Category Archives: Lawn & Garden

Food for the Soil: Compost Update

A few years ago I blogged about compost…and the DIY project that went along with it. If you missed those posts, or if you never had the opportunity to read them the first go-round, here are the links:

DIY Compost Bins
Composting 101

After a few years of composting I wasn’t sure how enchanted I was with the dang thing. I got everything set up, and made sure to keep the balance of brown and green just right so as to avoid having my backyard smell like a landfill on a hot summer day. I turned the compost every so often to keep it all mixed up and jivin’ in the way that it does to break down into something delicious for my soil. And it just seemed to take forever. Some things didn’t break down all that well, there didn’t seem to be much in the end result and maybe it was my general lack of patience but this project felt like a whole lotta work for not a whole lotta reward.

This winter I resolved to re-purpose the barrels for growing potatoes and just be done with it…until something magical happened.

Okay, magical might be a stretch, but it was mind changing and turns out, I am enchanted with making my own compost. Who knew?

When J dumped the barrels this spring, for what I thought was the very last time, I spied something quite pleasing to the eye. I raced from the deck to the garden to get a better look…that compost was so rich and wonderful I was actually quite beside myself. I only regret that I didn’t get a picture snapped before he tilled it in. Rats!

And so, I’m back to composting.

Turns out, what seemed like not very much compost in those barrels once it had broken down is in reality more once it’s been dumped out. Funny how looks can be deceiving. I can get on board with that.

And here are some lessons learned — because why go through the pain of it yourself if you can just learn from someone else??

  • The plan I had for ‘turning’ the compost in my original “DIY Compost Bins” post didn’t work as efficiently as I had hoped. I found it was just as easy to turn the compost with a pitch fork right in the barrel.
  • I didn’t follow my own advice about keeping the compost wet. While you don’t want it sopping wet, moisture is part of the compost making equation. Mine was too dry, I’m sure, which is likely the reason it took eons to do its compost thing. I’m leaving the lids off the barrels going forward and will let Mother Nature have at it. As long as there’s ample drainage opportunity, which mine have, it should be fine.
  • A few foods didn’t seem to break down all that well for me so I’m no longer adding them to my compost as part of the ‘green’ mix. Those are: corn cobs, & avocado skins and pits. Even egg shells didn’t break down quite like I thought they would but I’m still adding them, I just crush them up before tossing them in the barrel. And in some instances, coffee filters, but because I know the benefits of coffee grounds in compost, I’ll continue to add them and those that don’t break all the way down are easy to pick out once the barrels are dumped and the compost is spread out with a rake.

For more information on what not to add, what to add and how much, etc. visit my Composting 101 link above. And if you have any other bits of wisdom about composting DIY, please share in the comments section below! I am clearly not the expert on this – heck, I just had to talk myself back in to continuing!

H

 


Mid May Already??? And Seedling Update!

Hi Friends!

It’s been more than a minute since I’ve even logged on to my blog. A couple weeks ago I thought I was getting my feet back under me, only to totally disappear all of last week again. Ugh! I’m soooo sorry!

Life happens tho. Am I right? Anyone else totally surprised to fully  partially comprehend that we are officially half way through the month of May? If I’m honest, I think part of my brain is still stuck in late March.

So much is happening around here. It is Spring, after all! And with Spring comes much to be done. Battling Colorado weather (you never know what you’re going to get), I’ve been trying to take advantage of every opportunity to get outside and get things rolling in my veggie and flower gardens. I’ll have much to update you on in the coming weeks…

I think I promised many, many weeks ago, an update on the seedling project. With Spring planting upon us the seedling project has mostly wrapped up so this is more a final post on the project than it is an update, but as I indicated above, time is flying by.

I’m quiet pleased with how the seedling project ended up. There were lessons learned, for sure, but it was mostly a success. A success very much felt <by my bank account> as I checked out at the nursery last week. I had to buy very few plants — and if I hadn’t had a total lapse in judgment, I’d have bought even fewer than what I ended up needing. As I said, lessons learned.

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As my seedling project wrapped up, I took care to acclimate my plants to the outdoors before sticking them in the ground (a step I’ve mostly neglected in the past – and likely the reason my previous attempts have been such a disaster).  I think a solid week of acclimation is the way to go. Find a place that gets some sun (but isn’t blazing hot) and is somewhat protected from the wind and just let the plants sit. Remember that being outdoors will also likely mean you need to water a little more frequently – but only do so when the soil has mostly dried out.

Where I went wrong was with my veggie plants. My tomatoes were struggling anyway (for reasons unknown) but my pepper and cucumber plants were going crazy….and then I put them outside too early. Well, not too early, but had my head been on straight, when the weather cooled off again (and didn’t warm up for 2 straight days) I should have brought them back in…which I didn’t….which is the reason I had to buy new pepper and tomato plants (GRR!) and will be a month and a half behind with my cucumbers (double GRR!). Oh well.

Everything else is doing wonderfully – I’ve even planted quite a few of my seedling babies and they are going strong. Aside from a couple plant varieties that didn’t come up at all (?) I’d mark my first run at this project a HUGE success and will probably look to expand on my efforts next year!

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Did anyone else take on a seedling project? Any final notes or updates from your end?

Happy Planting!
H

 


Seedlings: Seedaholic.com

I am approximately 6 weeks into my seedling project and things are coming along quite nicely. I’ll do a more detailed update another time but today I wanted to share with you this website I came across while searching for seeds during my planning phase (you can read about that by clicking here).

For this project, I wanted to grow lots of things that I can’t generally find in the nurseries, but also a handful of plants that are tried, true and loved. Turns out, some of those tried, true and loved plant varieties that I pick up in the nursery were hard to find in seed form.

I searched and searched and searched and eventually came across Seedaholic.com. This company, overseas, has all kinds of unique seed options that I couldn’t find anywhere else and I was surprised that their prices are competitive and shipping costs aren’t all that high (something I initially wondered about when I decided to order from them).

It takes a little longer for the order to arrive but what I found when I opened that package was jaw dropping. The way in which they package their materials and the information that comes with the seeds is something I’ve just never seen before.

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Each of the different varieties came with a full color information sheet on starting and ongoing care of the plants; and all the seeds were meticulously packaged in a small envelope which was inside a small plastic zip top bag.

When it came time for me to get these seeds started, I immediately understood why they were so hard to find…some of the seeds are so small they look like no more than a teeny-tiny speck of dirt. The sticker on the outside of the envelope cautioned me about the tiny seeds and encouraged having everything ready to go before even opening the package – but I was still in awe! I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulty in harvesting these seeds from plants at the end of season.

At the time of my order I figured I’d never have to order most of these seeds again because the listing indicated something like a gazillion seeds per package. In my ignorance I figured I would plant 3 seeds of each variety per seed-starting pod and they would last forever. Joke was on me. Just when I thought I kept it to around a dozen seeds per seed-starting pod, they germinated and I missed the mark by…well…a LOT.

Regardless, I’m super impressed with this company. Everything I’ve started has come up without any trouble and is growing wonderfully — even for this girl who really doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and is making it up a bit as she goes with this project.

Give Seedaholic.com a look – they’re pretty impressive!

H

 

 


Seedlings: Product Review

The seedling project is well under way. If you missed reading about this endeavor, post 1 and post 2 will bring you up to speed.

As promised, I am writing some thoughts on this product, which I purchased and recommended in my ‘getting started’ post.

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Purchased through Burpee.com, this seedling starter kit contains all the essentials you will need to begin a seedling project. I decided on this kit because purchase of all individual components, from various sites in which I researched the best prices, wasn’t as cost effective.

For around $20, the growing kit includes:
watering tray
play tray
plant stand
greenhouse top
*all of these items can be re-used in future seasons
self-watering mat
*TBD if this can be used again
growing cubes (i.e. starting soil)
fertilizer
plant markers
*these items will need to be replenished for future planting, the fertilizer and plant markers being options, of course
planting chart
*if you make photo-copies of this before you write on it, you’ll be set for next go-round

So far it’s been terribly convenient having all essential components in one kit, which is why I highly recommend purchase for getting started.

Things I’m on the fence about:
1. the kit indicates it self-waters for up to 10 days. I was drawn to self-watering mats while doing my research because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to keep my seedlings watered, thus alive, if I needed to be gone for a weekend or handful of days at a time. As much as I wanted to embark on this project, the honest truth is that I can’t just not leave town for 2-3 months due to seedlings needing watered!  Self-watering mats and this particular kit seemed like the ticket, however, 10 days is a FAR stretch. I find I need to replenish the water in the tray about every 4-5 days. While a touch of false advertisement, not a deal breaker, at least for how my life currently functions.
2. another observation about the self-watering mat…while it seems to work work sufficiently well, after the greenhouse top is removed I notice that the top layer of soil tends to dry out every several days. In an effort to be careful not to over-water I do re-moisten the top layer with a spray bottle but I’m honestly not sure how moist the rest of the soil in each pod remains. I need to get a soil moisture meter to check, but have yet to come across the one I have in mind. Everything seems to be doing well as far as growing is concerned so I haven’t hunted too hard quite yet either.
3. the greenhouse top is wonderful…except for that my seeds are starting at different times. Once germinated, the greenhouse top needs to come off which is tricky when you have new seeds starting while others are actively growing. Also not a deal breaker, I’ve found the use of plastic wrap just as effective and then I can cut away pieces as different pods are sprouting.
3. I’m not sure how long the self-watering mats will hold up, and if I’ll be able to get a couple seasons of seedling projects out of them but they are replaceable for relatively cheap so we’ll wait and see on this one.

These kits come in regular and XL size. I bought both with the intention of doing annual flowers in the regular size and garden veggies in the XL, but I don’t necessarily think you NEED both.

Oh, and a final tip, if you are going to order these online from Burpee, watch for free shipping deals. They occur often and it’s super nice to just have things show up at your doorstep rather than running out to the store to purchase. Additionally, the kits I’ve seen in stores are slightly different and seem to cost a touch more so the free shipping definitely makes ordering online a bonus!

H


Seedlings: Getting Started

Last week I shared with you a tidbit about the seedling project I have started this winter. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Today I wanted to share with you how I went about getting started, and what eqiupment I’ve purchased — at least for now. As I mentioned previously, I’m sorta learning as I go and it’s really unknown what twists and turns this thing will take (and whether or not I’ll really have any success)!

I started planning for my seedling project last summer, and spent a great deal of time looking for unique seeds and the best prices. It’s not necessary for you to spent as much time, or for online ordering, unless you want some unique and cool stuff…in which case, unless you have a super cool store locally to purchase seeds, online becomes a necessity. Local nurseries carry seeds, as do places like Walmart and Home Depot so they are easily accessible.

So, first and foremost, pick out what flowers or veggies you want to grow and purchase those seeds. I ordered lots of catalogs online, and things I knew I wanted but couldn’t find in the catalogs I did some internet searching for (I’ll do a post another time about a site I found that has the uniquest seeds, that come beautifully packaged, from overseas).

Then, determine the approximate date you will want to plant outdoors. Using a calendar, count back the number of days until bloom (instructions on back of seed packets, or google for this info)–this is when you will want to get your seeds started indoors. I’m planting lots of different varieties and there is a wide range of start dates, especially since some will go in the greenhouse in April, while others have to wait until after Mother’s Day for outdoor planting. A simple calendar with the calculations already done has helped keep me on track for getting the ball rolling indoors.

I did a rough calculation of how many of each variety I will want to plant outdoors. This is important as you will need to have an idea of how many seedling starter pod spaces you will need. Then I purchased these starter kits made by Burpee, and bought online from their store:
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I bought both the regular (for most of the flowers) and extra large size (for veggies). I intend to do another post with my feedback on these handy kits – for now, just know I’m pleased with them.

My online cliffs notes education also informed me that there are 3 essential elements for successful seedling growth:
1) Light – 16 hrs per day
2) Water – consistent moisture, balancing too dry versus too wet, hence the reason for the starter kits that are self-watering.
3) Heat

So my setup looks like this (beware, terrible picture to follow):
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I found this heat mat on amazon.com for MUCH cheaper than I could find anywhere else. If I’m remembering correctly, it was about $35. It’s actually a bit too big for my current operation, but I believe <or hope> I will quickly ‘grow into it’ – pun intended!

The plant light came from Home Depot, to the tune of $50. The store carries them in stock; in the department where other industrial-type lighting is stocked. I also bought a timer to control the 16 hrs per day lighting requirement, and highly recommend you do the same if you are embarking on a similar journey. It just makes things easier.

So, here’s your ‘getting started’shopping checklist:
-seeds
-calendar (these can be printed for free online)
-seedling starter kits
-heat mat
-plant light
-timer

And, your ‘getting started’ to do list:
-select seeds
-purchase supplies
-calculate starting times for each seed variety

So…that’s that!

Happy Planning!!!
H

 

 

 


Seedlings

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I love to garden. Veggies and flowers. We own a beautiful home with a gorgeous yard…lots of areas to plant, not to mention my sizeable veggie garden. In an effort to save money, several years ago I vowed to spend more money up front and put lots of perennials in the ground. The idea was that over the years our yard would be stunning and it would cost less an less.

Clearly that plan was a bust because each year, regardless of the perennial plan, I end up forking over lots of money for plants anyway. Annuals mostly.

There are just too many annuals to love <and buy>. And, I live in Colorado so there isn’t a veggie plant to survive our winter.

So this last year I came up with a new plan. I determined to start lots of my own little seedlings. I got excited flipping the pages of seed company catalogs — you have no idea (or maybe you do, how do I know what you know?) what sorts of wonderful and unique plants exist out there that you don’t usually find at your local nursery…or, I don’t find them at my local nursery anyway.

I launched into this project with enthusiasm and determination. I carefully selected many varieties of unique plants, researched the cheapest resouces to purchase, waited for sales and free shipping offers. I researched and read about starting seeds indoors and bought the recommended eqiupment (after shopping for the best deals, of course). I planned which seeds would need to be started at what time, since they all have different ‘time to bloom’ timelines. And then I waited…and waited…and waited…(I was way ahead of planting timelines).

Finally, the weekend arrived when the first seeds needed to make their way into moist soil and be nurtured with just the right amount of moisture, light and heat. Suddenly, my excitment faded into something different…anxiousness. You see, I rock the world of outdoor gardening. I can totally handle the uncontrollable elements outside the walls of my house. BUT, I have NEVER been successful growing plants from seeds in the controlled environment that exists within the confines of my own home. And here I am, in all my arrogance, with a full on seedling project planned. Yikes!

So, here’s what I do know:
1) I have only minor expertise of how to make this happen, thanks to the internet, not based on any of my own successful experience (as there has been none)
2) If I hadn’t already spent the money, I might have talked myself out of this project all together. But, since that ship has sailed, I’m diving in with moderate confidence.
3) I’m going to take you on this journey with me,via Simply Eclectic.
4) This project could be a total flop OR maybe I’ll find my new calling, quit my job, and open a nursery….(long shot, but hey, a girl can dream!).

Stay tuned…more to come on the specific details of this project…

Hope your weekend was relaxing and rejuvenating!
H

 

 

 


Fall Planting

Each spring, as I’m cleaning out the garden and flower beds and preparing for all the new planting I vow, “this year, no excuses, I’m going to get Fall planting done”. Fall comes and goes — without any planting. I’m generally burned out and tired by the time Fall rolls around and haven’t the brain power to plan, let alone purchase and then plant bulbs for Spring flowering. And then, Spring returns and I’m disappointed that I let the opportunity for Fall planting pass me by.

This year I got way ahead of the game. I planned – and ordered – bulbs for Fall planting in August! I figured it would trick  force me into finally addressing this outstanding chore. There wouldn’t be any way I would spend the money, have the bulbs here ready for planting, and let the opportunity slip by. And, I was right!

Turns out I got a little crazy with the ordering. When the package showed up and I opened it to assess what I was really dealing with, 124 bulbs came spilling out into my life. Oh gosh! 124 bulbs really isn’t a lot when you consider the size and number of landscaped areas in my yard – but – oh gosh!

And then, when I went to pick up some mums to plant as well (because if you’re going to do Fall planting, DO Fall planting, right?) I had a momentary lapse in judgment and bought another package of tulips…because they were unique and like nothing else I had ordered…and because, well, I momentarily lost my mind!

Fall planting in Colorado can be tricky because the weather is super tricky. Temps are all over the place and it’s anyone’s guess what sort of precipitation will fall from the sky. In the past couple weeks we’ve had two torrential downpours, complete with thunder, lightening and hail! That’s right, in October. It is for this same reason that deciding what to wear in the morning is a total guessing game – and inevitably, you end up uncomfortable (either too warm or too cold) the majority of the day…but, I digress…

So, playing the weather and juggling work and other household responsibilities, completing this project played out over the course of several days. I am happy to report that it’s FINALLY done. I can’t wait until Spring 2016 rolls around and I can share with you all the splendor that only Spring can bring — with 130+ early season blooms — compliments of all this hard work in the Fall.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the pops of color in the Fall that mums are so famous for:

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Wishing you all an incredible week – do whatever you can to make it great!
H


Bye, Bye Pine Trees!

I threatened it nearly three years ago. Yes, three. Have you noticed that time is FLYING by these days with absolutely no regard for those of us who could use a slow down? Okay, that’s another post for another day, but, yes, nearly THREE years ago we moved into this fabulous house and I blogged about the awful pine trees in our back yard that needed to go. You can read about it here.

It took nearly three years as there was a lot of debate about whether or not we could drop these trees on our own – the debate being that J thought we could and I could only envision also getting a new kitchen out of the deal after the trees came crashing down on our house…followed by no insurance company ever wanting to carry us again…except for maybe some sketchy company with bad late-night TV commercials that leave you wondering who ever gets a quote from those guys.

In case you were curious — we called in the professionals to bring ’em down.

So, nearly three years, and roughly 856 bazillion pine needles cleaned up over those years, later we went from this:

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To this…

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And this…

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Next winter, after this all dries out, my dad will burn it in their wood burning stove. His reward for helping with the clean up (seems he got the short end of the stick, huh? We are SO thankful he was here to help though because he can still throw down with a chain saw and we had this mess cleaned up in no time).

So…now to figure out what to do with this area of the back yard. Maybe I need a second greenhouse….or chickens!!

Happy Wednesday – I hope your week is crusing right along…

H


More Gardening Success

I’ve had many gardens. Each year I learn something new. Each year is better than the one before.

This year was an experiment with the new climate, change in length of growing season, etc. and just when I about dubbed it the least successful of all gardens to date, something wonderful happened….

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I have tired several times to grow sweet corn. Each time without much success.  My prior attempts were all in Nebraska, and always ended with the same problem…wind!

The wind would blow the corn stalks over, pinching them near the bottom, cutting off their ability to produce to their full potential (even after standing them back up and staking them so as not to be blown over again). As a result I ended up with very small, very sad cobs of corn.

When I planted the garden this year I thought, “what the heck, I should just give it another go”. And, despite my neighbor trying to discourage me and dampen my spirits (“this isn’t the corn state, you know, we’ve tried, you won’t be able to grow corn here”) I have managed to grow beautiful, delicious sweet corn!!

What’s your favorite of the garden’s gifts?

I do believe Fall weather is upon us and the garden will soon be wrapping up for the season. I think this was the fastest summer of my life!

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend and will see you back here next week.
H


Garden Check-In

Hard to believe that we are in to our second week of Sept, and that Fall is fast approaching.

I know, I shudder at the thought myself. Can we rewind to July 1st please??

How are things going in your garden?

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My gardening experience this year is bitter sweet. I’m thrilled with the production that has kept us eating fresh and healthy for a while now.

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I am disappointed, though, that we aren’t getting enough at one time to ‘put up’ for winter eats. Next year I will need to tackle in a whole different way.

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I may be headed to the Farmers Market one weekend soon to stock up on tomatoes. I just don’t know if I can stomach NOT making that delicious homemade pasta sauce I experimented with…and loved…last year.

For now I will be overly thankful for what we’ve gotten…but I’m curious to know…how are your gardens coming along? How do they compare to past years?