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Risa Quade

Creating a Mini Rainforest

Finished product of the biOrb

Country Gardens apprentice, Bailey McGrath, provides a guest post:

My adventure as an editorial apprentice for Meredith Corporation Special Interest Media began just over a month ago. With a working background in plant pathology, I am excited to continue to work with the beauty of nature, while fulfilling my true passion of writing. I have the privilege of going to school at Iowa State University full-time and coming down to Des Moines three days a week to learn from an incredible group of people.

As a new member of the gardens team, I have already learned so much about the gardening world. As a true test of my green thumb, I was given my first hands-on gardening project. I got to bring a tropical feel to my desk with the biOrbAIR terrarium.

I started by going to our local Earl May Nursery and Garden Center and searching for some tropical plants with our assistant editor, Risa Quade. There are slim pickings this time of year, but we managed to walk out with a few pretty plants, including goldfish plant, which bring orange blooms in the shape of goldfish.

I picked several plants for my mini rainforest, including goldfish plant.

When I got back to the office, it was time to put the biObAIR together. It was a pretty simple process. The kit comes with its own compost and special formulated water for the misting system. All I had to supply were plants and decorative rocks, which were easy to pick with the help of the planting guide.

The total process took me around two hours. I made quite the mess—spilling water and compost all over my cubicle—but I enjoyed every minute of it.

The directions made it a super easy step-by-step process.

After assembling the base, scooping in compost, arranging tiny tropical plants, and filling the misting reservoir, the time finally came to plug the miniature rainforest in. The LED lights kicked on, and the mist began to swirl down upon the plants. It was kind of mesmerizing. I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the rainforest-in-a-bubble. It has been quite a hit around the office.

The biObAIR goes through a 24-hour cycle, simulating a sunrise, 12 hours of daylight followed by dusk and 11 hours of night. It’s a perfect way to host a taste of summer throughout winter and allows tropical plant species to thrive. It runs at $599.99 and can be purchased via the biOrb website: http://biorb-store.com.

With little maintenance, the terrarium should bring me warmth during the freezing winter season.

 


Shawna Coronado

3 Ways To Frost Proof Your Garden

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Shawna Coronado

Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very coldFall Raised Bed Shawna Coronado temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.

Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.

1. Blanket and Sheet Covers

These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.

2. Floating Row Crop Covers

Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.

3. Plastic and Garden Covers

Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenland Gardener Greenhouse

Fall Raised Bed Frost Cover Greenhouse Velcro

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.


Shawna Coronado

An Herb Patio Garden; Hummingbirds and Bees and Cocktails

Cocktail Herb Garden Patio Tile View Shawna Coronado

This year I expanded my front patio to include sedum lined tiles, more space for seating, and a cocktail herb garden. This spot is a delicious smelling niche that has become the focus of outdoor room entertaining in my front garden.  Many of my friends and family discover birds and other pollinators like bees and butterflies flitting all around the herbs while we are out on the front patio spending time together.The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Inspired by Amy Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist, this garden design was intended to be a relaxing place that bathes you in delightful scents as you sip herbal cocktails and watch the wildlife. Pollinators love the plants that surround the patio. I planted basil, thyme, and plants from The Drunken Botanist plant collection such as, the “Old Tom Gin Garden” and the “Old Havana Rum Garden”. Sitting out front has become an amazing experience because of the bees and butterflies that dance through the herb garden as much as for the delicious herbal cocktails.

Bird watching is a part of this experience as well. We have a wonderful little hummingbird that flies in and out of the hostas and herbs. She loves the sage flowers, bee balm, cat mint, and my little red hummingbird feeder. I keep it stocked up with nectar just for her so she can entertain us with her antics.

Building an herbal garden with the goal of attracting the birds and bees and a few dozen cocktail aficionados could be just the fantastic late summer project you need to end your summer with a garden bang. Plan the lay-out, amend the soil, and then toss in a few perennial herbs such as lemon thyme, tricolor sage, and lavender. You can enjoy the herbs this fall and be surprised by new growth in the early spring for the first outdoor garden cocktail parties of the season.

Herbal Cocktail Garden Patio Shawna Coronado

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.


Shawna Coronado

Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad Recipe

 

Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad by Shawna Coronado

From the 1930’s to 1950’s women were preparing cold tomato aspic; a popular side dish of that era served at luncheons and card parties across America. This recipe for Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad is my own modern day take of my 96 year old grandmother’s tomato aspic which I remember fondly. Filled with nutritious veggies from the garden, it is perfect on a hot day served with sandwiches or at a picnic with cold chicken. Best yet, it uses all the fresh veggies I can harvest from my garden which is currently bursting with bounty.

Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail  Salad

Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad by Shawna Coronado

Ingredients -
2 (3 oz) packages lemon gelatin (or 2 .30 oz packages of sugar free gelatin)
3 cups Spicy V-8 Juice
1 cup chilled lemonade
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 ½ cups diced carrots
1 ½ cups diced onions
1 ½ cups diced celery
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise

How to -
Heat V-8 juice to boiling. Stir in the boiling V-8 with the lemon gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in chilled lemonade (or water if you prefer), horseradish, and salt/pepper. Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about one hour.

When the gelatin has set up a bit, gently stir in the diced vegetables (feel free to substitute with whatever veggies you are currently harvesting), place in martini glasses or serving dish. Chill in the refrigerator for four hours or until firm.

Serve with a dollop of mayonnaise and a smile.

If you want to add a real quick kick to this Cold Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad recipe, toss in a couple shots of cucumber vodka with the lemonade during the chill up (like this delicious vodka seen in the photo – Organic Cucumber Vodka from Prairie). Harvest those vegetables, make some deliciousness, and if you have leftover vegetables from the harvest be sure to donate to your local food pantry.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.


Shawna Coronado

Save Water With Your Container Gardens – 2 Easy-To-Do Ideas

Succulent plants in a container from Shawna Coronado

Want container gardens without the pain of regular watering? Planting succulents in creative container gardens usually means you water less, but still have all the beauty of gorgeous plants on your patio or balcony. In the photo right I have combined three succulents in individual pots (Rainbow Bush – Variegated Elephant Plant, Coppertone Stonecrop, and Jet Beads Stonecrop). Top photo shows several succulents within a single container (Ghost Plant, Paddle Plant, and Sedum ‘Bertram Anderson’).

Succulents in containers at Shawna Coronado garden.

Top 3 Tips for Growing Succulents

1. Use a loose soil that drains freely. Too much water is the curse of death for a succulent. Buy commercial succulent and cactus soil or make your own using 1/3 course sand, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 grit (usually a mix of lava fines, pumice, and/or perlite).

2. Position succulent containers in bright growing conditions or in direct full sunlight.

3. Never let water stand in a succulent container and feed with an organic cactus fertilizer.

Ideas for Standard Containers

What about the standard containers you have out now? Perhaps the hot late August weather is encouraging them to dry out a bit. I have an awesome solution: Plant Nanny’s!

Plant Nanny’s are glass watering globes that help you water without constant hovering over your containers. Insert the Plant Nanny stake into moist soil, then fill the watering globe and place into the stake. When the water gets low, you know you need to water again.

Both ideas above offer great late summer time saving ideas for containers. All the beauty with far less watering worries!

Plant Nanny in Shawna Coronado garden.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.


Shawna Coronado

Weatherproof Picture Frames For Your Special Outdoor Room

Weatherproof outdoor snap frame photo wall with chandelier fireplace and insulators

Garden rooms offer up a unique twist to the traditional garden. Every garden room needs garden art, of course, and I have the perfect solution for you to hang your favorite photos and posters into your garden haven. Recently a garden writer and photographer friend of mine, Christopher Tidrick, gifted me with a few of his gorgeous black and white photos. I came up with a solution to display them in a special way by installing the art in a unique weatherproof outdoor picture frame as part of a larger garden room wall.

Weatherproof outdoor snap frames can be ordered online at standard sizes or custom ordered to specific sizes via Snapframesdirect.com. Frames cannot support any additional matting as it leaves a space that water can leak into. In fact, weatherproof does not mean completely waterproof, but I have had tremendous success with the frames this season with no leaks whatsoever.

Below you can see how we put together the main garden room wall design using the weatherproof photo frames, old Formica, a non-working chandelier, and a fireplace surround.

How To Put Together My Garden Room Wall Design

First we need to find the best spot to hang an attractive grouping. Below you see my blank slate, the side of my deck, which will be the center of attention when you sit in my garden room.

Weatherproof picture Frame Wall

Weatherproof outdoor picture base formica counter top

My awesome carpenter helper buddy, Ricky Rolon, is helping me reuse a bright blue Formica countertop from the 1960’s [above]. He cut it into a large rectangle using a power saw. We hung that as the base for the trio of photos [below].

Weatherproof outdoor snap frame with formica counter top base

Weatherproof outdoor snap photo frame screws

Screwing the picture frames into the base is super-easy and then we just snap in the beautiful black and white photos [above]. After that we painted a white frame to go around the entire ensemble [below].

Weatherproof outdoor snap frame outer trim

Weatherproof outdoor snap frame chandelier support

Ricky nailed the white frame up around the Formica and installed a special support for the chandelier. Earlier this season I found the old brass chandelier for free. I cut out the old wiring, removed and cleaned the crystals, spray painted the chandelier white, and replaced the crystals. The white fireplace surround has been in my garden for years – I painted it white to better show off the garden wall and placed a mirror behind it to have it look more finished.

Below you see a close photo of the chandelier and snap frames with the Formica background. As an added touch I set out a collection of glass insulators on the fireplace because they remind me of my grandmother. With the addition of snap on weatherproof outdoor photo frames, a chandelier, and the fireplace surround, we were able to create a sweet little outdoor room garden wall filled with memories of friends and family.

Weatherproof outdoor snap fram photo with chandelier and fireplace

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.