Dec 032016
 

This post contains affiliate links to a great book.  I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration.

This post was originally shared last autumn.  Since then I have thought of it several times.  As the holidays approach, this would be a great gift consideration for the gardener in your life … or for you.  😉  Once the moving boxes are no longer a daily decoration in my home, I plan to go back and read this book again.  Yes, I liked it that much.

This past summer we were able to take a last minute trip to our nation’s capitol.  Between visits with several different friends, we made stops at various sites around the area.  Many I had been to before, but a few were new.  For our kids, they were all new and most were about times in history they had yet to learn about in class.  A few of the sites, however, really peaked their interests.

The White House was a favorite as they had heard of it before (my husband often watches reruns of The West Wing on Netflix).  The kids found it even more interesting when we finally convinced them that the President is a real person, not just an actor, AND that he actually lives in the big white house behind the gates.

A lot of the history I know about the White House itself, which is not much, has to do with random facts throughout history that I have picked up while reading.  I love history, hearing the how’s and why’s as to events, details that make it come alive in my imagination.

When I began reading All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America I expected to pick up a few tidbits here and there on the gardening practices used on the White House grounds and long lists of plants used.  In general I thought it would be a boring read that would require cups of coffee to help me stay awake.  What I found surprised me and showed me a new way of looking at this home that has become a symbol over the years. 

Gardening history is not something I have been exposed to previously.  In my past there were mentions of how the Native Americans planted and how the early settlers gardened to provide for the table during winter months.  I have also visited sites such as Mt. Vernon (Jefferson’s home) and the Biltmore Estate, learning about how they landscaped, invented, studied and produced tools, methods and plants that we now think are common.  However, I never had found a book that actually walked a reader through the history of gardening in a particular place and how the look of the gardens were also affected by events of the day.  As it turns out, I had exposed myself to a book that kept me up at nights, long after I really wanted to be asleep, exploring our nation’s history and the people and gardens it contained.

Marta McDowell did a thorough job of researching the various gardeners, plants, sources, designs, struggles, Presidents’ preferences that have resulted in the gardens and the house we now see today.  She showed how the political events of the day – protests about wars, the Great Depression, the war of 1812, etc.- also had a result in shaping the look and use of the gardens and grounds.  The reader was taken along a path showing the various gardening styles and philosophies, and how they flowed from one style to the next – English, Italian, french, formal, practical, native and exotic.

All the Presidents’ Gardens quickly became one of my favorite history and gardening books.  I loved the flow, the story behind the story feel, and how it all felt tied together in a smooth fashion.  It was so seamless that I often forgot when a chapter had ended and another began.  There were a few points that I wondered why they were mentioned, only to find a  few paragraphs or pages later how it was all tied together.

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend for you to read.  You will have to wait a bit though, as it will not scheduled to be released till April 27, 2016.  You are able to pre-order it now so you will be able to receive one of the first copies.

I also learned that the White House holds a free garden tour twice a year.  This past year’s Spring tour was in mid-April, so you may be able to get in on this year’s tour if you keep watch for the announcement.  (The fall tour was held in October.)

Aug 122016
 

bee in the know

After the recent review of The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity byKate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, I have been paying more attention to the bees around me.  What I came to realize is, well, there is a whole lot more which I do not know and could learn.  This is a start.

Below is a summary compilation of scholarly papers, book reviews, and letters all concerning our neighbors, the bees.  There were so many papers and sources of information which I could share, but I had to cut it off at some point.  I tried to keep the topics somewhat related to help with narrowing down the results. u6k7v3t5

Relocation risky for bumble bee colonies – this letter in reference to a paper on the relocation of bees addresses some of the possible issues with such moves.

USBombus, a database of contemporary survey data for North American Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus) distributed in the United States – from the abstract of this research paper, “While a wealth of historic data is now available for many of the North American species found to be in decline in online databases, systematic survey data of stable species is still not publically available. The availability of contemporary survey data is critically important for the future monitoring of wild bumble bee population.  Without such data, the ability to ascertain the conservation status of bumble bees in the United States will remain challenging.”  this paper was authored by Koch, J. et al, representing several universities and the USDA.

Review of the book The Bees of the World 2nd ed. American Entomologist (the review begins on page 3) – As the author of this book review states, “That only seven years have passed since the first edition is testament to the vigorous ongoing research on bees.”  This review happens to have been written 7 years ago with even larger amount of study and focus being given to this insect family.  Some of the references to changes in the classifications have potentially resolved themselves, though even those are under constant review as more knowledge comes to light.

At 900+ pages, this book is not one you lightly add to your library, that is, unless you are a librarian at a large library.

Chemical Signals in Bumble Bee Foraging – though this paper is older, it provides a great look into the world of bumble bees and understanding how they reach the flowers in your garden.

Hive-stored pollen of honey bees: many lines of evidence are consistent with pollen preservation, not nutrient conversion – “Our findings have important implications for the improvement of natural food storage, artificial food supplements, and water balance in the hive especially during overwintering.”  As one who likes to store up one season’s harvest for use in the winter, I have appreciated the research done on nutrient levels and safe storing of these foods.  In a similar fashion bees store pollen, though it has not always been known why this is done nor if there was an unknown benefit for them doing so.  Anderson, K. et al take a look close look at this storage of pollen.

 

Nest architecture and species status of the bumble bee Bombus (Mendacibombus) shaposhnikovi (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombini) – “Here, we report behavioural observations of the nesting biology of B. shaposhnikovi and provide new evidence for the conspecific status of B. shaposhnikovi and B. handlirschianus in our discovery of a nest containing both colour forms.”

I had never put much thought into the structure of a nest – where food was located compared to living quarters, how many eggs were placed in each cell, etc.  It is amazing what you can observe once you slow down and look at different parts of nature.  The authors also present their doubts about the species of Bombus, differentiated only by color, being actual separate species.

Speaking of nests and the various ways of building them, here is a paper talking about the nest architecture of a tropical bee – Nest Architecture and Foraging Behavior in Bombus pullatus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with Comparisons to Other Tropical Bumble Bees.

And the Bombus transversalisNest construction and architecture of the Amazonian bumble bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

 

Determining the Impacts of Pesticide and Nutrition-Induced Stress on Honey Bee Colony Growth and Survival – while this research project is still underway, I thought it was interesting enough to mention.  When I am  hungry, I know how my performance suffers.  Could it be the same for bees?  Another reason for all of us to take a look at our gardens and make changes, even small ones, to help out our much needed pollinators.

As a part of the above mentioned research project, several papers have already been published looking at various aspects. Here are a few of them:

Honey bee colonies provided with natural forage have lower pathogen loads and higher overwinter survival than those fed protein supplements

Methods for Comparing Nutrients in Beebread Made by Africanized and European Honey Bees and the Effects on Hemolymph Protein Titers

Jun 042016
 

2016 Garden Update

Several changes have taken place around the garden and yard this week.  Most were due to a domino effect.

For starters, I can now pull into my own side of a garage, a first in almost a decade.  It gets even better.  I can pull into my own side of a garage using a garage door opener AND without having to drive through mud.  Yes, folks, the driveway width now matches up with the garage we have.

This little update was supposed to happen a few weeks ago.  However, the guy doing it had to delay things a few days while the underground utilities were marked.  Then it came to be planting time.  Where I am, nothing much takes precedent over planting  time if you are a farmer, a family member of a farmer, a friend of a farmer who can drive equipment, or any in any way associated with the farming community.  So we waited.

A call on Tuesday morning changed all that.  By supper time I was able to pull into my garage without having to drive through the ever present mud puddle.  I also no longer needed to use the fairly redneck style of a ramp setup I had in place to get my car over the several inches difference between the ground level and the garage floor.  Oh the issues you run into when updating old parts of a house.

While planning the extension of the driveway, I asked if he would be willing to leave the dirt on site.  Turns out that little question fill a need we both had – I needed just a bit more dirt in low places along the garage and he needed somewhere for the dirt to go.  By keeping it onsite the job also was a bit cheaper and was faster to complete.

With the dirt spread and rain in the forecast, the next morning I knew what my focus would be – spreading grass seed.  This satisfied something my husband has been wanting me to address – the weeds in the yard along the side of the garage.  This is the place where a very deep trench was dug to put in the foundation for the garage part of the house.  With a deep trench comes a lot of dirt to move.  This had been piled along the edge of the trench, thereby killing any grass that had been there.  Over the past few months, the weeds have taken over.

driveway dirt collage

Having the dirt from the driveway spread out in this area meant that I did not need to spend time loosening up the dirt and filling in depressions.  Rain meant that I did not need to spend time every day watering the seed.  So, while it is not the best time of the year to plant grass seed, it was the time I had available unless I wanted to wait several months and let weeds take over.

With grass seed spread, I moved on to getting ride of several buckets of wood chips sitting by the shed.  These were added to the shade garden at the front of the house.

After dumping the buckets I decided to take “a few minutes” to address some issues in this bed – mulch needing spread out, weeds and tree sprouts removed, sticks picked up and stepping stone laid back out.  Amazing how “a few minutes” to finish a gardening task never takes just those few minutes.

With the driveway installed, I no longer worried about leaving the spray painted marks from the utilities.  However, when I went to mow the grass, I found out that my weed eater no longer seems to be working.  Flashbacks of The Great Replacement washed over me.  After a breath or two I calmed down and moved on.  Hand pulling weeds in the worst areas would not be the end of the world.  Also, our edger will take care of the ones along the curb.  A new weed-eater will be in our near future.  These are the things of life that I never envisioned being a part of being an adult.  Sort of like property taxes and insurance.

Time was saved not using the weed-eater, so I spent it instead spraying the weeds that have popped up in the driveway.  I used to pull these by hand, not liking to use chemicals for every little problem I come across.  I may still do so, but wanted to see if I could save time right now by using a spray and perhaps save time later by them not coming back as quickly.

This is a point where my husband and I disagree.  He is all for spraying.  I want to see if I can find other solutions.  It may have to do with our backgrounds, or with various studying/reading I have done over the years, or maybe the difference in how we view our time.  Either way, we have finally come to an unspoken agreement – as long as I do not complain about it, ask him to do it, or leave it so it starts looking really bad, he does not care one way or the other.  Some areas I have succeeded in, others (like the violets in the yard) I have failed at.  I guess we are not all perfect. 😉

blackberry bushes bloom

In other parts of the garden, the onion sets planted last week have sprouted, little tomatoes are beginning to appear and the blackberries are blooming.  The radish seeds have begun sprouting.

My strawberries also have slugs.  Once the rain stops I will try putting a trap out for them.  I did not think they were too bad till I saw The Big Guy.  He was so fat and slimy, he would have covered the finger nail on my pinky finger.  That was the point where I resolved to do something about it, these were not just one or two little guys doing the damage.

strawberry grub collage

I also went gung-ho on trimming up a fairy rose bushes that are in the middle of a side yard.  They have really needed trimming, not exactly a job I jump for joy at though due to all the thorns.  Last month I did a poor job of beginning the trimming, in hope that new side canes would form where I wanted them before I cut off more of the canes where I did not want them.  In the end it only looked bad.  So, I jumped in … well, not literally. Remember, thorns.

rose bush thorns

I did a more aggressive trim this week, also removing a lot of virginia creeper and hackberry sprouts that had been hiding among the canes.  Once it was all cleaned out it looked much better.  Emptier, but better.  A few days later I noticed the roses blooming, so apparently my trim job did not shock it too much. We will see if I think the same thing come the end of summer.

 

 

 

Sep 282015
 

This past summer we were able to take a last minute trip to our nation’s capitol.  Between visits with several different friends, we made stops at various sites around the area.  Many I had been to before, but a few were new.  For our kids, they were all new and most were about times in history they had yet to learn about in class.  A few of the sites, however, really peaked their interests.

The White House was a favorite as they had heard of it before (my husband often watches reruns of The West Wing on Netflix).  The kids found it even more interesting when we finally convinced them that the President is a real person, not just an actor, AND that he actually lives in the big white house behind the gates.

A lot of the history I know about the White House itself, which is not much, has to do with random facts throughout history that I have picked up while reading.  I love history, hearing the how’s and why’s as to events, details that make it come alive in my imagination.

When I began reading All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America I expected to pick up a few tidbits here and there on the gardening practices used on the White House grounds and long lists of plants used.  In general I thought it would be a boring read that would require cups of coffee to help me stay awake.  What I found surprised me and showed me a new way of looking at this home that has become a symbol over the years. 

Gardening history is not something I have been exposed to previously.  In my past there were mentions of how the Native Americans planted and how the early settlers gardened to provide for the table during winter months.  I have also visited sites such as Mt. Vernon (Jefferson’s home) and the Biltmore Estate, learning about how they landscaped, invented, studied and produced tools, methods and plants that we now think are common.  However, I never had found a book that actually walked a reader through the history of gardening in a particular place and how the look of the gardens were also affected by events of the day.  As it turns out, I had exposed myself to a book that kept me up at nights, long after I really wanted to be asleep, exploring our nation’s history and the people and gardens it contained.

Marta McDowell did a thorough job of researching the various gardeners, plants, sources, designs, struggles, Presidents’ preferences that have resulted in the gardens and the house we now see today.  She showed how the political events of the day – protests about wars, the Great Depression, the war of 1812, etc.- also had a result in shaping the look and use of the gardens and grounds.  The reader was taken along a path showing the various gardening styles and philosophies, and how they flowed from one style to the next – English, Italian, french, formal, practical, native and exotic.

All the Presidents’ Gardens quickly became one of my favorite history and gardening books.  I loved the flow, the story behind the story feel, and how it all felt tied together in a smooth fashion.  It was so seamless that I often forgot when a chapter had ended and another began.  There were a few points that I wondered why they were mentioned, only to find a  few paragraphs or pages later how it was all tied together.

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend for you to read.  You will have to wait a bit though, as it will not scheduled to be released till April 27, 2016.  You are able to pre-order it now so you will be able to receive one of the first copies.

I also learned that the White House holds a free garden tour twice a year.  (Last year’s fall tour was in mid-October, so you may be able to get in on this year’s if you keep watching.)

I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration.

Aug 202015
 

vegetable vine growing into tree collage

There are some garden issues you just have to chuckle about, while making sure they do not produce larger issues.

If left up to themselves, almost all of our vines would have grown up into trees, like this one has.  The first to try was a pumpkin vine.  I was  not exactly looking forward to having pumpkins growing 20 – 60 feet off the ground, so I kept pulling it off the limbs and redirecting it.  As the trellis it was grown up was located directly under the tree, this was an ongoing issue.  Then the cucumbers decided to try and got away with it for a while, till I noticed and pulled them out too.

What I forgot to pay attention to was the back side of the compost pile.  In previous years our vine producing plants have not grown nearly this vigorously, so it was never an issue.  Seem the pile was just high enough for them to reach up and grab the lowest edge of a branch.  That was all that was needed.  Now we have a pumpkin growing on the vine about 10 feet in the air.  I will let you know how it goes, as I am too curious to pull it out now.

Jun 192015
 

birds eye view of garden june 2015

 

A “This Week In The Garden” post has not been done for quite a while.  There just did not seem to be much happening.  Then suddenly I turn around and there is a lot to do and a lot seems to be happening.  While there is still A LOT to do still, here are some of the goings-on.

Actually, my garden is coming along … perfectly imperfect.  🙂

  • The raised bed nearest the garden shed – I thought those were three zucchini plants I planted along the edge, and they were.  However, what came up was 1 zucchini plant and 2 vining plants of some sort.  The seeds in the compost had not decomposed all the way, which I knew.  However, the chances that something were to sprout in the exact spot I planted something else was not very likely.  As small plants you could not tell them much apart.  However, while being gone last week it seems my garden decided to explode! and now you can obviously see a difference.  For one, the vines are … vining.
  • A random seed must have gotten out when I added the compost, because there is also a vine growing between the far left raised bed and the one to its right.  At this point, I figure it is growing toward where grass does not grow, so I will let it go and see what it produces.
  • I still have not found the charger for my weed-eater and it has been raining nicely at least once a week since the beginning of grass growing season.
  • The clematis on the left edge of the pictures, along the deck, also exploded with growth while I was gone.
  • For some reason, 3 rows of singles have come off over the past few years.  Only those rows.  Not sure what is up with that.  For about $400, which is what the contractor doing the major work on our house quoted us to re-shingle the whole shed roof, I can live with 3 missing rows for a while longer.  Anyone know a young adult needing some extra money who knows how to replace shingles.planting peppers collage
  • One bed still needs to be fenced.  However, I planted it with about 18 hot pepper plants.  If the rabbits and squirrels really want them right now, then I will let them have them to their hearts content.  These were plants that I either had to get planted or try to give away.
  • So much for the decision to not plant tomatoes this year; I can get them cheap enough at the produce auction.  And so much for the revised decision to plant ONLY cherry tomatoes this year, so we will have them for our salads.  I am now the proud owner of about 15 various tomato plants, and a few volunteers.  Yeah, they are sort of like cats, they multiplied when I was not looking.radish banana pepper collage
  • The middle bed above is the strawberry bed that I left covered too long.  With the extra space I planted radishes, which have done better than in any other spot I have tried them in.  In the past week I gathered two bunches, which did not last long as I love radishes.  No one else does, but that is okay.  I am allowed to grow things that not everyone in the house likes.flats of flowers salvia dahlia collage
  • Yesterday, between rain showers I planted not only the the peppers above, but also a few flats of flowers.  Most went into the front flower bed, but a few found their way into open spaces among the vegetable plants.  These flowers really should have been planted early last week, but with getting ready to go camping it was not high on the priority list.  Once they got planted, I had to dead-head them so they will grow new flowers soon.  The dahlia, on the right above, will be planted along the new portion of the garage. There is a lot of sun shine, as that is also where we had two trees taken, and currently no landscaping. Well, unless you count the tree saplings that are root sprouts of the trees, and those are weeds, not landscaping.  🙂 small black snake collage
  • Last week, we had an unexpected visitor at our place.  I was mowing the grass when I saw a stick move into the daylillies.  Knowing what it was, but wanting to identify it before the kids came out to play, I (carefully) looked for it.  This little guy was camera shy but I finally got a shot of him.  Turns out he was just a black snake.  No worries and I told the kids to leave him alone, let him do the job he was created to do – eat mice and other small rodents.


 

May 262015
 

this week in the garden october 2 2014The garden is starting to come along.  My green bean plants are coming up, as are the cucumbers, radishes, and zucchini.  The spinach, okra and sweet peas have not appeared and I am thinking they may need to be replanted.  Several of my herbs have also not appeared.  With rain expected several days this week, I plan to try a second around of plantings.

The grass I seeded most recently is coming up great.  I am attributing this to having spread more seeds than I might normally combined with the rain that followed.  I am hoping to do the same again this week with some other bare spots.  Rain is so much better for plants than the water from the spigot.

This year has also been a reminder as to how dry the past years really have been.  We have had actual Spring rains.  It is amazing what this done for  your plants and garden.  Not only have we had Spring rains, it has kept raining.  The past several years found us drowning in water, only to have it not rain again for 3+ months.  That makes it hard to grow a good crop, unless you are willing to irrigate and pay the higher water bill.

I have been posting more on Facebook. If it ever seems quiet on here, check there for any updates or shared articles.  It is quicker, and easier, to post there if I only have a few minutes or am on my phone.

blackberry bush

The picture at the top is from last Fall, not right now.  While the trellis for the tomatoes is up, there are no tomatoes that tall yet.  I also have the tiki torches up to drape bird netting on soon.  The blackberry plants are blooming, so I really hope berries will follow soon.    The above picture is from one of my two starter plants last year.  Now, they have filled in the space nicely and are looking fabulous.  There is still a noticeable difference between the size of the plants on one end of the bed (where there is just a bit more shade) compared to the other (where there is almost no shade).  Sometimes it really is a matter of moving a plant just a few feet one direction for it to explode in size.

strawberry plants may 6 2014

The strawberry plants have green fruit on them, so I need to get that netting installed in the next few days.  First, though, I have to finish fencing around the bed.  I am about 4 feet shy of it being finished.  I used old fencing to block the gap, hoping it would at least keep our the rabbits.  I was late removing the winter covering from the plants because I had no fencing up.  This meant the plants got a later start growing and several did not make it.  Seems my problem of too many plants last fall was solved without me having to choose who stays and who goes.  Once production declines, I am going to start the bed on a rotation, removing the old plants from a forth of it and allowing the runners fill that area in with new plants.

shade hosta forest garden

 

I spent Monday afternoon in the area I plan to put in a shade garden.  The choice was to go outside or stay in the house and do something.  The family decided for me, as my husband needed to do some homework and the kids were rambunctious.  Outside it was.  I was not sure how far along in the process I would get, but chose to just start.  First came the edging.  I had planned to have it curve, making it look more natural.  However, I did not want to take out places where grass was actually growing well, and there were a few trees in the way if I went the other direction.  After digging the trench for the edging, I decided I did not like how it tied into the existing edging.  So I dug a new trench.  It is straighter than I liked, but over all it looks better.

By the evening half of the weed barrier was installed, it was covered with leftover straw I had here at home, and a row of hostas was planted.  The hostas I planted were actually 5 I had bought from the produce auction.  When I began planting I noticed that I could divide what I had, thereby making 10 plants instead of 5.  They  may be a bit on the smaller side now, but by this time next year they should fill out beautifully.

*****************************************

The expected rainstorm came through today, though it did not produce as much rainfall as I thought.  It was still enough to give the grass seed its first watering and a drink to the garden plants.  I am headed out to continue working on the shade garden.  Not sure if I will get it finished today, but I am hoping to make great progress on it.

 

 

May 062015
 

nature center tree bird pond

What a week this has been!  The gardening bug finally hit me full force and I know that this summer will look different than last, which seems to happen every year. 🙂

The extra time taken to get going with the garden has not been a waste, though.  I have used to time to think through a few various parts of the garden that have not been working for us.

  • Our front yard where grass will not grow.
  • The bed under the kitchen window that has full southern exposure to the sun (it gets hot!).
  • The bed off the deck that contains a stumps from old lilac bushes and living ever green bushes, but where I want the dwarf peach tree to go.
  • How exactly I am going to fence in the vegetables beds.
  • Filling in holes or low spits in the yard.
  • Getting grass to grow where I killed it last year.  🙁
  • What are we doing with the part if the yard near the remodel where the ground was dug up or had dirt piled on it?

These were just a few of the items I have mentally been working through.

nature center bird identification display

As time went on, I was feeling like no answers were coming. It was frustrating and I was feeling like a failure as a gardener.  “How can I have a website about gardening, when I seem to fail at everything?!”

Finally, I took a deep breath and decided to start with ONE thing.  Just one thing, not everything all at once like I had been trying to do.

In the hour it took me to mow the grass earlier this week I came up with several solutions.  Now there is a plan. The garden and yard did not look so hopeless.

  • While I do not have the time and mental energy to spread a truck load of wood chips over weed barrier right now, to start the shade garden in the front yard, I do have straw.  Lots of it actually that has no home and was becoming a problem.  Like with the shade garden idea (if grass won’t grow, plant something that will), I had to step back and look at the problem differently.  The purpose of wood chips is to have sonething that will break down, thereby fertilizing the plants and trees.  For now, though I just needed something to hold the weed barrier in place.  “Straw will do that,” I thought as I mowed that part if the yard. Two problems solved as I hope to get the garden in by the later part if next week.
  • I have low spots in the yard. Our contractor has extra dirt left over. Problem solved.
  • Grass seed can be spread one spit at a time.  There is no rule saying you gave to do it all at once.
  • One night this past weekend, I did some yard work after the kids were in bed.  I decided to remove the ever green bushes and plant the peach tree.  A job that I though would take hours, took 30 minutes.  I also found out that the stump is not sprouting as much as it did last year. I think I’ll plant some vegetables in the extra spaces this year.
  • As for fencing the raised beds, I found a new roll of fencing at a garage sale and picked up some new stakes this morning.  This evening or tomorrow I plan to start on the largest bed so I can get some seeds in place.
  • While considering the fencing of the strawberry beds, I realized a temporary solution to keep rabbits out would be to place old fencing directly on top of the plants.  Not a perfect or beautiful solution, but it does the job.  That is also something I did this past weekend (and one of the sources of the extra straw).

Sometimes, a hour spent mowing the yard can be more productive than two or three hours in front of the computer.

nature center relax collage

Here is another example, though not quit gardening related.  I have been feeling like there is so much to do at home, and I am exhausted at night, that I did not have time to type up this post.  Today I brought Jack to a local nature center for a program geared towards home school kids.  I was not sure the set up, so did not plan to leave him Aline. Turns out he was just fine and I would have been in the way. With no book and no errands to run near here, what could I do?  “Silly Girl, write the post!” 🙂

Here I sit, watching the bird feeders, the man-made waterfall, listening to birds sing and kids have fun, while getting to write.  No dishes to do or floors to sweep or hammers and saws to listen to.  We almost didn’t come, due to attitude issues. So glad I persevered. I think this is something both he and I needed. Jack, time away from the house and Mom’s ever presence. Me, time around nature and away from the house to think and just be.

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.

Mar 122015
 

Craftsy
Craftsy is celebrating National Craft Month with a big course sale 3/12/15 @12pm MT through 3/16/15 @11:59pm MT! 

With 50% off their online course, you will be able to do more of what you love.  It is also a great opportunity to pick up a new hobby, maybe one you have been wanting to learn for a while.

With 24/7 online access, you will be able to take classes at whatever time fits your schedule. Sign into your class on Craftsy’s website, pick back up right where you left off with you HD video lesson, or move directly ahead to the next class if you feel ready.  This has been a great feature lately, as my only ‘free’ time seems to be after 8 p.m. and then I can not leave the house.  I can watch a lesson while the kids sleep, even if my husband is not at home.

Not only will you save BIG with this sale, but their 100% money-back Craftsy Guarantee applies to all the course.  If you are not satisfied, let them know within 30 days of  your purchase.

Here is a sampling of the 25 Home & Gardening classes available:

Vegetable Gardening: Smart Techniques for Plentiful Results

 

Gorgeous Garden Design

Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small-Space Solutions

 

The Extended Harvest

 

Here are some easy links to search all the classes.  Remember they are 50% off till Monday, so do not wait too long to sign up or you will miss the savings.

Home & Garden Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Art & Photography Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Cake Decorating & Cooking Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Paper Crafts & Jewelry Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Sewing, Quilting & Embroidery Classes on Sale at Craftsy
Fiber Arts Classes on Sale at Craftsy

Quilting is something I found that I love to do.  It has been put to the side since kids have been added to our home, but is something I definitely have not given up on doing (just check out my fabric stash that I refuse to get rid of).  Knowing that I will not be investing in any fancy machines in the near future, this particular class really appeals to my creative side:

Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot

Free Motion Quilting a Sampler

I have tried various patterns and methods on my own, as those I knew who quilted lived hours away from me when I was doing my first several quilts.  Actually having someone with more experience than me be able to give tips and ideas and just all around knowledge on how to do what I have been trying to do, sometimes failing more than succeeding, would have made a huge difference.

Or maybe you are looking for something to prepare for the upcoming season of grilling. Craftsy offers more than just crafts:

Cooking the Perfect Steak

Which class would you choose to take?