Archive for gardening tips

Small Space Greenhouse Gardening

When you think about a greenhouse, you probably imagine a large conservatory or farm greenhouse. These buildings can be amazing structures but they’re not right for the average gardener. The truth is that most people don’t consider a greenhouse because they think they’re too big. However, there’s a growing trend of mini-greenhouses and small space greenhouses. In fact, they’re so popular you can buy a mini-greenhouse at your local home store or big box stores like Walmart.

greenhouse

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DIY or Buy?

As mentioned, you can buy a pre-made mini greenhouse. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be purchased to fit your space. For example, if you have a wall or fence area that gets good sun, you can purchase a greenhouse that’s taller to fit the space. There are also ground level or tabletop greenhouses you can buy.

The other option is to build your own greenhouse. This is a good idea if you have a space that has a unique shape and size. You really don’t need much to build your own greenhouse. A frame can be made from PVC or wood. You then attach a thin clear plastic sheet to the frame. Leave it open on one end or create a Velcro opening and you have an instant greenhouse.

Why Use a Greenhouse?

Greenhouses are ideal for cooler climates. If you live in an area where you get enough sun but the temperatures tend to run cooler, a greenhouse can help you grow more plant varieties. It also extends the season. Your tomato plants for example, won’t die from the first hard frost. You can protect them with a greenhouse and get more fruit from the plant.

One excellent use of a greenhouse is to build one that you can position on top of your raised bed. This extends your growing season and produces more food.

Additionally, depending on the size of the greenhouse, you can take the structure into your home during the winter and continue growing your vegetables with a grow light. If you choose a vertical structure, you can tier or stack your plants on shelves and grow more plants in less space.

You can grow just about anything using greenhouse gardening. The only consideration is that the temperature does need to be controlled. It can get either too hot or too cold in a greenhouse and that can cause your plants to die.  If your temp is too hot, the simple solution is to open the greenhouse to provide the warm air an escape. If it’s too cold, add heat lamps or move the greenhouse into the direct sunlight.

We’ve talked about many different types of gardening on this site.  The difference in this one is that it can be done most anywhere in all types of climates, thus giving you the opportunity to have organic fresh vegetables 90% of the time.

 

Organic Gardens

Natural Fertilizers for Organic Gardens

When planting an organic garden, keep in mind for them to be truly organic, you must use natural fertilizers. We all have several household food items that can fit into that category. These are a few of my favorites.

from your yard to your table

organic gardens

Coffee and Coffee Grounds

Can’t finish that last cup of coffee. Store it in an empty 2 liter soft drink bottle until it’s 1/3 full, finish the container off with water, then use the liquid to spray on your garden plants. Coffee contains, magnesium, potassium and nitrogen, which is good for your plants. Spray them every 8-10 days for best results.

Rose food can be made from coffee grounds. You will need to dry the coffee grounds before sprinkling the grounds around the base of your azaleas, roses, or blueberries or any other acid-loving plants. Just be careful not to overdo it with the grounds, 2 or 3 times a year is about right.

Fish Water

When cleaning your fish tank, save the water to go on your garden. The fish by-products are full of nitrogen and other nutrients that plants thrive on.

Eggshell Top dressing

Save all your egg shells for a week. Wash thoroughly then let them dry for a day or two. Use your food processor or blender to grind them to a fine powder. Sprinkle the powder around the base of the plants or add a teaspoon to the hole before you plant your plants. Eggs shells are made up almost entirely of calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in agricultural lime.

Milk

Mix milk with water in a 1 to 4 ratio, will give your plants nitrogen building protein. You can feed this mixture to your plants once every week or so. Great way to use that old milk that may become out of date in a day or two.

As you can see when looking for a natural fertilizer for your organic gardens, you may not have to look any farther than your kitchen.

Edible Plants for Your Landscapes

Great Edible Plants for Your Landscapes

There are hundreds of edible plants that would look perfectly lovely in a landscape, but some of them work better than others. Many plants won’t look very good later in the season, for example.

Some of them quickly turn dark and lose their leaves. You want plants that taste great, but keep their appearance long enough to be a practical part of your landscape. It’s no good to build plants that lose their looks in late summer into your landscape design.

Here’s a look at some of the best choices for edible plants for landscape design. We’ll mostly be including plants that require minimal care and look attractive, while providing something very edible:

[1] ‘Golden Streaks’ is a variety of mustard that has heavily serrated leaves in a beautiful golden citron color. It has a very mild taste, slightly sweet. This is a striking plant that has a wonderful flavor.

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[2] ‘Hansel Hybrid’ eggplant is a stunning plant. It has a two-foot-tall plant that produces huge clusters of fingerling eggplants in a delightful deep purple hue.

[3] ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ basil is a one to two foot basil plant with absolutely gorgeous variegated leaves. The leaves are a rich green with a fringe of white. It tastes like Greek basil, but the appearance is wonderful in a landscape!

[4] ‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli is a hybrid cross between broccoli and two different types of kale. It has a purple stem and loose, purple head.

[5] ‘Violetta Hybrid’ pak choi is an amazing variety of this Chinese green. It has lovely purple leaves that are packed with more nutrients than many other types of greens!

[6] ‘Red Popper’ is a type of miniature bell pepper. The fruits are only about one to two inches in diameter and are very sweet and delicious. You’ll love the way these bright red peppers look against the rich, green foliage!

[7] ‘Sweet Lace’ grapes are a small, patio-sized variety of grape. They have very pretty leaves and produce pretty white grapes in September. These can be grown in containers, and they can also be trellised easily. They make a beautiful accent to a fence or wall.

[8] ‘Red Veined’ sorrel is a variety of this classic wild green. It has light green leaves with a truly spectacular series of red veins all throughout. The taste is very sharp, so it’s best in salads with mild greens. This one is particularly striking in appearance.

[9] ‘Purple Mizuna’ is a fabulous type of greens. They have a very tangy flavor, and grow very quickly. Mizuna greens are already quite attractive, but this purple variety is particularly nice.

[10] ‘Mittistone’ is a summer-crisp lettuce of the loose-leaf variety. The leaves are green with red speckles. It is a sweet, crisp lettuce variety that tastes as amazing as it looks. It matures quickly, and the plants look just as beautiful in your yard as it does in a salad bowl.

While you may not have heard or tried some of these plants, it wouldn’t hurt to give a few of them a try.  I used three of these plants in my walkway edge garden, when I was living in a condo community that had rules about outside plants.   None of my neighbors guessed they were walking within inches of my vegetable garden.

Five Tips For The Vegetable Gardener

Most vegetable gardeners are always looking for tips to make their gardening easier, cheaper or better. Here are a five tips that I have found to be very useful in my gardening adventure.

[1] Newspapers, Cardboard and Paper Towels

All kinds of paper goods [except the glossy inserts] can be used in your garden. Cardboard is excellent to put in walkways to keep weeds from growing or as the first layer for your raised beds, as a foundation for your soil, leaves or compost.

Newspapers can be used to protect your seedling, giving them head start on growing strong.

If you have a compost bin, with worms, you can add newspapers and paper towels to the mixture. Worms love easy to process paper products.

[2] Earth Worms:

There is no need to buy earth worms for your garden, just lift a few rocks after a rain storm and you should find plenty. Adding them to your soil or compost mixture is one of the best things you can do for your garden. They will eat through your kitchen waste, including newspapers and paper towels, giving you a rich garden additive, that will grow bigger and better vegetables, flowers.

[3] Saw Dust:

Do you know someone who likes to build things? Chances are they will have sawdust to give away. Make arrangements for them to keep it in a 5 gallon bucket [that you provide] and call you when they are ready for you to pick it up. Mix it will your soil in the fall and by spring it will have become part of your soil. This is an especially good tip, if your soil is high in clay. The sawdust will loosen the clay and make it easier for the plant’s root system to grow.

[4] Kitchen Tools:

If you are gardening in a raised bed, before you go out and buy special hand tools for it, look around your kitchen and see what you can use. I prepared, planted and harvested my first raised bed, using only the tools I found in my kitchen. I found a sturdy long handled slotted spoon, 2 wooden spoons, an egg holder [used to getting boiled eggs out of hot water] that I put to great use in my garden. No expense or cost for any of them, they were just laying unused in my gadget drawer.

[5] Kitchen Waste:

tips for the vegetable gardener

Keep a covered container near your sink to put your kitchen waste. Once a week or sooner, I try to take my worms a treat of kitchen waste. Some times I have to do a little chopping for them but most times, all I do is add them to my compost bed, cover with a layer of dirt and walk away. I know that when I get ready to use that soil mixture in the spring, I will be richly rewarded.

To find more tips, continue reading or join the family by signing up for tips, ideas and thoughts on how to make your gardening experience a joy instead of a heart ache.

Nine Tasty Vegetables for Home Gardens

It’s sometimes recommended that you don’t try to grow vegetables that are readily available at your local supermarket. If a particular vegetable is inexpensive, you might want to skip growing it and just purchase it but I say until you have tasted fresh home grown vegetables, you do not know what you have been missing.

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  • Tomatoes – Although technically a fruit, its savory nature leads to this little beauty being considered a vegetable by most people. Tomatoes found in stores are usually picked nearly green and then ripened artificially.  This is done to ensure they are tough enough to survive shipping without being smashed, and so they last longer on the shelves. Since tomato quality can be really poor in stores, this is a very good choice. Tomatoes are the most popular choice for vegetable gardeners, because they have the most noticeable difference over store bought.
  • Lettuce – Although iceberg lettuce doesn’t vary that much from store to home, leaf lettuces and other fancy lettuces can taste much sweeter and crisper if grown at home. Plus, exotic lettuces can often be very expensive.
  • Peas – Peas can be very hard to find fresh. Canned peas are often mushy, and although frozen peas are certainly better than canned, they still pale in comparison to fresh peas. Tiny baby peas are sweet, delicate, and delicious, making them well worth the effort.
  • Carrots – Store bought carrots are often woody, tough, and bitter. Even organic carrots often carry a strong bitterness caused by being kept at temperatures that are too cool for too long. Fresh carrots are generally very sweet and delicious.
  • Radishes – Radishes are cheap and easy to find in stores, but most store bought radishes are already turning pithy. If you’ve ever bitten into a radish that was dry and spongy inside, you’ll understand how bad pithy radishes are. Fresh radishes are delightful. To me, it is the queen of all vegetables in the garden.  Did you know the green tops of radishes can be eaten, also?
  • Greens – Although most greens are readily available in stores, they’re often yellowing and wilted by the time you buy them. By growing them yourself, you can be sure you have fresh greens when you want them.
  • Growing What You Eat in Your Own Vegetable Garden
  • Asparagus – Fresh asparagus is often ridiculously expensive, and canned asparagus is mushy and horrible! The only way to get affordable asparagus that isn’t mushy and bland is to grow it yourself.
  • Peppers – Peppers in stores are often shriveled and pathetic. Plus, peppers that aren’t standard green peppers can often be very expensive. My local store has sold red peppers for as much as $2.99 each, which is crazy! Grow your own and save money.
  • Cucumbers – Store bought cucumbers are often bitter and dry. If you’ve ever had a dried out, semi-hollow cucumber, you’ll understand the importance of growing your own!
  • Corn – Sweet corn is a delight to eat when it’s freshly picked. Corn is extremely sensitive to being off the stalk. Once it’s been off the stalk for 6 hours, it starts to deteriorate rapidly. You’ve never had corn until you’ve eaten it cooked fresh.

All of these vegetables are outstanding when grown in the home garden, not only in taste but in their food value, too.  As 40-50% of their vitamins haven’t been lost during the shipping and processing of them.  

Go play in the dirt people, it’s good for you!

Growing Indoor Winter Vegetables

Growing Indoor Winter Vegetables can be fun and keep your family supplied with fresh vegetables all winter long.

growing winter vegetables
Depending upon where you live when winter rolls around, you can forget about getting local fresh vegetables in your diet. You can purchase vegetables which are shipped from across the country, but there’s nothing quite like having that fresh from the garden taste in the dead of winter. Some food enthusiasts may be able to extend the taste of summer by growing indoor winter vegetables. Does this interest you?

One method of growing indoor winter vegetables is to set up a hydroponics garden. This type of gardening uses specific nutrient compounds to grow vegetables, but does not use soil. It can easily be done indoors, but depending upon the vegetables you’d like to grow it can take up a good amount of space.

Hydroponics gardens can be made at home for as cheaply as $50-$80 for a small garden, but they can cost considerably more and require regular attention to ensure that everything is working properly. You can find plenty of instructions for hydroponic gardening either online, at the library or by purchasing books. You’ll also need a system of grow lights to provide the plants with all of the light they need.

You can also create large container gardens to enable you to grow fresh vegetables during the winter months. Large pots set near a window which gets between six to eight hours of natural sunlight during the day work best. This enables the plants to get real sunlight rather than having to depend upon a grow light system. If you live in an area which doesn’t get the recommended amount of light, grow lights are a viable alternative.

Grow small plants such as herbs or salad greens in a window sill such as in the above photo, if the window gets plenty of direct sunlight during the day. These plants can be grown and, as they become mature, snipped off for use in the various dishes you prepare for your family. Look at local home improvement or gardening centers for kits which are designed for use indoors. The end of the season is a great time to shop for them, too, as they will likely be marked down dramatically.

Hanging pots are another option for growing indoor winter vegetables. You’ll want to be sure the pot is hanging on a joist so it doesn’t fall from the ceiling. The pot will also have to be hung low enough to get the direct sunlight the plants need.

Which plants are best suited to growing indoors? That really depends upon the time and effort you want to expend. Some people have been able to grow peppers, salad greens, cherry tomatoes and various herbs. You may be able to grow other plants indoors as well, but remember – whatever plants you grow, you will have to pollinate them yourself since there won’t be flies, butterflies and bees to do it for you.

Once you’ve become an old pro at growing indoor winter vegetables, you’ll have the knowledge you need to start your seedlings for your spring garden, too. Growing your own vegetables in the colder months isn’t difficult, but it does take quite a bit of patience. Given the time and conditions they need, you could be enjoying the fruits of your labor long before spring arrives.

Tips For Container Gardening

container gardening

 

Container gardening is a fun way to grow flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables in a creative and simple way. The fact is, you can grow things in just about any type of container. Let’s take a look at the wide variety of options you have and then explore some tips for container gardening.

Getting Creative and Eco Friendly

One of the reasons container gardening has become so popular is that it’s a fun way to decorate a patio, porch or yard. You can use any type of container from an old bathtub to a wooden crate. You can reuse items or head to the home goods store to find planters that fit your design tastes and needs.

Small Plants

Have an old fish bowl or aquarium? You can grow vegetables in it. Do you have a mug that you never use? It might be great for herbs like chives. Small plants like herbs and lettuce, and even root vegetables like carrots and radishes, grow well when they’re in smaller planters.

You can pack them tightly together for an ornate appearance and to maximize space. You can also add these vegetables to flower pots. For example, you might have a planter that has petunias, daisies and lettuce.

Medium Size Plants

You can find lovely plants for medium size planters too. For example, peppers – both sweet and hot – are beautiful plants. You can use the containers as a decorative element on your porch or patio and enjoy the harvest in later summer.

If you like spicy foods, try Habanero peppers. They have a bright orange color that is quite stunning.

Tomatoes are somewhere between medium and large. If you plant them in a planter, make sure to place a tomatoes cage over them so they have the support they need to grow up. Look for smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes.

Large Containers for Large Plants

Larger containers work too. You can grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini and squash in larger containers. Position a trellis in the container so the plant can grow vertically. These types of containers and plants make a great background on a porch. You can place smaller containers in front of them and create a tiered container garden.

3 Tips for Container Gardening

Container gardening is easy but there are a few tips and rules of thumb that make it even simpler.

1. Holes – If your container doesn’t have holes, then you will want to drill them. Your container needs some drainage so your plant doesn’t become waterlogged.

2. Soil – A good potting soil can make all the difference in your success. You can make your own or buy a bagged soil from your nursery.

3. Check regularly – While you don’t have to worry about too many pests eating your plants and you certainly don’t have to worry about weeds, it’s a good idea to create a habit to check, and water, your container garden on a regular basis.

Container gardening is fun and it’s an easy way to start turning your thumb green. Identify a few types of plants you’d like to grow, find the appropriate container and get started.

 

Vertical Gardening

Give Vertical Gardening A Try

If you have a small space or a wall or fence that you want to beautify, a vertical garden may be just what you’ve been looking for. Vertical gardens allow you to grow anything from flowers and herbs to larger vegetable plants. It just takes a little imagination and planning.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to grow vertically.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to try vertical gardening.

What Is a Vertical Garden?

Doing vertical gardening is pretty much what it sounds like. Rather than growing horizontally on the ground or in a raised garden bed, you grow up a wall or structure. How you create your vertical garden depends on your space and your needs.

For example, you can hang several planters vertically and plant herbs and vegetables in the space. You can also position beans and vine-like vegetables and fruits against a wall and coax them to grow up the wall instead of out into the yard.

The main difference in using vertical gardening is the medium that the plants grow in. Hydroponics for example, can be a type of vertical garden. Hydroponics are plants that grow in water.

Quadraphonic is another type of vertical gardening and it mixes raising fish with your plants. That’s a bit more complicated than we’re going to get here but it’s certainly something to investigate if you love fish and gardening. Soil-based gardens are the other option.

The Benefits of a Vertical Garden

There are an abundance of benefits of vertical gardening. In addition to allowing you to use your imagination in terms of how you plant your vegetables and herbs and what you plant them in, you can have a lot of fun. Many people try to find ways to make their vertical garden artistic.

For example, you might hang white pots on a glossy black fence in a star-shaped pattern. You could also find unique items to hold your plants like old rain gutters, or you might make a vertical garden from a closet hanging shoe holder.

The other benefits include the fact that your plants are off of the ground so they’re not vulnerable to pests. They also don’t need weeding which certainly saves time and energy. You can also bring your vertical garden indoors during the colder months which may give you a longer season.

The Downside of a Vertical Garden

Downsides might include the fact that you can be limited with the size of the plants. You don’t see too many people hanging tomato or pumpkin plants on the side of a wall or a fence. Also, because the plants are hanging and they’re more exposed to the air, you may need to water them more often.

Take a look around your space and consider what you might want to grow. If you’re interested in smaller plant and you have a wall or fence that fits the bill, consider trying a little vertical gardening.

Why I Garden In Raised Beds

Why Garden in Raised Beds?

There’s a growing trend to garden in raised beds. These beds are usually anywhere from eight to twelve inches deep and can be any shape or size you desire. They are easy to build and can fit any size yard or patio. And with a greenhouse built to position on top, you can extend the growing season. Let’s take a look at the benefits of gardening in raised beds.

Gardening in raised beds

1. Soil control – When you build raised beds for home gardening, you have a few choices. You can position it onto the ground or you can build a bottom with holes for drainage. Either way, you’re adding soil to the bed.

You have complete control over the type of soil and can choose the mix that best fits your garden’s needs. Additionally, year after year, you can simply add more quality soil to the box. You don’t have to worry about depleting the existing soil.

2. Easier weeding – Actually, if you use a ground cover like mulch or a weed barrier then you won’t have any weeding to contend with raised beds. Weeding in a traditional garden can take hours each week. With raised beds you simply water and harvest. It’s a lot less work.

3. Works for any size space – Generally, raised beds are four feet by four feet. This is a great size because it fits nicely into a corner and because you can reach across it from any direction. However, if you have a unique sized space that you need to fit a garden into, you can make your raised bed fit your needs. You can, for example, build a long, narrow two by eight foot bed.

4. Easy to build – All you really need are a couple of nails, a hammer, and some wood. You can have the wood measured and precut at the lumber yard or hardware store. Metal brackets can ensure that you have perfect corners too.

5. Longer growing season – The growing season is extended with raised beds because you can start earlier in the season. The soil you add to the bed warms more quickly than the dirt in the ground. Additionally, you can add a greenhouse top to the bed to take your vegetables into the cooler months.

6. No problems with pests – With a raised garden bed you won’t have to worry as much about rabbits and rodents eating your plants. Additionally, you can prevent many bugs from becoming problems.

7. They’re attractive – Using raised beds for gardening can fit any design personality. You can make them out of wood, metal, and even plastic or synthetic wood. You can paint them or adorn them however you like.  Raised beds can becomes part of your outdoor living area.

Raised garden beds fit a variety of needs. They’re lovely, easy to care for, and can extend your growing season by months. Measure your space and start designing your raised bed garden today.

 

From Your Yard To Your Table

Forget about the saying “Farm to Table” and think about, growing what you eat, using the “from your yard to your table” method, as a way to eat healthier and cheaper.  Ninety-five percent of us have space to grow some of our own food items.  It could be two to three vegetables or a well thought out 6 x 10 foot space for square foot beds and a few containers.  No matter which you decide to do, it can be the beginning of a great future in supplying yourself and family with the best organic food coming from your yard to your table.

from your yard to your table

Even using a small space if you rotate the plants during your nine or ten months of the growing time span, you can decrease your food budget and increase the quality of the food you put on your dinner table.  Like with most new things you might want to start small, then branch out with each growing season.

Choose your family’s favorite three or four vegetables and start with them. Research your best growing season for these items in your area, and choose the plants or seeds for that time period.  Some veggies can be planted more than one time within that growing time span.  The seed package is your best guide when choosing those seeds or plants.

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If you have small children, dogs or other small animals in your area and having your garden ground level would be more fight than pleasure, think about raising your growing boxes up higher.  This is my small raised bed where I place small plants that vine. It’s 24 inches wide by four feet long. At one end I grew midget cucumbers and planted the rest in hot peppers.  I placed the hot peppers up there because I didn’t want any little fingers finding the small red peppers too charming to resist and bite into one.

The old drawer below is where I started seeds to be planted in the beds, later in the season.  The get off to a good start and when the plants are 3-4 inches in height, I can move them into a bed when my earlier plants have been harvested.

If all you have is a patio, balcony, or small yard space, you can still think about growing what you eat, and bringing it from your yard to your table.