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0 comments | Saturday, September 30, 2006

Staking Trees on the Fly

I was in a situation yesterday where I needed a way to stake some trees for a friend of mine. I already had the hammer and tree stakes for him, but he had no tape available to tie the trees with. So, instead of driving 30 miles to the nearest garden center, we were rummaging through his garage looking for something suitable for tying the trees to the stake. He's a plumber by trade, so there wasn't a whole lot to work with. But I did spy a brand new roll of electrical tape in a bucket full of plumbing parts, so we decided to give it a try. Not wanting the tape to stick to the tree, I folded the tape in half, sticky side to sticky side as I pulled it off the roll. The tape had a nice give to it and was decided to work very well for tying trees to a stake when you are in a pinch. The tape should hold well enough until the trees get their roots established. I'm sure there are many more uses for electrical tape used in this manner.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Friday, September 29, 2006

More on Curb Appeal

In my past post about landscaping and curb appeal, I talked about a few ideas for enhancing the aesthetic value of your property to increase your chances of selling your home.

I've garnered a few more curb appeal ideas and thought I would share them with you here.

  • Make sure your landscape agrees with your home. There should be an overall scheme to your curb appeal. A brick ranch home will not look too great with a gravel sidewalk, while the gravel sidewalk may work just fine for a rural log cabin.

  • You know what they say: If you have it, flaunt it! Only in this case we're speaking of a mailbox. You can stick a pole in the ground and mount your mailbox or you can be a little more creative and come up with a way to make your mailbox a sign that says, "This is a great place to live!". Landscaping around your mailbox and creating a "mailbox wonderland" could make the difference whether a prospective home-buyer pulls in or drives on.

  • If you have an asphalt driveway with cracks and crevices and is way past the faded stage that is also surrounded by beautiful beds of flowers, what do you really think is going to get noticed first? Fix that driveway pronto and then all eyes will be on those lush flower beds

  • Does the bottom portion of your home look like a mudslide has just passed through? Pressure washers are very inexpensive to rent and will make quick work of removing the years of spattered dirt clinging to the home's foundation. While you have that pressure washer, why not go ahead and spray off any concrete areas and also the deck if it needs it?

Make sure your home sells quickly by applying these curb appeal ideas. A little work outside goes a long way when selling your home.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cutting Down a Tree Safely

Winter is just around the bend and a topic that can't be stressed enough is cutting down a tree...safely. We'll certainly be in the woods this winter cutting our share of trees out of the wood lot. We plan on using wood heat when we build our home, but in the meantime, we use the trees out of our wood lot for making maple syrup in the Spring. We know that every time we go out to cut down a tree, there is the possibility that injury could occur and that keeps us on our toes.

But if you're not used to cutting down trees, doing it safely should be your number one priority. Take this story for example. My grandparents had an old shady maple tree in declining health. My father, and two uncles tied a chain to the tree and hooked the other end of the chain to the tractor. The tree had a diameter of about two and a half feet. This was a very large tree. So they proceeded to cut the tree down, but as I look back, I really don't think they knew what they were doing. The tree had a lean to it. A lean towards the house. Even a heavy chain and a tractor wouldn't hold that beast of a tree back. And it didn't When they were about 3/4 through the cut, the tree leaned ~ further towards the house ~ the chain snapped and grandpa and I got a huge awakening from an afternoon nap in the living room as that tree came crashing into the front side of the house. The front two windows of the house shattered into thousands of pieces and the top of the tree lay smashed into the roof. The "sons" paid a price for their mistake that day as grandpa got two shiny new front windows. Thankfully no one was hurt. But the pride of the three "loggers" out front sure was. I wish I could have been awake to see their faces when that tree fell. I'm sure it would have been priceless.

But back to the moral here, if you're going to be out cutting down a tree this winter, please remember to keep safe and have someone watching for falling limbs and the tilt of the tree while you are cutting.

Gardening Tips


Maintaining and Storing Your Garden Tools

It's about that time when fellow gardeners will be storing their garden tools for the winter. If you've been maintaining your garden tools over the last couple of seasons, then congrats to you. But some of us are using metal detectors to find our misplaced garden tools. Lost under a heap of overgrown plants, many tools lay hidden, awaiting a nice dry spot in the garden shed.

But wait... before you store those garden tools in the garden shed, you can possibly help them endure one more season with some simple garden tool maintenance tips that are listed below.

  • Always try to keep your garden tools as dry as possible

  • When storing garden tools, make sure they are clean. Run your tool blades through a bucket of sand.

  • Remove any rust that may have accumulated on your tools over the gardening season

  • Sharpen any blades now so they will be ready for next Spring.

  • Lightly oil any metal parts, especially any pivoting bolts and screws. 3-in-1 oil or lithium grease is good for this purpose

  • If your wooden handles need a facelift, sand them down and then wipe down with boiled linseed oil

  • Store your garden tools in a dry place such as a garden shed or garage

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Monday, September 25, 2006

Common Garden Weeds

We've all had to deal with common garden weeds. But do you know the names of those garden weeds? Can you identify them with a glance? Do you know how those weeds propagate themselves? Some common garden weeds produce seed several times a season and if not caught in time will cover your garden bed with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of seeds. There are also a few common garden weeds that sit silently in your garden not looking like much of a threat. But what you do not see is the spreading stolons silently weaving an underground web, while at the same time robbing nutrients intended for your plants. All of this only means more work for you in the future of your garden. Learn to identify common garden weeds here. While not a definitive, or complete guide, it will certainly give you a heads up on the most common garden weeds. You can at least understand and identify the weeds, making it easier to determine what preventative measures are called for in your garden.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Sunday, September 24, 2006

What to do with Leaves in Fall

Perhaps you are looking for ideas on what to do with the leaves scattered across your lawn this Fall. There are a few things you can do with those leaves besides bagging them up and putting them out on the curb for the city to haul away.

Leaf Mold
We personally like to make leaf mold with our leaves. The leaves are basically raked up and piled into a bin and left to break down over the coming year. When all is said and done, what you have left over is an excellent garden amendment to add to your garden beds.

Leaves in the Garden Bed
Another idea is to go ahead and add the leaves to your garden bed and then till the leaves under when you put your garden to bed for the winter. The leaves will break down throughout the Winter months and the worms will take care of any leftover leaves in early Spring.

Leaves as a Mulch
Although not a lot of people's idea of a mulch, leaves can serve the same purpose. They suppress weed growth and hold in moisture very well. They break down over time and again add valuable nutrients to the garden soil. Some say they have problems with moisture getting through the matted leaves, but we have never had that problem. The soil underneath has always been moist and full of happy earthworms. The plants growing in these beds also seem to outperform those with regular chipped mulch.

Leaves for Compost
Leaves are also a useful ingredient in making compost. Make a pile close to your compost bin and you will have a nice supply of "browns" when you decide to start a new compost heap.

Leaves for Fun
Leaves bring back many fond childhood memories. Remember to pass those memories on to your children or grandchildren by making them a nice big pile of leaves to play in before you use them for your garden. They'll happily remember these cool Fall days just as you have throughout your life. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Saturday, September 23, 2006

Native Plants for Attracting Birds

An excellent way of attracting birds to your backyard is by planting native plants that these creatures depend on for food and shelter. The National Audubon Society offers many tips on creating the perfect backyard sanctuary for birds. It also offers a list of native plants for birds.

Some common native sources of food for birds are:

This is only a small selection of plants for attracting birds to your backyard, but should get you headed in the right direction. Birds do more for our gardens than we sometimes realize. It will always be in our best interest to keep these wonderful creatures close by. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Thursday, September 21, 2006

Protecting Sunflower Seed Heads from Birds

Most birds just love sunflower seeds. And protecting your sunflower seed heads from birds, so you'll have some to eat, is a simple task. Just dig out an old pair of pantyhose and place over the sunflower seed heads when they are near ripening. You'll get your share of sunflower seeds and you can leave a few uncovered just for the birds. Better yet, dry several sunflower seed heads and save them for feeding the birds that overwinter in your area. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Poisonous Plants for Dogs

There are countless plants that are poisonous to dogs and you can keep your dog safe by knowing what plants are poisonous to them. I won't go into listing all of the poisonous plants here as there are many competent sources already available. One such source is from Cornell University. Their poisonous plants database offers a list of plants not only poisonous to dogs, but also to humans and livestock as well. Their comprehensive poisonous plants list will keep you busy for the better part of an hour or so.

The Animal Poison Control Center also offers a list of poisonous plants for dogs and pets. They also offer the service for what to do should your dog ingest any poisons. And just so you are aware, there is also a list of non-toxic plants for dogs and pets

I hope this information will help keep your dog safe from poisonous plants. To many of us, they are family and losing them can be one of the hardest things in life....

Gardening Tips

1 comments | Monday, September 18, 2006

Keeping Deer out of your Garden

A few simple tips that may help you keep deer out of your garden:

  • Sprinkle human hair around your plants. Deer tend not to like the smell

  • Irish Spring soap seems to deter deer when hung around plants

  • Mix egg and water and drizzle on plants. Deer aren't too fond of the taste of eggs

  • Plant dill around the garden. Some deer just won't touch anything in the surrounding area

  • Sprinkle bloodmeal around the garden to deter deer. Not only good for keeping deer out of the garden, it is also good for the garden soil

Some people have had mixed results with the above tips for keeping deer out of your garden, but they may work well for your particular situation. Remember to vary your deer control measures often.

Related garden articles: Deter Deer

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Friday, September 15, 2006

Home Use Pesticide Database

Has anyone tried using the Home Use Pesticide Database from Colorado State University Co-op Extension? I just scanned through it real quick and have noted it for further investigation. Looks promising and even includes an organic only approach to search. Hope it continues to be developed as the database could be an invaluable resource for gardeners. I also hope that other Cooperative Extensions across the nation offer a similar resource for their state residents. I believe something like this is needed so unnecessary chemicals are not polluting our earth. I have actually seen people using herbicides to kill bugs before. Education is important. Cheers to CSU and others that follow this path.

Gardening Tips


Growing and Propagating Strawberry Plants

This year was an excellent year for our strawberry plants. Starting out with 50 plants last year, we now have well over 500 strawberry plants this year. The strawberries propagate themselves by sending out runners that fix themselves into the soil around the parent plant and grow into new strawberry plants. So propagating strawberry plants is not in itself a hard task. As long as your strawberry plants don't succumb to any disease, you should be fine with severing the young plants from the parent plants.

We will be tilling up a larger strawberry bed this Fall to transplant the baby plants into. It's now so thick in the current patch that, if we left them as is, we would never be able to harvest next year's strawberries. So the babies will get their own bed to live in for the next few years. We canned several pints of strawberry preserves this year and I believe it is the best preserves I have ever tasted. Of course, I am a bit biased. But the preserves has been a wonderful additon to breakfast meals and late night snacks. I can hardly wait for next year's strawberry crop. Oh, a little secret here. Strawberries LOVE it when you till in horse manure before planting. If I remember correctly, we tilled in the horse manure about three weeks before the strawberries were planted and they hit the ground running. I haven't added anything else to that bed since they were planted and the plants are still growing vigorously over a year later. I hope you get the chance to plant some strawberry plants. Growing and propagating your own strawberry plants is such a fun thing to do.

Gardening Tips

2 comments | Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pruning Rose of Sharon

Oh, how the Rose of Sharon grow. Sometimes too fast for their own good, I say. Rose of Sharon don't require very much maintenance, save for the invasion of Japanese Beetles that attack them throughout the summer months. This very hardy shrub will bloom constantly throughout its growing season. And it draws lots of wonderful creatures, such as hummingbirds to your area. As far as pruning Rose of Sharon, it can be done at almost any time of the year, but the months in Fall are usually best saved for this maintenance chore. If you are training the Rose of Sharon in tree form, you'll need to prune any sprouts that come out around the trunk. This will take some judicious pruning. Rose of Sharon really seems to like being a shrub and takes every opportunity it gets to send out sprouts on the southern portion of the shrub. If you are an easy going type, then you can let your Rose of Sharon sprawl and nip and tuck throughout the growing season when a limb or two gets out of hand. If you want a compact shrub with sensational flowers, then cut your Rose of Sharon back hard in the Fall, Winter or early Spring months. I've never seen or heard of a Rose of Sharon that didn't bloom when cut back in this way. They seem to take it as a challenge, I guess.

Gardening Tips


On Making Slow Compost

So you just don't have the umph to create a full-fledged compost pile. It's alright, we understand. Sometimes, whether for health reasons or just the fact that you have a busy lifestyle, you may not have the time or energy for a compost pile. Enter Slow Compost. So just make a simple pile of yard wastes and kitchen scraps and maybe kick them around when you get bored. All of the ingredients will eventually break down and still give you a pile of worthy ingredients to include in your garden beds. If not fully decomposed by the time you add the compost to the garden, it will eventually break down in the garden anyways. It will just take a little more time in the process. This is definitely better than adding nothing at all to the garden beds. Some people dig holes directly in the garden and bury the kitchen scraps and yard wastes. This works beneficially as well. Besides, it's your garden and you can do what's right for you. Just remember to have fun in the garden. Don't let maintaining your garden become a second job. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Limited Gardening Space

We don't really have limited gardening space by any means, but I'm sure there are plenty of gardening folks out there that do. We used to live in an apartment before moving to our 50 acres of heaven, so I do realize what it means to garden with limited space. When we were living in the apartment, I believe we were the only people there that grew corn in containers. Made a really good screen out back and gave the vining plants somewhere to roam upwards. All of our plants were right by a busy sidewalk and the collection of plants caused many people to stop and gander for a moment, perhaps bringing back memories that the city life had somehow suppressed.

Any limited space can support a "garden". Your garden is what you make it. Even if it's just a pot with some petunias enjoying a sunny spot, that can be "your garden". And pretty much any plant can be grown in limited spaces, even trees. Yes, trees. Learn the art of bonsai and you can apply the same principles to your tree growing in a pot. But for most of us, just having a tomato plant in a container is all we need. Or a planter filled with Marigolds. The idea is what makes gardening so fun. So grab a pot, get a bag of soil and get gardening in your little garden space.

Gardening Tips

1 comments | Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rain and Gardening Chores

Rain has moved in over the last several days and has brought the gardening chores to somewhat of a standstill. We still have many gardening chores left for this month and surely don't need the prolonged waiting period. While out in the shed, I just shelled a bunch of seeds for replanting a garden bed next year. It really helps to have a shed outdoors where there is some sort of shelter to keep dry in the rain and still enjoy gardening.

The time would probably be better spent sharpening and oiling up tools for storage over winter. I usually let this go until the first snow flies, but maybe I could be ahead of "schedule" for once. Really, I laugh at that word, "schedule", because nothing in the garden ever seems to follow a schedule to the strictest sense of the word. Basically we work around our garden's schedule and not vice versa, unless of course, you want to be knee deep in weeds and bugs. When the weather says it's time to plant, then it's time to plant. Gardening chores such as tilling and weeding should be done when the weather is right, or you just may be waiting another few weeks before that perfect day rolls around again. And believe me, weeds that are just poking through the soil are much easier to hoe than the ones that have become established and are competing with your precious plants. So, even though that ache in your back begs you to cuddle up on the couch and thumb through some garden catalogs, you really don't want to put off those gardening chores that will be much harder on your back next week or even the week after. Mother Nature will reward you for staying on schedule with your gardening chores.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Sunday, September 10, 2006

Water Retention in Soil

Increasing your soil's organic material is beneficial in many ways besides just increasing it's water retention capabilities, but we'll get to that in another post. An easy way to help your soil hold water is by adding organic material when cultivating the area. Some examples of organic materials that help in water retention are: composted manure, leaf mold, shredded leaves and compost. Work any of these materials in your soil and you'll spend less time watering your plants in the summer. For those of you that are restricted from watering plants and lawns during droughts, you can have peace of mind that your plants will hold on until you can get them some more water. And don't forget to mulch your plants as an added measure.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Friday, September 08, 2006

Curb Appeal - Selling your Home

I believe most of us could agree that the curb appeal of most homes is what furthers the interest of new home buyers. Especially from those that are riding around in their vehicles looking for their "home sweet home". The first thing that is noted along with the home is the landscaping around the home. Are the garden beds filled with weeds? Are dead branches hanging down through the trees and lying on the ground around them? Are there brown patches of lawn that are a true eyesore?

If you're sprucing up your home to get it ready for the real estate market, then you may just want to get out into the fresh air and take care of any loose ends out on the grounds of the property. Trim back those overgrown rose bushes and yank out those weeds that are getting set to go to seed. Cut back the trees that were once a centerpiece, but now look like they should be hidden in the far corner of your yard. And while you're at it, add something new to the landscape so it looks like you still do care about the property. If your landscaping looks like you don't care about it, then why should the new homebuyers?

According to research sponsored by the American Nursery and Landscape Association, landscaping can increase a home's value by 7% - 15%. So it even makes financial sense to get your landscaping in shape.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mulching Garden Beds

For those that don't know, mulching garden beds has many benefits. For one, a thick layer of mulch in garden beds makes for cooler soil temperatures in summer. These cooler temperatures are also appealing to earthworms. Mulching garden beds conserves moisture. In winter, mulch keeps the garden beds from freezing and thawing repeatedly. Mulching garden beds also helps to add organic matter to the soil around your plants when the mulch breaks down. Mulch is more attractive in flower beds than just plain dirt. Unless, of course, you're one of the lucky ones and you have perfect, rich, dark garden soil, which is a jewel in any garden. Mulch makes watering plants a simple task in the summer. Most soils in the summer have a lot of surface tension when dry and can be a pain to water thoroughly as the water tends to drain off instead of soaking in. I encourage you, as a resourceful gardener, to find the many more valuable uses of mulching roses or your garden beds. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips


Planting Small Seeds

When planting small seeds, mix the small seeds with sand or vermiculite to get even distribution across the sowing surface. This is especially useful with planting small vegetable seeds such as carrots and small annual plant seed. Another easy way with planting small seeds is to get a small piece of paper, fold it in half and pour your seeds into the paper fold. Then plant the small seeds by lightly shaking or tapping the paper at a downward angle so that the seeds slide off the paper as needed. This last suggestion is what I use to plant my dill seeds and it really works quite well.

Gardening Tips

1 comments | Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Yellow Spots on my Butterfly Bush

Upon checking the gardens I noticed that a few of my butterfly bushes had yellow spots and that can pretty much mean only one thing. Spider Mites!! These little guys will try to suck the life out of butterfly bushes if the plants are under any kind of heat or drought stress. Normally the butterfly bush won't be affected, but if you let them get too dry and they are in a sunny hot spot, you can pretty much expect the spider mites to be visiting your butterfly bush and the leaves to have small yellow spots all over them. One way to prevent this is by keeping your plants well-watered in warm, dry periods. I got a little couch potato in me during the recent hot weather and my butterfly bush are now taking the hit. The plants are close to the house, so I'll be spraying them with a garden hose from underneath for several days to show the spider mites who the boss is and they should find some other place to retreat to. There are chemicals for treating the butterfly bushes, but there are also a lot of plants still in bloom right now and I won't be taking any chances of harming the beneficial insects. Wishing you happy and healthy gardening!

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Monday, September 04, 2006

Frugal Gardening Tips

Some miscellaneous frugal gardening tips to help you save money.

  • A $9.00 bag of peat in-season may cost you only $3.50 at the end of the season. Buy the majority of your garden supplies in the Fall and pay lower prices from retailers.

  • Instead of buying that plant you've had an eye on for your garden, why not trade plants through a local garden club or online plant swap.

  • Don't buy that $20 bottle of potent bug poison. You can make your own earth-friendly bug juice at home for a lot less and not only save money, but save the environment as well.

  • Make your own compost bin out of wooden pallets. It will do the exact same job as one of those high-dollar plastic ones.

  • Use drip irrigation instead of overhead watering. Less water will evaporate and more water will reach the plant roots where the water is needed most.

  • Clean your garden shovel at the end of the year by getting a 5 gallon bucket, filling it with sand and running the shovel up and down through the sand several times before storage. Sharpen and give the blade a light coating of 3-in-1 oil before putting it away for the winter. Well maintained tools are easier on your back and your wallet.

  • Some city governments make their own compost and mulch. They may make this available in bulk to local citizens for next to nothing, if not free.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tree Planting Tips

We're gardeners, so at least one time in our lives we're probably going to be moving, or transplanting a tree, so these tree planting tips should come in handy:

  • A few days before transplanting the tree, water around the tree thoroughly. This helps to keep the tree hydrated during the transplanting process.

  • Dig the receiving hole twice the size of the root ball of the tree you are planting.

  • Notice the roots of the tree. Are there any broken or encircling roots that need to be trimmed up?

  • Spread the roots out in the hole when planting the tree. Make sure that the roots are not circling inside the hole. The tree will get established quicker with plenty of loose soil for it to grow in.

  • When back-filling the hole, leave out the last bit of dirt and then water the tree in thoroughly. This helps to create a temporary bowl effect that will allow water to seep all around the roots of the tree, versus the water draining off when the tree planting hole is completely filled in. When finished watering, fill in the hole with the remaining dirt to soil level.

  • Now you are ready to mulch around the planted tree to conserve moisture and keep weeds away from the trunk of the tree while it is becoming established. Add a two to three inch layer of mulch around the diameter of the tree. Suitable mulches would include well-rotted manure, wood chips, bark or pine needles. If the tree should need staking, now would be an appropriate time to do so.

Tree planting isn't all that hard. Just keep the above tree planting tips in mind and you should be just fine.

Gardening Tips

0 comments | Saturday, September 02, 2006

Red Worms

Squishy...Slimey...Gross.... Yes we're talking about the common red worms. The worms that crawl underfoot and underground. The little creatures that keep air and water flowing through your garden soil. It wouldn't be gardening without digging through soil and catching a glimpse of one of these red worms squiggling amongst the disturbed soil. Red worms are the backbone of any healthy garden. Without them, your soil would be like a large piece of concrete. No nutrients or water or even air penetrating the soil surface. Well, maybe the ants would help you along. But who wants ants?? Red worms are fun. They do work that you don't have to do and every now and then they'll even catch a whopper of a fish for you!

So why are we talking about red worms in gardening tips? Well, I thought some folks might need some pointers on attracting red worms to their garden. The more worms, the merrier. So let's get down to business. Whatever attracts red worms to your garden is beneficial for you and your garden soil. Worms are the unsung heroes. They convert vegetative material into nutrients that can be picked up by our garden plants and help them to grow strong. Feed the worms in your garden and you won't have to worry about them finding someone else's garden to reside in. So what do you feed red worms? They'll eat just about anything vegetative. Bury some leaves in the garden. Throw in some cornmeal and dead plants and grass clippings, whatever you have lying around that a vegetarian would eat. Or if you're a vegetarian, just feed them table scraps. They'll love you and your garden for it. Red worms can live for several years, so be sure you keep them around by supplying them with a moist place to play and plenty of vegetation on and in the soil. One last hint. If you don't like the looks of vegetation on top of the soil, just dig a little pit, throw in the rotten vegetables, grass, leaves or whatever and then cover it back up with soil. The red worms will appreciate that you just made it easier for them to eat supper. Happy Gardening!

Gardening Tips