I found a packet of Butterfly friendly Spring bulbs this year. Since I am all about attracting butterflies to my gardens, I couldn’t resist. Of course, just one wasn’t enough, and I bought two. I had an instant dilemma when I opened the packages, the bulbs were all mixed up. I had no idea what was which, or which was what, and there were dozens of them. I gave up trying to identify variety and sorted them by sizes. Larger bulbs in the back of my pot, smaller sizes up front, and a row of a tulip I like in the middle.
They are planted way too close, but since they are a one season planting in garden pots, I will decide after they bloom if I am going to save and replant another year. The biggest problem I must solve is keeping the critters that munch on bulbs out of the pots. In soft dirt they will be easy pickings for rodents that dig.
I came up with a solution I hope will work for me. I used this tactic in my spring garden buckets and will try it with the bulb plantings. I cut the grates out of flat trays and secure them with large six inch anchor pins. When the bulbs begin to sprout I will remove the plastic grids and drape some netting over them. It gives me joy to think ahead to Springtime and butterflies.
Gardening in buckets, square-foot style, has been successful. My favorite harvests were: tomatoes, Swiss chard, Tuscan Kale, Russian Kale, and bush green beans. In the past, I have had good luck with cucumbers, this year not so much, I will try again in the early Autumn or Spring, but will choose a different variety.
The million dollar question: Will I continue to plant this way in the future?
Square Foot Gardens are a terrific choice for gardening in small spaces. After planting Square Foot plots for several years I gave them up to grow a beautiful rose garden. With food shortages looming, and prices skyrocketing this Spring, I decided the time was right to grow a few vegetables again. I didn’t want to dig another garden into the yard, and wanted to try something temporary. I’ve combined Square Foot with container gardening and it is growing well in the first days of June.
The garden needed a border; the largest expense was the fencing. This keeps the area neat and also helped in laying out the proper measurements. Dollar store buckets, two and a half gallons, were an inexpensive choice for the containers. I created drainage holes by thrusting my spading fork once into the buckets as they sat on the grass. The holes were perfectly spaced, and my lawn aerated a bit too. Garden fabric cut large enough to cover the area keeps the grass from growing up between the pots. Filling the buckets with a mixture of organic container soil and vermiculite was easy using the wheelbarrow to mix it.
Swiss Chard, Kale, and Bok Choy have been very plentiful. Steamed with carrots, mixed with a little butter, and ladled over Jasmine Rice, oh my, so delicious.
The tomatoes already need watering every day, their stems appear more like small tree trunks than normal sized garden plants. I have them in the back of the gardens, braced against trellises for support. Small palettes between the plots keep the grass down also. I’m growing a large variety of vegetables to take note of how each plant performs. Too early to know what will succeed as of now, but the green beans, four plants to a bucket, are getting small beans after flowering. I’ll update as the summer progresses.
So far, the only antagonist to my garden joy is the yellow squash. There have been many flowers, and several small squash, but all developed blossom rot. I’ll read up on this problem and apply what might help. If I find a solution that works I will post the results. Here’s a photo of another squash, white squash, I am hoping it will perform better.
PS Between the time of writing the first draft of this post, and now, the small green beans grew large enough for a first tasting. Delicious! Food grown in a dollar store bucket: an achievement that might come in handy if the world keeps spinning toward higher inflation and food shortages in the future.
One of my simple pleasures in life is sprouting seeds in the house under lights. I’ve started the large seeds of Moonflowers early. They grow quickly, but are slow to blossom outdoors. The moonflower sprouts are large now, and growing through the netting of their pots. This morning I transplanted them into large size cell packs saved from last year’s planting.
Lack of humidity in the house sometimes causes the sprouts of larger seeds to become trapped within the seed coat. When this problem occurs I give the seedling a chance by dribbling water over it several times through the day. If I try to remove the seed coat by hand, almost always, the plant inside is torn and ruined beyond saving. Keeping the seed coat wet gives the sprout a better chance of survival.
My close focus photograph of these coleus sprouts is rather blurry, but I only took the one shot, and it is a perfect example of the problem-solving tip I want to share today. When planting small seeds, even specially blended seed-starting soil can be full of lumps, small twigs, and other woodsy debris used to create the mix. Luckily for me, only one of my coleus seeds was placed on a ‘clod’ of dirt. The seed sprouted fine, the problem arose when the small root tried to reach the moisture beneath it. The hard clod of dirt it was planted on created a barrier and the sprout withered a day or two after emerging from the seed.
To give future seeds a better chance I filled the bottom of the container with about 1.5 inches of seed starter, then using an old sifter, I added about 1/4 inch of finely sifted seed starter mix. This makes a huge difference in the success of growing small seeds.
After sifting, place the container in a shallow pan of water and allow the mix to wick up more water. If the bottom layer of seed starter is sufficiently drenched, the sifted layer will absorb plenty of water for sprouting. Make sure and cover small seedlings with plastic wrap or another type of lid to ensure uniform moistness through the sprouting stage.
I’ve begun planting out seedlings and potted plants. After placing this pretty orange pansy in the ground I found it uprooted and wilted within twelve hours. I pushed it back into the soil, and it revived a bit, but it probably will not regain the vigor it might have had if its roots hadn’t been bitten half away.
The situation is a Catch-22 for sure. I enjoy the cute critters that populate my yard. I’ve even been known to throw them a nut or two, and I keep the bird feeders filled. To help with the hungry animal problem we let the back yard grow naturally, and this has really helped with the bunnies, since they love the dandelions and clover that grows in the lawn. The squirrels make use of the bird feeders in an entertaining fashion, but they also have a digging instinct that will cause them to uproot smaller plants in the garden and hanging baskets that show exposed earth. How to control the squirrels digging instinct is my biggest dilemma until the chipmunks emerge, which is a whole other story.
This year I marked my seeded plots with corks on short skewers. The skewers were purchased at the Christmas Tree Shop, 100 for about $2.00. The corks were a lucky find, dozens upon dozens in a bag at the local Thrift store.
A cork, stuck onto the sharp end of the skewer, with a drop of a ‘stinky’ essential oil on its top, is a great animal repellent. I started with pungent Eucalyptus oil. Because animals will adapt to a smell they begin to recognize I will rotate Eucalyptus with Tea Tree oil, Cinnamon, Peppermint, and other oils I’ve gathered through the years. The oils won’t poison me, nor the animals, and will last forever since I only use one small drop and it quickly sinks in. The corks do double duty of labeling and repelling.
Other items can be used in place of corks. I’ve used seashells turned upside down to hold drops of oil in the past. I will update on how my plants do during this initial stage of planting. Once they are bigger the plant itself is usually left alone, it’s the fruits and vegetables that become a draw at that time.
The photograph is a bit blurry, but I think you can see the small mango sprout in the center. I have sprouted and grown mango pits in the past, but the small trees didn’t grow quickly enough for me, and I didn’t continue on with them. I’m going to try once again, and this time start an earlier fertilizing schedule. I’ll update later in the season.
I first published this dahlia collage in September of 2018. The passing months have not diminished my desire to plant several large dahlias in this year’s garden.
I purchased a few tubers in local garden centers, and decided to give them a head start for growing. I found several large pots, filled them with potting soil, and placed the tubers inside. Oh Happy Day! All of the tubers sprouted and grew. It’s time to plant them in the sunniest of garden beds.
Tall dahlias need stakes to stay upright in heavy rain. I read a great tip years ago that suggested putting a stake in place when you first plant the tubers. If you insert a stake after the dahlia tubers are planted and covered with soil you risk puncturing/tearing the tubers and killing the plant.
After I planted my dahlia and had my stake in place, I also took a precaution to protect my eyes. It’s so easy to forget about stakes and sticks jutting out of the ground when I weed or plant. I’ve had several close calls with my eyes, and have had stakes badly scrape my arms when weeding. To remind myself of their presence, and to add a bit of protection to the ragged ends, I place a seashell on the top of the stake.
I use seashells because I have boxes of them stored in the garage. All types of articles could be used to mark the top of the stakes, acorn tops, nuts, windmills, small cans painted in bright colors. The list is as endless as your imagination. Please do be careful with all types of stakes in the ground; I will always carry a scar on my leg from running into stake marking out a building site when I was a child. Sixteen stitches to close a wound leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime. Happy (and safe) gardening my friends!
In November I posted on clearance aisle tulip bulbs stored in my refrigerator drawer among the carrots and other vegetables. This weekend, to break up another monotonous winter day with hopes of Spring, my youngest grandson helped me begin to force the bulbs. The tulips are in a mixed-colors package. Although we might speculate about which dreamy colors will unfurl, it’s totally a matter of chance as to color combination.
The health of a few of the bulbs was in question when we saw some greenish mold around the sprouting end. If the bulb also had a spongy feel I tossed it out. We were left with over two dozen to plant. Most of the bulbs already had about a half inch of stem growth. We planted some in soil in deep terracotta pots and others in shallow ceramics.
We covered plastic pots with moss to disguise their unnatural appearance and planted in those. My favorite display is the tall vase with black river rock on the bottom, filled with water to just over the top of the rocks, the tulip bulbs can be watched from start to finish as they develop. Since we did find a bit of mold we removed the brown covering of the bulbs that show through the glass. I learned something today, the outer layer of paper-like husk on a bulb is called a tunic.
“Tunicate bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and ornamental alliums, have a paper-like covering called a tunic that protects the fleshy scales from drying out. “~ Delaware Online
While researching the properties of a tulip bulb I discovered a week-long Tulip Celebration in Lewes, Delaware, April 5th – 14th. Lewes is about a three hour drive from our home. It is also accessible from the Cape May/Lewes Ferry. If you love tulips and are near Delaware at this time, perhaps you’ll find time to celebrate in Lewes and welcome Spring.
Do you remember the sea bean pod I found on Cape May’s beaches a few weeks ago? I culled out four of the small trees that sprouted and potted one up to grow to a larger size. The seedling is most likely a black locust tree, but my daydreams find me still wondering if the pod might have made a seaward journey from the tropics via the Gulf stream to Cape May.
The sea bean seeds are a good example of garden wisdom: nick and soak large seeds before planting. The sweet pea seeds I soaked, and also nicked with a nail clipper, have already sprouted outdoors in the winter sown containers, while those not treated are only beginning to swell a bit.
Here’s an inside peek at one of the milk jugs. The arugula seeds are already growing. Also sprouting outdoors is broccoli, mustard spinach and the sweet peas.
For plants that will only grow in warm conditions, such as coleus, I’m having good luck in the basement. A small heater inside a plastic covered light table mimics a greenhouse and the seeds are sprouting well. They will not need to be thinned since I sowed them with the small seed sowing method.
Every year one of my gardening goals is to try one new and unique vegetable or flower. This year I chose pink celery from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
I won’t be at fault if the celery doesn’t grow. Although I’ve never grown celery before, I’m planning to start it three ways. The package says to begin 8 – 12 weeks before the last frost. That time is now. Last night I planted the celery in a milk carton for winter sowing. Tonight I will plant it in flats to grow under lights inside. Lastly, when the soil warms, I will try a few seeds directly in the soil.
Pink Celery…I think it odd enough to be part of Kammie’s Oddball Challenge this week. I can’t wait to show this oddball vegetable to my grand-daughters and their mother…they all love pink!
Oh WOW! It’s truly how I felt when I checked on my sea-bean sowing a day or two ago. They were sprouting! In about a week’s time the seeds I nicked before soaking have swelled and sprouted and given me JOY! How can I not be happy when new life emerges from a dried out seed, a seed found in a pod among sea drift? I still have no idea if the pod is from a local tree or if it rode the Gulf Stream on it’s path from Caribbean to East Coast. Cape May juts out a bit from the coast so I am hoping this could be a tropical plant. Whatever it might be, it’s quick sprouting has filled me with plans to search out more sea beans for my ocean sprout collection!
“Sea beans come our way from the Caribbean, South America, Central America and the southernmost Florida Keys thanks largely to the Gulf Stream, the north-flowing river within the Atlantic off the East Coast. The beans turn up as far north as Cape Cod, though they become increasingly rare north of Cape Hatteras. Southeastern Florida beaches, on the other hand, are a collector’s paradise, given the proximity to the sources.”
~ Naturalist’s Notebook: Knowing Beans About the Beach
One technique I will continue to use is nicking the shell of very hard seeds before planting. Only the seeds I nicked sprouted. The others are still laying beneath the surface of the soil.
Imagine growing hundreds of seedlings for your garden without the need to tend them indoors. It’s almost like magic! Winter Sowing is the answer to hands-off seedling success. I’m illustrating my steps to winter sowing with step by step photos. You can find amazing articles throughout the web and videos on Youtube if you need more information. I noticed there is even a Facebook group for Winter Sowing now. Today, I sowed and put my first container outdoors for the 2019 growing season. I planted beets from a dollar store packet that only cost 25 cents. I thickly sowed the seeds to take advantage of both greens and beets. Today in the supermarket one large beet was considered a bunch and was selling for $3.49. Outrageous! Winter Sowing is the brainchild of Trudi Davidoff. Detailed information and links on beginning winter sowing can be found here: Winter Sown
I’ve saved milk cartons in the basement for months.
Begin by inserting a paring knife into the carton 3-4 inches from the bottom, near the handle.
After I make a small slit with the paring knife I cut around the bottom with scissors.
Stop before you cut all the way through, leaving a bit of carton near the handle to join the top and bottom. This makes taping the carton shut easier.
I place the bottom of the carton in my kitchen sink over the drain. I push my paring knife through the carton bottom in four spaced out spots.
I insert the scissors in the slits and twist. This creates four large drainage holes. In the past I used a hot screw driver to make holes, but this process is easier and you don’t inhale toxic fumes from the melting plastic.
I fill the bottom of the carton with 1 1/2 inches of sterile organic potting soil. On top of the potting soil I add an equal amount of organic seed starter soil.
I water this until it is soaked and then let it fully drain.
I sow my seeds and cover with a thin layer of seed starter. If I keep the top layer very thin it will usually wick up water from the layer of seed starter soil beneath it.
I label the top with permanent marker. I have to keep a close eye on the labeling. The letters will fade in just weeks. It’s vital to reapply the marker when the letters lighten or I’ll be guessing as to which seedling is what. Tape the edges together with duct tape and place outside in a sunny spot. The wet soil in the carton bottom has always kept my cartons grounded, even in windy winter weather. I will remove the cap later today or the seeds might become too hot in warmer weather. I usually don’t quit my winter sowing madness until every spare milk carton is filled. You can find lists of which plants do best started this way on the Winter Sowing site. Happy Gardening!
The plant in the photograph had its beginnings in the sparse leaves atop a pineapple. I have planted the tops of pineapple in two ways. The first, soaking the severed pineapple top in water didn’t work out well. The pineapple softened and rotted in the water and the plant never thrived. The second is a better method, cut away the top leaving about a half inch portion of the pineapple, dry for a few days and then plant in soil. The result is the large plant you see above. It has been growing about two years give or take a few months. Supposedly, pineapples grown like this will produce fruit atop a stalk and then die back. Pineapples are bromeliads.
Avocado pits grow well using two methods. One, suspend the pits in water using toothpicks. Leave the top half inch above the water line, the pointed end will be submerged in the water until you see roots and/or top growth. You can also plant the pit directly in the soil. Leave a small portion of the top above the soil. The key to growing avocados is having a schedule for pinching out the lanky sprout. There are many good articles on the internet about when to prune your avocado plant. Good directions can be found here: Pinching out an avocado.
I guess it won’t come as a surprise that when my ginger suddenly sprouted I planted it in soil. Updates will follow in a few months.
Give growing ginger tubers a try: Growing Grocery Store Ginger
It’s the season of many fruits. What pits, seeds or sprouts do you have in your fruit bin? Children love these projects. Happy planting.
I grow most of my coleus in large pots beneath the dappled shade of pine trees. I start out with a good potting soil enriched with fertilizer. I plant three to four plants in each pot and keep a watchful eye on the moistness of the soil. It’s one of my gardening joys to watch a sprout with only the promise of color grow and develop into a beautiful and unique plant.
If I was growing coleus only as an accent plant in the garden I would pinch out flower stalks as soon as they appear, but for me, the emerging spiky blossoms indicate good things to come. My coleus will soon begin to cross-pollinate with each other and then produce seed for 2019. I have collected seed from my plants for many, many years. To keep only the prettiest and most unusual coleus producing seeds I will only let the best plants begin to flower. Diligence in culling out the common in appearance will assure only my favorites will be harvested for seed. I’m already excited for next year’s crop. Is that counting my seeds before they are harvested…probably!
I planted three small garden patches with an inexpensive wildflower packet this year. I think I paid about 20 cents each for a handful of packets. They grew with hardy exuberance, filling the patches with foliage. When the temperatures warmed up they began to bloom in a glorious array of variety and colors.
The nectar and pollen draw all types of pollinators, both large and small, and today when taking photographs I saw a few butterflies hovering over the patches.
The foliage can look a little weedy and that’s okay because, in reality, many of these wildflowers are considered weeds.
I love the Black-Eyed Susans that grew from the packets. The close-up details fill me with awe over what the good Lord has created in miniature. This photo is part of Skywatch Friday. The burst of petals is reminiscent of the fireworks on Wednesday night.
Sir Water Scott perfectly describes the way my wildflower garden grows and how I want to live my life. I like orderly garden beds that bloom with decorum at the right time and in the right place, but I prefer the glorious action and surprises in a patch of mixed wildflowers.
If you press flowers, you will find that many of these wildflowers make terrific candidates for pressing, as does their sparse foliage.
Sketching, painting and other forms of art using wildflowers becomes easier by isolating single varieties with a large sheet of posterboard.
It’s not too late to plant wildflowers. I will be adding fresh seeds to my gardens for a few weeks yet in hopes of enjoying wildflowers throughout the entire summer and fall.
Over the last few months I’ve been collecting moss. A bit from here, a patch from there, I find it in places where motorcycles have created ruts on woodland paths, in deep holes dug by children for their games of war, in low places on the side of the roads I travel. Earth seems to heal her wounds in deep green moss.
Collecting mosses is easy. I always try to take a piece that is not in an area where people walk or gather. I don’t want to blight the beauty of the landscape by being greedy. Since I’ve collected only bits at a time, the moss garden has taken about eight weeks to complete. The area is shady, the main job in maintaining and nurturing the patch will be to water, water, and water. I must be diligent in this area if I want to have success. It will still be a long shot. When the summer weather nears one hundred degrees even the hardiest plants begin to wilt.
Most mosses have very shallow roots. To plant I use a trowel, rough up the soil a bit, lay the moss on the stirred up ground and water.
I isolated a few of the greens in the mosses, there are surely dozens more, but this is a good representation of some of the tones the moss contains. If you are interested in moss and growing a moss garden take a look at these sites. Moss and Stone Gardens Moss Gardening Growing Moss
I’ve planted like a whirlwind this week. It’s been rainy, but I’ve mustered on, wearing a large-brimmed hat to keep the raindrops out of my eyes. I’m hoping my sprouts will develop strong roots before the heat gets too high.
You might wonder what the strange towers and sticks are in the back of my garden. These are my sunflower towers created with soda bottles. They worked well last year, and I was able to grow sunflowers in several gardens. I’m hoping they will protect my young sunflower plants from rodents large and small.
I used some of the shells I have on hand for labeling plants. The shells are doing double duty for me and work as rodent repellents. I added a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil inside the inner recesses of each shell. I’m hoping this strong fragrance will discourage four-legged varmints of all sizes.
I’ve already had to replant some seedlings chipmunks and squirrels unearthed in their constant quest for seeds. Last week, I saw my nemesis for the first time this season, that dastardly groundhog who mows down my beautiful plants like a John Deere tractor. He was wary though, I think he remembers his close encounter with the marbles I sent his way last year with my trusty slingshot. Or does he remember the time I chased him yelling like a crazy person and swinging a broom? When I saw him this time I yelled, “GROUNDHOG!” He heard me and ran before I could chase him down. I ended up laughing at myself, when did I start hollering like Granny of Beverly Hillbillies fame? I sounded just like her when she used to get aggravated with Jethro and yell his name.
Oh my! Granny once looked like an old, old woman to me. How did she grow so young, and how did I grow so old? Life…it goes so fast. Now, back to chasing that groundhog…that will keep me young!
I love Ranunculus flowers. In years past I’ve bought them as potted plants at a local farm stand. This year for the price of one plant, I bought a package of ten tubers.
I read that the tubers are less brittle and easier to handle if you soak them for a few hours in water. I did this, and they plumped up nicely. I planted each one in a separate pot and put them in a sunny window.
Hopefully, in a few months I will be able to update this post with some photos of blooming Ranunculus.
Coleus are one of my favorite garden plants to grow from seed, but that is another post, perhaps later in the week. This small cutting is rooting on my windowsill now. Did you know there is a rumor that cuttings root faster in green glass with sun shining through it? I don’t know if it has been proven, but why not try if you have green glass around the house. (Perhaps a green soda bottle would work too!)
The coleus I’m rooting for Spring, is a cutting from a rooted and transplanted cutting I took in the Autumn. That’s a bit of a tongue-twister, isn’t it? I took about a dozen cuttings of my favorite coleus before the first frost, and they are rooted and growing strong on my windowsills. They will be replanted outside in pots in the first few weeks of May and be grown beneath the pine trees in the ivy beds. Coleus thrive in this area and add a lot of color to the gardens.
I’m partial to the light yellow colors that several of my coleus have developed over the years, and tend to plant and root more of these each season. Rooting coleus cuttings is easy, cut a sprig from the mother plant 4 -6 inches tall, place in water, and wait a few weeks for roots to develop. When the roots fill the container, plant in potting soil. I have great luck doing nothing more than these easy steps.