many such companies over the years.  No longer to sustain themselves in a culture where the public wants organic and local foods but often does not grow it themselves.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Upon further searching I found out good news:

The historic Comstock, Ferre & Co. in Old Wethersfield will soon transform into an organic and non-GMO food market and café but retain its roots as a seed company.

The Hartford Courant article talks about “the latest incarnation for Comstock, Ferre & Co., which was founded in 1811 and is the nation’s oldest continuously operated seed company.”  As the years have passed, our culture and economy have changed.  While we may think of seed companies being immune to such changes, they are not.  They also must be allowed to change and stay modern, or else go way of many other such companies that used to common names to gardeners.

With the addition of the food market and cafe, they will be able to show customers and locals what the seeds actually grow into, what they smell and feel like, and ultimately how they can taste.

Sometimes a change in routines can be a good thing.  Hopefully this new growth in the business will help the Wethersfield, Conn. seed company continue on for many more years.

 

 

Jan 282016
 

mailbox mail

It is that time of year again.  Garden catalogs are beginning to show up in the mail box.  Soon it will be time to get my seeds out to start for this upcoming year’s garden.

With the break in gardening last year I am sure that several of my saved seeds are too old to use with good results in this upcoming year.  At times I can take the chance with older seeds, not requiring a high germination rate.  Other times I need to know that most of what I plant will come up; that is where I find myself this year.

Several catalogs have already found their way to my mail box and are awaiting previewing.  The tough choice ahead is to now narrow down the choices as my garden only has so much room, and I only have so much time, to grow all the potential beauties.

I have updated the Garden Catalogs page, containing over 30 different gardening catalogs you can request. Some are specialty catalogs (ex: heirloom) or focused on a particular part of the country.  Some are catalogs you can request through the mail, while others are online only.

If your favorite catalog is not on the list, let me know and I will look into adding it.

Happy Shopping!

Jan 262016
 

Science Kids on the Loose

Sid The Science Kid: Growing Plants takes a look into a preschool classroom or daycare as kids plant and compare lima bean plants.  This short video shows kids how to plant a seed.  The kids then take a look at plants grown from seeds, started at various times in the past; some are seedlings and others are almost a foot tall.

If you are looking to do something inside with your kids when you actually want to be outside in the garden, starting plants on a sunny window sill is a fun activity.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.  Gardening is always an adventure.

Jun 012015
 

Open space in a garden

 

You have seen all the magazine article about how to have the perfect garden, how to grow the biggest flowers, how to feed your family in a garden the size of a shoe box.  Well, what if you have read all of those article and still can not seem to get a garden in place.  Perhaps you have doing one of these 5 things that ensure that perfect garden with the biggest flowers in the smallest space never happens.

1. Fall into the vortex of garden catalogs and never find your way out.  The flowers are always in bloom, the vegetable plants produce blemish free produce, and the compost piles are even in orderly fashion.  Just when you think you have seen every picture of every variety available, a new magazine arrives in the mail from yet another vendor who carries even more options.  For fear of missing “the exact thing you are looking for” you work your way through that catalog, taking note of even more options.

While it is not a bad thing to look through these catalogs, they give you some great ideas after all, you have to close them at some point and just make a decision.  Real life happens, and not with a photo team around.  You will have weeds, not every flower is going to bloom evenly and all at the same time, and your compost pile will look like the work in progress that it is. Choose a variety you think sounds good, not perfect, and close the magazines.  Once your garden is started, or there is 3 feet of snow on the ground outside, you can open them back up and drool over the basket full of the newest variety of flower or rarest heirloom carrot that just became available.

2. Analyze every detail till you give yourself a headache and have to go back to bed.  Is your yearly aspirin expense more than what you spend on seeds?  Do you know to the minute how much sun your garden gets? Every bed? Have you set rain/temperature/wind gauages all over the yard to find the exact spot to match what you are wanting to plant, yet there is nothing planted?  Do you know 10 different varieties of tomatoes and to the day when they should start producing?  How about the history of 10 various heirloom potatoes and their prefered growing soils?  While these things are not bad, if you have spent all your time figuring this out yet nothing is in the ground, then you are missing the forest for the trees.  Take a breath, close your eyes, and throw a ball.  Where it lands is where you are going to plant.  Sometimes, that is all you need to do to get started.  🙂

3. Live in front of the weather report, waiting for the ‘perfect’ temperature/dew point/phase of the moon/etc.  I am going to save you a lot of aggravation here, it is never going to be exactly right and it is called a “forecast” for a reason.  It is not called a “thus saith the Lord” report, for a reason.  It may tell you that is is going to rain in 5 minutes, then 1 minute later change to say it will start raining in 8 hours.  Yes, you need to know if there is going to be a frost, what phase of the moon it will be tonight, what the average temperature is, if the soil is warm enough, etc.  What you do not need to do is wait till they all align exactly, because it will never happen.

4. Compare your plant selections to those of I-have-been-gardening-since-the-Great-Depression neighbor, coming to the conclusion you could never be so great, so you go back to bed. Been there, done that.  There is a beautiful home down the street from us – white house with black shutters, garden shed to match, not a week in the flower beds, mulch always in place … you get the idea.  I would walk by on the way to the library with the kids, always making sure they never walked off the sidewalk or even gave the landscaping a second glance.  If they did, they might mess it up.  It was obvious someone put a lot of time into this yard.  I also would ask myself why it was that my flowers did not look that great, or why I had weeds but they didn’t.

One day I found the answer to my question.  The landscaping company was out doing maintenance on the yard.  🙂  A team of 3 guys, a trailer, and a pick-up truck where there to work on the yard.  That is a far cry from myself, the kids’ wagon and my sedan.  After that, I enjoyed the yard but stopped trying to berate myself.  I would still love to get there one day, and am working on making my yard require less maintenance but still look good.  For now, though, I’ll enjoy their yard and let the kids enjoy ours.

5. Plant your garden, then sit and begin the yearly Front Porch Rabbit Count.  You would not want to mess up the numbers so you never do anything to scare them away. It took me a few years, and one changed glance out the window, to realize that the fencing I had up around my vegetable beds was useless.  The young rabbit that was running from something jumped right through the holes in the fencing.  If that does not make you feel like you just wasted your time and money, then I am not sure what else would.  Right then and there I decided to replace the fencing with smaller poultry fencing and add in metal stakes instead of the cheap woods ones I had been using.  The stakes were breaking anyway, and well obviously the fencing was doing no good for the rabbits.

The battle between man and nature is not a new one, nor is it one that we will win in the future.  This does not mean that we just throw up our hands, it means we strive to find a new solution.  Rabbit stew anyone?

Whether it is gardening or something else in your life, there comes a point at which all your plans need to hit the pavement and happen.  I have great plans for my mornings.  Every night I go to bed thinking:

  • I will get up early and do X, Y,Z before everyone gets up.
  • This would be the perfect time to learn more about ____.
  • This will be the week/month/year that I finally finish reading through the Bible. (I began the 1 year plan 3 years ago.)

Often I have to remind myself to finish what I have started, that I need to be able to handle what I already have or am trying to do, before beginning something new.  At times it becomes apparent that I have to say “No” to something.  Often though, it is a scheduling/motivation issue.  My morning used to be great, and not just because I am a morning person.  It was because I had direction, I knew what I was going to do each day when I woke up.

Crystal Paine has a great 14-day online course talking about just that – making your mornings great, beginning your day with a purpose.  Tomorrow is the first day Make Over Your Mornings is offered.  The prices start off very low and increase as the day goes on.  (Note the times are Eastern Standard.)

The Crazy-Can’t-Miss-Low-Low-Low Launch Sale Prices:

  • 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET on June 2, 2015 – just $5!!! 
    {This is worth getting up early for!}
  • 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – just $7!
  • 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. – only $10!
  • 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. – only $13!

Our mornings have been … rough recently, to put it lightly.  If I am honest about it, a lot of it is because Mama is not up and ready so the kids do not feel the need to follow their routines from the get-go.  In an effort to curtail these behaviors, I am going to participate in the 14-day Make Over Your Mornings course.

Is this the perfect time?  Nope.  We have a short camping trip planned during this time, swim team practice is starting, a few trees are being taken down in our yard, and I need to schedule an electrician to install electricity.  Just like gardening, though, if I were to wait for the ‘perfect’ time/schedule/day, it would never happen. So tomorrow it is.

Will you join me in making our mornings better?

 

Apr 292015
 

Working in a small space can either be viewed as a challenge, requiring creativity to make the most of what you do have.  Or it can be viewed as a reason to whine about what you do not have.  This is true whether you are talking about your house or your garden.  I choose to view it as a challenge.

Since we live in town and our lot is not a huge one, having a large garden is not something that is possible if I still want to have room for the kids to play.  I have tried to make use of spaces tucked here and there, as well as use raised beds.  The raised bed garden has done okay the past few years, but I knew that it could be doing better.  I was missing something.

With planting season very close at hand, I was looking for some help in taking my garden to the next level.  Enter The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden, grow tons of organic vegetables in tiny spaces and containers.  I have read books on having small gardens, checked out blogs about small spaces, and looked up tips and tricks.  Most have told me things I already knew – go vertical, plant what you like, tuck plants in among your flower beds, etc. Or maybe they mentioned something new, but never in enough detail for me to implement it and work around problems.  The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden takes the concept and layout of gardening in a small space further, giving me details that would help a small garden succeed in growing more in that space.

Growing plants pesticide free was not an intentional decision; it came out of not wanting to spend a lot of money on chemicals and learning just how bad they could be for you.  For a short time, I even worked for a tree care company, applying chemicals to people’s yards.  (I will not being doing that again; it really is not in line with who I am.)  One of the things I learned was that a chemical was not always needed, but of course they would not sell you the service of applying soapy water to get rid of your bugs.

Not applying pesticides to my garden has not always meant there were problems.  I lost parsley one year to caterpillars before I figured out what was going on.  Another time I have had some trouble with squash bugs and lost two of my three zucchini plants.  All together though, it has not been a difficult growing without pesticides.

Along with the decrease and final exclusion of pesticides, came the thought about fertilizers and other things added to the garden.  “Are they really good for the soil?  Should I use them or is there a more natural way to get the same results?”  I began looking into other ways to add nutrients back into the soil, ways to garden that did not require chemicals to be added in large amounts.

I have some favorite websites to look up issues on, but often I am left trying to find someone to ask or searching pictures online to see if I can figure it out myself.  While reading The Postage Stamp Garden I came across a very useful table – The Soil Nutrient Deficiency table.  This will become my quick reference for those times when I am not sure what is going on with the soil.  Rather than applying a general fertilizer or adding more compost in hope the issue will disappear on its own, I will be able to focus on what is lacking.

Another surprise was when I came across multiple garden layout ideas.  Side notes about how you can use the space once certain plants are gone or as they are growing were even included.   What a great way to help those of us who are better visual learners than auditory learners.

The Postage Stamp Garden has several other additions that I really enjoyed:

  • The comparison between various animal manures is something that will be helpful, as I am looking for some right now to add to my garden beds.  It is not all created equal and if I am going to go to the trouble of finding, hauling and applying it, I would like to know that my effort is resulting in what I am actually looking for.
  • When talking about planting, they go beyond cool and warm weather plants and talk about planting with the phases of the moon.  They do not do this to encourage you to use this method, but so that you will have the information if you do choose to use this method.
  • They also talk about planting zones being on a larger scale, not able to represent all the microclimates that exist in that every garden area.  To help compensate, there is a table that gives you clues in nature which you can look for to help pin point even closer when might be a good time to plant.  This will help take some of the guess work out of the date ranges often found in planting dates.
  • A full 93 pages of information on plants to grow!  With each plant there is information included on planting, crop stretching, recommended varieties, typical problems gardeners have with these types of plants, harvesting, storage, and growing tips.  I particularly found the crop stretching and typical problem section useful.  This is information that I feel I have been missing these past few years to make my small garden work even better than it has been.
  • Chapter 8 is titled “Controlling Pests, Diseases, and Critters”.  They even cover the soap-and-water treatment I mentioned earlier.  I have successfully used this to get rid of scale and was glad to see it included in this book.  6.5 pages were used to create a table helping you find the answer to, “What kind of control do you use for what pests?”  No more having to search online in hopes of finding the answer among all the search results.
  • The book ends with a listing of 33 various seed companies ranging from small companies to larger ones.

Karen Newcomb has made the most of the 200+ pages in this book.  Within those pages she has create a great guide to gardening when you do not have a lot of room for trial and error, but want to make the most of what you do have.

I am very glad that I took the time to read through The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden and will be keeping it within easy reach during my gardening this year.  In the next few weeks I hope to get the garden planted.  Keeping this guide on hand will help allow me to make better use of all my spaces and to think outside of what has become ‘normal’ for me.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

This post contains affiliate links.

Jan 312015
 

bird scared away from feeders waiting to return

The weather is still … well, it is down right cold outside still some days. We are not out of the snow season yet, so months of cold are still in my future.

With all that is happening around here, the desire to start seeds and plan the garden is pretty great. It is my Happy Place. I love having my hands in dirt, watching seeds sprout, and imagining all the potential of the upcoming garden.

As planting a garden is months off, I do not have a feeling of urgency.  However, without some pre-planning I have often found myself doing things weeks after they are supposed to have happened.  The joy of gardening is harder to find when things feel rushed.

In an effort to tackle a few larger projects this summer, I have begun to look for aides or suggestions to begin the planning process.  Without a plan I find that I waste time thinking about what needs done instead of doing it.  Not such a great thing when the weather is perfect for the job and you have kids wanting to ‘help’.  After tackling the front flower bed a few seasons ago, I feel more confident in my abilities.

That project was one I spent too many nights in bed thinking through.  I spent so much time, that I had almost talked myself out of doing something for fear of not doing it ‘right’.  In the end, I decided one day to take the plunge and just start.  Once I got moving the first day, it was easier to tell myself this was possible and  create a plan for the following days.  Not exactly the best order in which to do things, but it worked with that project.  I always find that when I begin to psych myself out about something, sometimes just doing something on the project will get me out of the fear of doing anything.

One of the larger projects I hope to accomplish this Spring/Summer is to transform part of our front yard into a shade garden.  The grass does not grow well there due to the shade and it receiving only morning sun, and only for a few hours at that.  After walking through a beautiful shade garden at a local park, I was encouraged to try something similar in our yard.

While searching Crafty’s website one day, I came across a free mini-class – Transform Your Garden Design with Rebecca Sweet.  Looking into it a bit more, I realized this would be a great help in tackling this large project.  It would not only help me go step by step through what needs to be done, but also help me visualize what should go where.

The format of this class is such that I can pause the videos and come back to them later if needed.  I can also rewind a section to listen a second time to something that was said.  It doesn’t matter if my ‘gardening time’ is at 10 p.m. or 10 a.m. the lessons area available any time.

With the weather forecast now calling for snow, mud abounding in the yard from the house work begin done, and Spring still a few months away, this is a great time to take 15 – 20 minutes at a time to do something to make my outside gardening time more productive later.

Not only am I being proactive and productive for the upcoming gardening season, but I am also finding myself being motivated to finish several indoor project now, so that I can go outside later and work on those projects without feeling guilty about the inside.  A win-win situation for me.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

Apr 172014
 

calendar coffee computer

Last week I talked about organizing your seeds and keeping track of your seed starts once you have actually accomplished that task.

“But I haven’t even started those.  I am so far behind!” you might be saying.

Well, today is better than never.  While it may be too late to start tomato or parsley seeds, in most Zones it is not too late to begin planning your garden.  Where I am, our last frost date has not even occurred.  If you are wanting to garden this year, but already feel behind this post is for you.

If you are brand-new to gardening I would suggest you start small, with a few of the easier to grow plants.  Take your time to research and ask around, find what grows best in your area.  The extra time will pay off in the long run with better results.

list of plants for garden seed transplant

First, you will need to grab a pen and paper.

Secondly, list all the plants you would ideally like to grow in your garden.

garden plan and cilatro seed packet

Thirdly, draw up a layout of your garden.  This does not have to be fancy or to scale.  The layout  in above was when I was expanding my boxes and trying to lay it out better.  I took more time in making it.  The year after I picked up a scrap of paper, drew rough shapes and listed things in columns rather than squares.  I understood the column meant those plants were going in that order.  Do what work for you.  You can take time later to make it pretty.

weeks before first frost seed starting

Last Frost Date marked on calendar

Next, grab your calendar and mark the average last frost date.

First Frost Date Marked on Calendar

first frost date and 2 weeks before on calendar

Now mark the average last frost date.

After those two are done, go back to the list of plants you wrote out earlier and note when each needs to be started (weeks before last frost).  If there are any you still have time, and want, to start put a note beside the name.  If you will need to buy a transplant, note it.  I used ‘S’ and ‘T’ respectively – seed and transplant.

There you have it, you have now planned your garden.  It may not be 100% perfect.  It may not be pretty enough to brag about on Pinterest, but that was not the goal.  The goal was to plan it out.

seedling list 2014

Now for the fun part, getting your hands dirty.

Does your garden need to be marked off?  Tilled?  Amended?  Make notes of those needs also at the bottom of your list.

Do you need to start seeds now?  Make a list of what it is you will need, then go get it.

If you are already feeling behind, this is your chance to jump back on the wagon and enjoy the rest of the ride.  Don’t put off longer the things you need to do or else you will find yourself too far behind to catch up this year.

Enjoy gardening!

c

 

 

Apr 012014
 

DSCN8509

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is more along the lines of “You can’t judge a tomato by its skin” when it comes to gardening.  Depending on what you are wanting out of your tomato, some kinds may be better than others.

When I first started canning I didn’t quite understand this concept.  I was mainly doing jams, as tomatoes scared me a bit … and I did not have a pressure canner, which is needed for most tomato products.  After a few years I took the plunge and canned up my first tomatoes.

Here are a few things I learned:

  1. Preserving tomatoes as crushed tomatoes, you may want to pay attention unless you like a lot of juice in your jars.  However, it will not matter a whole lot if you get or grow the wrong kind.  It is more of an annoyance later if you have to cook your dish a bit longer or strain your tomatoes first.
  2. When it come to doing something like sauce, however, the type of tomato makes a large difference.  Being the one for learning the hard way, I learned this the hard way.

The first year I decided to make sauce was also the first year I got a food mill.  Around midnight of putting the first batch through I was ready to give up canning altogether.  “How do people think this is the way to do it?  This doesn’t save money, it just wastes your time.  I would be better off doing internet surveys right now and going to buy sauce with the money I make.” Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Almost throw the food mill out the window.

food mill pizza sauce tomato 2

Sauce Tomatoes

food mill tomato result 3

Slicing (juicy) Tomatoes

What was the problem?  My tomatoes were the wrong kind.  There was too much liquid in them and they were not being pushed through the food mill.  However, I did not figure this out till I got a batch of sauce tomatoes and realized how easy and nice it was to use the food mill.  It also saves a lot of time cooking them down. (I have another tip for this, but that is a different post.)

The picture below shows several different kinds of tomatoes sliced so you can compare the insides.  I took this picture last fall to demonstrate the differences.  This happened to be the selection of tomatoes I had that night to process.

DSCN8512The two tomatoes at the bottom of the photo, the yellow one and the red one to its right, have more ‘meat’ to them and less area for seeds and juice.  These tomatoes would have been better for sauce than, say, the one in the middle on the left.  That one has more seeds and juice than ‘meat’, making it a good slicing tomato for  your hamburger but not so great to make sauce.

“But this isn’t canning season.  Why are we talking about this now?”

Glad you asked.  While it may not be canning season, it is the start of gardening season.  The decisions you make now will affect you later on down the line, such as when you are ready to can or freezer up your produce.  Are you looking to make sauce?  Grill out burgers? Make tomato jam? Have crushed/whole/stewed tomatoes?  You need to make sure you have the right tomato for the job.

Do not select a juicy, seed filled tomato if you are looking to make a thick sauce – unless you want more work, including cooking for hours, later on.  While the shape may not matter, you will want to look for something that has few seeds and more ‘meat’ to it.  Many heirlooms are a great choice.

If you are interested in using them on a sandwich, either type of tomato will do.  Your selection may be based more on shape, size, and flavor.

If you are looking for a tomato to use on salads, you may prefer a cherry tomato over a grape tomato.  My husband likes a salad tomato that will fit in his mouth without being cut.  If I am not able to get those, then I like to use a roma tomato, as it is a smaller size and I am not left with half a tomato to use before it goes bad.  One year I grew a very small tomato, it was about the size of my pinkie fingernail.  While these were great in salads, it took forever to pick them and get any real quantity.  I had gotten them by accident, but did enjoy growing something out of the norm for me.

While this post has been about tomatoes, it really goes for any plant you plan on putting in your garden.  Take the time now to think through what it is you are looking to get from your garden.  Only put in the plants you are looking to use, and selection the varieties that will give you the end results you are hoping to achieve.  The gardening experience will be much more rewarding and enjoyable.

Happy gardening!

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Oak Hill Homestead
Mar 212014
 

Here are links to several places concerning gardening that I have been to recently.  I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on gardening these past few weeks but have found these places to be worth the limited time I did have.

The Free Mulch Program by AboutTrees.com is an easy method to potentially receive free wood chips at your home.

I love using wood chips around the yard.  The problem I face is that my source is the local city’s yard waste disposal site … and I have a car.  To get wood chips currently I have to drive there, shovel wood chips into conatiners, put them into my trunk, bring them home, dump them and do it all again.  All this while usually taking a couple kids with me.  Let’s just say it takes a while, though the kids have fun sliding down the piles.

When I was sent the link to this site I was thrilled.  I’ve tried calling tree companies on my own, but have yet to actually hear back from any of them.  Yesterday I drove past a tree company who had a large sign out in front of their yard – FREE MULCH. A tree company, or even a large municipality like one I have worked for previously, produces a lot of wood chips and can find themselves in the situation of not having anywhere to dispose of them.  Good for us gardeners, though, if we can find such companies. Unfortnatnly the company I saw yesterday was about 30 minutes from me or else I would be visiting them asking if they would deliver.  Even though a truck load of wood chips is a lot, I would very easily use it throughout the yard.  Added that it is free and it is even better. (The link to the sign up page also had a video showing you what the mulch will look like, if you have never seen wood chips straight from a tree company before.)

When I saw the Free Mulch Program website I knew immediately that this would be a great resource if any of the local companies in my area also participated. It took less than 30 seconds to sign up. Click here to a wood chip mulch delivered free of charge!

 

Unsure of which growing zone you are in?  Check out the Hardiness Zone Finder map on the National Gardening Association’s website.  Enter your zipcode and it will bring up exactly which zone you are in, as well as some other local links relevant to you.

 

 

Apparently you can use almost anything as a container for your garden, even a shopping cart.

 

How to get free seeds from the government seed bank. Checking on a common gardening plant – tomatoes, resulted in a listing of plants from many different countries.  The link is to billy and anuttama’s blog, as they gave a great description of how to use this resource.  I really could spend all day on the government site, so you may want to set a timer.