Planting – Square ‘CONTAINER’ Gardening

Early Spring Planting in the Square Foot Container Garden

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 Square Foot Container Garden at Present

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.

Twelve Tomato Plants Along Back/Trellis supported
Swiss Chard

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.

Kale

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.

White Squash

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.

Phlowers – Yellow Nature

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Forsythia on an overcast day.

The forsythia seemed to be the only sunshine as I watched the sky on this day of April showers.

Creeping Jenny

I find a sense of security in the burst of color from garden perennials. I rely on the plants that green up and blossom with the warmth of the springtime sun. They give me hope that winter is truly behind us.

Double Daffodil

I planted dozens of daffodils in the Autumn. Even against an angry sky they glow.

Hyacinth

This pale yellow hyacinth might not have strong color, but it still has the same glorious scent as the varieties that sport brighter hues. This hyacinth is my choice for Flower of the Day.

Johnny-Jump-Up Violas

Rounding out my collection of yellow flowers are these sweet Johnny-Jump-Ups.

Phlowers – Camellia Blossoms

Camellia flowers – what a perfect way to start the week. Cee, host of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge, posted a beautiful camellia today. Inspired by her photograph, I looked through my flower files and found a few vibrant Camellia photos taken in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. Nothing banishes winter blues quite as well as the indelible hope and beauty of flowers in bloom.

Even the buds are beautiful.

What’s better than a perfect Camellia blossom? Why, two of course.

Plant – Mother of Thousands

When I purchased this succulent, I had no idea it was a kalanchoe, or that it was one of a variety called Mother of Thousands, and sometimes the Chandelier Plant. It has thrived in a terracotta pot in my sunny kitchen window. The plant is about eight inches in height at this time. Since it is growing so tall I will transplant it to a bigger pot soon to avoid top-heaviness.

When I first noticed a new plantlet near the base I assumed it was growing from the main plant root. Now, after seeing small plantlets clinging to the uppermost leaves, I realize the new growth developed from one of these small sprouts.

Of course, I couldn’t resist planting a few of the larger sprouts. I am attempting to get good results from two different mediums to see which works best. On the left is a mixture of vermiculite and seed starter, on the right a peat pellet. I’ll update in the future.

My baby chandelier plants are in the inchoate stage of life. I love it when challenges make me stretch a bit. When I saw the Ragtag Daily Prompt today, the word inchoate was a unknown to me. Now I know the meaning – will I ever use it in a sentence, well, first I better learn how to pronounce it.

Inchoate – (ĭn-kō′ĭt, -āt) Being in a beginning or early stage; incipient.
Imperfectly formed or developed; disordered or incoherent.
Recently, or just, begun; beginning; partially but not fully in existence or operation; existing in its elements; incomplete.

This oddball plant is also perfect for Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.

Phlowers – Tulips for a Valentine

Beautiful ovals, egg-shaped, the flowers open above the slender green stems into a gorgeous blossom with interesting centers. I like tulip flowers in all their stages. Even as they begin to dry and become papery, they have subtle beauty. Their vase life is well over a week in my cold winter house, and as a bonus, they grow taller as they age. I sure wish I was growing taller as I aged. 🤔

Valentine Tulips – Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Planting & Quick Tip – Simple Pleasures Seed Sprouting

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.

Perspective – What Do I Save?

The Ragtag Prompt today is the word Save. Without even a minute of thought my post almost wrote itself. Throughout the day, 5:00 a.m. to now, 1:16 p.m. (EST), I set aside the trash in the photograph to save. I realized, that without trying, the items followed a theme: things to recycle for gardening.

The can full of water is soaking the label off a cinnamon spice jar. I can use this to hold my own dried herbs. The can itself will be put on a shelf in my garage, ready to hold bacon grease or other refuse. Empty cans are indispensable in the garden, and in previous growing seasons I’ve used several for small plants. Larger-sized crushed tomato cans are a good one to keep, perfect to measure out a daily portion of bird seed. The mesh bag, cut off a ham that is even now simmering on the stove before baking, can be used to dry vegetables, suspend melons or squash above the ground, and can also store bulbs in the Autumn.

The cheesecake container, empty now, (wish it was still full) can hold expanding peat pots. They make a great instant greenhouse. I have quite a few Moonflower vines sprouting in one I saved a few weeks ago. Hmmm? I wonder what I’ll save next.

Phlowers – Deluge of Pink Flower Showers

Who would believe this gorgeous deluge of pink florets is atop the humble herb Oregano? I have quite a few Oregano plants in the front of my herb garden border. Not only flavorful, this member of the mint family is a healing herb. Oregano is a wonderful herb to use for its preventative/medicinal qualities. As with most foods and herbs, organically grown Oregano is the best choice.

Oregano florets draw pollinators by the dozens. Today, along with the honeybee, I also spotted wasps, bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies, hoverflies and sweat bees on the blossoms.

The Oregano blossoms are my entry into Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Project – Tin Can Upcycle Part III

I’m grateful for the requests I’ve had for a part three of this project to show how the tin can rack was put together. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I kept my eyes open for wiry baskets for weeks when I visited thrift stores. I found a set in the local Goodwill for $3.99.

I used a Shepherd’s hook for my hanging apparatus and placed it near the corner of the porch where I intended to display the cans. This was a providential choice explained later in the post.

Painting the cans was easy. Rain also created a ‘happy accident’ while they dried.’

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Bob Ross

The moisture, on paint not yet set, rippled the finish, and gave the cans a crackled appearance without the purchase of an expensive crackle medium.

Leather strips, purchased long ago in a large bag of scraps, were the best choice for hanging the cans. I threaded them through the side holes and knotted the ends. Leather is durable and withstands tearing on the sharp edges of the can as they pass through.

My hardest problem to solve was how to hang the cans on the rack. Threading the leather strips around the weave of the baskets was an option, but if a plant dies, I want to be able to remove the can, re-pot with another, and attach to the rack again. S-hooks would work, but are expensive; I searched for an alternative. I found this in a 12-pack of wire shower hooks. These were inexpensive, easy to use, and matched well when sprayed with a coat of matte black spray paint. I needed 2 packs of these.

A few baskets seemed wobbly at their junctures, so I strengthened them with long plastic strip ties and cut the extra length away once attached.

I ran into a problem once I had the cans planted; the weight of all eighteen was too heavy for the Shepherd’s hook and the structure began to lean forward. NO! An oversized eye screw was needed to stabilize the contraption. This is where my location proved providential. I attached the eye screw into the wooden porch railing and secured the Shepherd’s hook with two plastic strip ties.

Out of necessity I will check each plant daily. The growing area is small and will dry out quickly. Updates will be posted later in the season. This strange tower of wire baskets and cans is certainly worthy of being entered into Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.

Quick Tip – Stinky Scare Sticks/Repelling Pests in the Garden Organically

A chill is still in the air, but I know that as the temperature rises the pesky critters will wake up too. Right about the time I plant out small sprouts and plant seeds they will be roaming about with voracious appetites. This year I am prepared in advance with a new idea: Stinky Scare Sticks.

I gathered some good repellents: eucalyptus essential oil, cayenne or chili pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Organic coconut oil mixed with the eucalyptus oil was my glue. A toothpick dipped into the oil, and then into the spice mix, made the perfect stinky stick. Placed in garden pots and beds, the haze of pungent smells will hopefully hinder the munchies of the chipmunks and other pests.

I made quite a few and stored them at the ready on a garage shelf.

Another idea I’ve used in the past has been rocks and shells with a drop of eucalyptus, peppermint, cinnamon or other essential oil loathsome to small critters placed somewhere on their surface.  This also works as an unobtrusive repellent.

This post wouldn’t  be complete without a bit of a giggle. I also wrapped some of my kitty-cat’s  fur (rodents recognize the smell of a predator in the fur) around a toothpick, added some googly eyes, and placed it in the same pot for added scare appeal. I wonder if the chipmunks will run or just laugh at my silly creation.

Pheathers – Spring-Cleaning

An ‘oddball‘ place to find a piece of Easter Grass.

The days are lengthening, the temperature is rising, the gardens are beginning to thaw, time to clean the birdhouses before birds begin nesting again. We removed the bottom of the birdhouse and discarded the debris left by the previous occupants. Two of the birdhouses were rather empty, causing me to wonder if birds have already begun renovating and tossed out the twigs inside. One house was still full of sticks and a small nest. We spotted a single sprig of Easter basket filler woven into the dried grass.

We rehung the birdhouses with new strips of leathers. The knots harden and don’t loosen up once they are wet by rain. Although they might hold up another year I like to change them when we clean the houses. The three birdhouses are ready for new life. I might add another one on a tripod near my back window as I have in the past. Birdhouses 101 advises to place houses at least five feet above the ground and keep each house twenty-five feet away from the others.

“Make yourselves nests of pleasant thoughts. None of us knows what fairy palaces we may build of beautiful thought-proof against all adversity. Bright fancies, satisfied memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure houses of precious and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us. ~ John Ruskin

This post is part of Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by Traveling at Wit’s End: Feathered Friends.

Planting – Clearance Aisle Update/Forcing Tulips

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.

Forcing Tulip Bulbs for Spring

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.

Pheathers – Lion or Lamb

DSCF7328 (2)

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens

Beneath the blue skies of midweek it appeared March might come in cold, but beautiful and clear. I admired the migratory flock of birds dotting my neighbor’s tree. Host to an iridescent mix of grackles, red-wing blackbirds, cowbirds and starlings, the tree was the stage for a twittering cacophony of bird talk.

Unfortunately, winter has not reached its turning point, and March arrived wrapped in a mantle of snowfall. Regardless of its chilly start, I know warmer, radiant weather will eventually ensue and appease my winter-weary mood. March days will soon find me in my garden turning over the soil to once again welcome spring.

Plantings – The Joy of Pink/Kammie’s Oddball Challenge

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!

Perspective and Praise – Casting Cares

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

~ Psalm 55:22 (KJVA)

The acacia passage is one of my favorite areas in the Longwood Garden Conservatory. This beautiful vignette is just one of the many plant displays that will pique your interest during the Orchid Extravaganza.

If I was the gardener in charge of the area, the care, placement and upkeep of all the plants would be daunting. To cope, and do the best job possible, I would remind myself of wise counsel a good friend once gave me, “Concentrate on one problem at a time.” This sage advice works for so many aspects of life. We get into trouble when we overextend ourselves and try to take care of too many problems at one time.

Aha, you say, all my problems must be taken care of now, I have no choice. Yes, sometimes choosing just one doesn’t work, but in that case, I remind myself of the verse I began the post with, and I cast the burden on the Lord. What a promise to cling to in the midst of our busy, problem-filled lives. He will sustain me, He will sustain thee. God bless you on this Sabbath Day.

The orchids are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Place – Walking the Flip Side

I have to laugh at the sign stating “Lifeguard Not On Duty.” I feel sympathy enough for lifeguards sitting in their stands in the blazing sun of summer. Could you imagine an eight-hour shift on this Cape May Beach in the winter? Brrrrrr. No problem, I will find a way to walk on the beach and search for treasure even when the sand is covered with snow. My heart is anchored for life to the seashore towns and the ocean waves, and I can’t imagine living in a land-locked area.

February is living up to its reputation of being unpredictable. It was fun to walk the beach for a few minutes, but soon the cold wind penetrated our tightly-buttoned outerwear and we skedaddled back to the shelter of our car.

Pleasure – Orchid Extravaganza Part I

Each year I visit Longwood Gardens when the Orchid Extravaganza is on display in the conservatory. The Longwood gardeners create a masterpiece of color and form with the orchids grown in their greenhouses.

The conservatory built in 1921, elicits admiration as you turn the bend of the paved path and view it in the distance.

An inviting multitude of paphiopedilum, one of my favorite orchids, greeted us as we entered the side door. Those who plan the displays do a great job creating a balance between flowers, foliage and trees.

The rainbow colors sometimes hold a surprise too…these orchids, in reality are a deep purple, but appear to be a true black on first glance.

If orchids aren’t your flower of choice there are hundreds of additional plants on display. One of my favorites were the African Violets in garden boxes bordering one of the exhibition halls.

We also admired the lilies, filling many of the nooks and crannies of the conservatory in a rainbow of colors. Part II of our recent trip will be posted tomorrow.

Planting – Winter Sowing in Photographs

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!

Phriday Pheathers – Over-wintering

White Egret in Salt Marsh – Fortescue, New Jersey

I read a post today written by Be Creative Mary that spoke of the salty smell of East Coast seashores. My state’s coast, including the Delaware Bay, also has a distinctive fragrance of salt marsh. Even though we are in the throes of cold wintry weather, the first day of the year was filled with amazing birds over-wintering in the salt marshes of the Bay near Fortescue.

The swans were busy grooming, but one lifted its head long enough for me to capture their graceful beauty.

The sparrows, sheltering in bushes near the beach houses, were a cheerful sight to begin the year of 2019. The scrubby brush provided wintry hospitality for the small birds. I felt a sense of gratitude to see and hear the sweet chirping of this small flock.

I am hoping, that although most of the birds seem to be common house sparrows, perhaps there are a few that are a member of the endangered Salt Marsh Sparrow and the species will experience a recovery of numbers in the coming years.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Friday Foto Friends.