Written on July 16, 2013 at 6:15 am , by Shawna Coronado
Midsummer can be a challenging time for my front lawn ornamental edible vegetable garden (see below). It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s buggy. Plants react in different ways to the summer season depending on their issue; some thrive, others have giant bug holes in them, a few go to seed, and my personal Drama Queen favorite – the veggie sprawls on the ground like a dying opera singer. All these issues can be solved by growing replacement seedlings and replacing the old with the new. Grow seedlings at this time also to build your cold weather vegetables for Fall planting. This season I conducted an experiment to see how seed starting kits worked in the heat of midsummer and here are the results.
Growing Seedlings Experiment Conditions:
Each system was planted with Botanical Interests Dwarf Blue Curled Heirloom Kale. I used Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend as the starting soil for three of the kits. Once planted and watered the first time (above), I never watered any of the growing systems again. I kept the growing systems outside in semi-shade and did receive some rain throughout the testing. Results are after four weeks of growth from seed to plant. You can see the final growing result in the photo at the top of this post.
SteadyGROWPro Seed Starting Kit
Eco-friendly SteadyGROWpro grow medium is used to grow seeds hydroponically, it’s a wonderful solution for producing seedlings for the garden without soil. With the SteadyGROWpro kit (a smaller sample kit is shown above) I did not add additional organic fertilizer, so you can tell the plants stayed a bit smaller. However, it worked great for me. It is the least expensive of the four seed starting kits and by not growing with soil it saved even more money. A good solution for when you are interested in transplanting plants later or if you are keeping the seedlings in a hydroponic system. One kit of 24 seed spots retails for $8.99.
Peel-Away 4” Pot Kit
Need to transplant your plants? It is no problem with this Peel-Away 4” Pot Kit from Gardener’s Supply made from VELCRO® brand fabric (above). Removing plants without disturbing the roots and minimizing transplant shock is the goal with these 3 innovative pots. Building the containers is easy and each tray uses a reservoir and a wicking capillary mat to water the plants as they need it from the roots; it came with simple instructions. I really liked that you can wash pots and store flat for reuse next season. Comes in red or brown. One kit retails for $24.95.
Peel-Away 2” Pot Kit
Like it’s big brother kit above, this Peel-Away 2” Pot Kit from Gardener’s Supply made from VELCRO® brand fabric is an easy solution to transplant small seedlings without disturbing their roots. For some reason the seedlings grew better in the 4” fabric pots, rather than in these 2” pots (see top photo). There are 12 foldable growing pots that rest on a reservoir with a wicking capillary mat to water the plants as they need it from the bottom (above). Wash pots and store flat for reuse next season. Comes in red or brown. One kit retails for $24.95.
Gardener’s Supply APS-24 Growing System
This 24 seedling growing system (above) is an all-in-one unit that ensures a regular supply of water for the little seedlings. There is an insulated growing tray with greenhouse cover in case the temperatures drop. A capillary mat and reservoir lets seedlings drink water as needed. This system is best used for starting plants that will be transplanted while still small and I found it super-easy to use. Comes in white. One kit retails for $19.95.
All the seed starting kits were successful (see top photo) and could easily start different types of plants dependent upon your needs. Whether you are growing your Fall cool-season seedlings or replacements for the front lawn vegetable garden, now is the time to get started on the second round of garden growing.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Categories: Better Gardener, Gardening, Products | Tags: aps-40, dwarf blue curled, dwarf kale, garden, gardener's supply, Gardening, growing, kale, kit, organic mechanics, peel-away, pot, seed, seedling, seeds, Shawna Coronado, Soil, steadygrowpro, system, velcro
Written on July 9, 2013 at 5:51 am , by Shawna Coronado
Cloche’s have been a mystery to me most of my life; it was a mystery that was half terrarium and half cake cover. When I was a little girl I remember my grandmother having a few bell shaped glass covers she would set out in the garden, but I never knew their proper use until I became a gardener myself. The word “cloche” is French and means “bell”. Garden cloches are used for a number of reasons; from building a terrarium-like container to starting plants to protecting plants from pests to using it as a decorative element in the home or garden. Above you see my little petunia amongst my seashells getting some extra protection from a hungry rabbit with a cloche.
How To Grow A Begonia Bulb With a Cloche Cover
1. Plant the bulb in the soil with its rounded side down and hollow side up, covering with one inch of soil. Here (to the right) you see the plant has already started and is displaying a pale pink stem. This particular variety is Begonia ‘Golden Balcony’ although I’m calling him Brad the Begonia, because every begonia needs a name, right?
2. Water well and then cover with the cloche or terrarium until you begin to see stronger leaf growth.
3. Wipe the inside of the cloche if moisture develops on the glass, lifting the cloche if moisture becomes too heavy and causes the plant to rot.
4. When plant is ready to transplant, remove from under the glass and transplant.
When using a cloche, the most important concern is moisture. If not watched carefully it can form a high humidity environment where there will be too much moisture inside the bell. If this is the case, simply prop the lid up on one side so air can circulate. Additionally, a cloche can protect against a pest invasion, but if you leave seedlings under a cloche too long without water, it can also become an inhospitable environment for the seedlings. Watch your cloche projects carefully and the cloche becomes a fantastic garden tool to help you grow.
Cloche’s can be used to extend the growing season and protect young plants from frost. Seed starting using a cloche is a great way to protect the in-ground seedlings from being eaten by pests or stepped on by your pet. While cloche’s can be quite decorative and expensive, they typically range in size and price from the low to the high. Cloche’s can be found at your local independent garden center, online, and of course you can make your own cloche by cutting the top off of a clear 2 Liter bottle and turning it upside down.
Happily, my experiment worked. In the photo above you see Brad the Begonia sitting on my desk early in the season growing like the little champ he is. In the bottom photo you see him as he looks today – all handsome and ready for the garden bed.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received several products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Categories: Garden Obsession, Gardening, Products | Tags: begonia, brad, Bulb, cloche, garden, Gardening, grow, growing, humidity, product, review, seashell, Shawna Coronado, terrarium, water
Written on July 2, 2013 at 9:42 am , by Shawna Coronado
Now is the perfect time to install a rain barrel. Summer is here and some parts of the country get very hot and dry late in the season – installing a rain barrel now means you will get some water in the barrel to help you save money and save water later in the season. Benefits of rain barrels go beyond saving money and watering your garden. By having a rain barrel, you are keeping rain water out of urban sewer systems, giving water back to the water table, and helping our environment. Today we are assembling and installing the 55 gallon Rain Saver from Tierra Derco with Quattro Downspout Filter and Universal Spout (see top photo).
Rain barrels come in many shapes and sizes, but almost all rain barrels are gravity fed and have no power to push the water through a hose. If the rain barrel is installed on blocks or raised slightly on a base support, it will guarantee that the water will more easily reach your garden beds if a hose is attached. Most frequently, I use a bucket or watering can and take water from the rain barrel spigot.
To install a rain barrel you will need tools – a rain barrel, flexible downspout, and a hacksaw. If you have an aluminum downspout you will need several screws, screwdriver, and a drill. If you have a PVC downspout you will also need PVC cement instead of screws. If you are unskilled in assembling and drilling like I am, you will need to find a helper like my buddy Ricky Rolon (thanks for helping me assemble the rain barrel Ricky – you’re the best).
Connecting a Downspout To A Rain Barrel in 3 Easy Steps
1. Place the barrel near a downspout. Position exactly where it will be when complete and measure the downspout portion you will need to cut in order to put the connection or downspout filter to the downspout. If your rain barrel does not have predrilled holes for the water tap and hose attachment, drill those now and install tap (photo right).
2. Disconnect your downspout by sawing the downspout above where the top of the rain barrel rests. Be sure to save all the parts you have removed so you can reattach during the winter.
3. Attach a downspout filter or a flexible elbow to the cut end of your downspout so water is redirected into the rain barrel either through the filter hose or through a screened hole on top of the rain barrel dependent upon which rain barrel variety you have (photo right). Secure with screws. Or if you have a PVC downspout, secure with PVC cement so it will not come off during a heavy downpour. Make sure the water overflow is redirected away from the house foundation.
Rain Barrel Success Tip
Additional care for a rain barrel includes when temperatures in your community fall below freezing you should reconnect your old downspouts and drain your rain barrel to protect it from cracking. I turn my rain barrels upside-down, but you could simply keep the rain barrel spigot open so that rain does not gather in the barrel basin.
Helping the environment and saving money while watering your plants is a win-win. Including a rain barrel in your garden is a great way to contribute to a drought tolerant landscaping plan. Get a rain barrel and make a difference.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received a product in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing it.
Categories: Better Gardener, Products, Quick & Easy Tips | Tags: aluminum, barrel, blocks, downspout, drought tolerant, filter, gravity, hacksaw, hose, pvc, rain, rain barrel, rain saver, save money, save water, screwdriver, screws, Shawna Coronado, spout, Tierra Derco, water, watering can
Written on June 25, 2013 at 6:00 am , by Shawna Coronado
Finally it is summer and with the coming of summer, we mark the beginning of barbecue celebration season and outdoor living all over the nation. This is the perfect time to get out and clean up that garden a bit before the big garden get-together. To help you with your summer pruning, gardening, and planting I have reviewed three awesome ladies gloves that I have used myself and put through the Shawna-marator testing process with vigor and passion.
As a full time gardener and garden writer, I’m a bit of an obsessed glove collector and definitely use them in my garden to protect my fingernails from breaking and skin infections. I have dozens from all different types of companies. This season I put three completely different gloves to the test.
Gold Leaf Dry Touch Gloves
Gold Leaf Dry Touch is a tough garden glove (photo below) made from high quality leather. This glove is fully lined and resistant to water. With all the rain I have had in the garden lately, I have found these gloves great to get in to prune rose bushes and other thorny material even if it is wet outside. Thorns do not get through the tough leather and caring for the gloves involves handwashing them and letting them air dry. A good protective glove which is built to last for years, you can purchase the gloves online at Gardeners.com for $38.95. I highly recommend this glove if you want a tough glove for wet and/or thorny conditions.
Womanswork Paisley Garden Glove With Arm Saver
Definitely the most attractive glove of the bunch, Womanswork Paisley Garden Glove (top photo) is as comfortable as it is stylish. When working in the garden I frequently get “itchy arms” from scratchy plants. The Paisley Garden Glove with Arm Saver is exactly as it describes – a great arm saver that prevents itchy arm. I find these gloves perfect for cutting back perennials and digging mid-summer. They come in several different colors, are made of cotton with a touch of lycra, and have a sun protection factor of 50, making for light work on hot days. The little wrist buckle helps keep the glove snug without being too tight around your wrist. There’s even a nifty stretch pull-cord at the end of the glove so you can tighten it if you are concerned about bugs or plants creeping up your arm into the glove. You can purchase these gloves on the Womanswork.com website for $29.50. They come in several different colors and are machine washable so these gloves make an easy-to-clean reusable garden glove.
Rostaing Rosier Gloves
Rostaing Rosier Gloves (photo above) are supposed to be used for roses because they have great protection against rose thorns even though they are a cotton comfort-based glove. Rubber coating on the outside of the cotton glove means you do not have to have a heavy glove on a super-hot day in the garden. However, I found they are fantastic for every imaginable project under the sun where you want to protect your hands. I used them for painting my Adirondack chairs and loved the way the gloves allowed me to grip the paint brush. Pruning, planting, and lifting containers is easy work with these gloves. They are particularly good for digging in soil because absolutely no soil or sharp splinters get up under the nail to irritate the nail bed. Find these gloves on Amazon.com for $12.67. They work great and when you are done abusing them and want them to be fresh for next time, simply throw the gloves in the clothes washer and let them air dry.
Need a gardening glove for all your summer pre-barbecue party garden clean-up efforts? All three gloves listed above are fantastic solutions to protect your hands and keep them healthy in summer.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received glove products in this post at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Categories: Better Gardener, Gardening, Products | Tags: barbecue, dry touch, garden, Gardening, Glove, Gloves, gold leaf, paisley, product, pruning, review, rostaing, rubber, Shawna Coronado, Soil, womanswork
Written on June 4, 2013 at 6:08 am , by Shawna Coronado
There was a little old man that lived up the street from me where I grew up in Kokomo, Indiana. I called him Mr. Grouchy Pants. All we kids were afraid of him because he would catch us playing “Army” in his back garden and chase us off his property yelling like a madman and waving this big metal rod like a weapon. I would have nightmares that I was Peter Rabbit and he was Mr. McGregor. In my dreams Mr. Grouchy Pants would trap me in his giant watering can. Years later I learned that the big metal rod was a do-all gardening tool he invented. It was just a heavy rod, yet it was so much more: a seed hole maker, a lever to dig out rocks, a clay breaker, a thin hoe, and a scary pretend weapon to chase away ornery little girls and boys. As gardeners, we soon discover that the most common tools sold are not necessarily the best tools for the jobs. Sometimes we have to make our own or go searching for an creative solution. Below are reviews of three very interesting garden tools that are unique and provide awesome solutions in the garden.
Cool Garden Tools Reviewed
The Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator – One of my favorite tools ever is the Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator. Cobrahead is the strongest tempered steel blade “finger” you will ever use in the garden and truly acts as an extension of your arm. It is great for getting under a weed with a tap root and popping it out or for using it as an edger along flagstone. I never lose it because the blue handle is easy to spot in the garden and it helps in all kinds of tough jobs – like weeding cactus (top photo). Each Cobrahead is made of a recycled composite material.
Trake - Another strong tool with unique features is the Trake, named for the rakish three tined prong on one side of the tool. There is a measured narrow trowel on the other side of the handle, which is fabulous for bulb and container planting. The three tined prong is super strong, works well to weed, and creates troughs in soil for seeds or plants. Lightweight aluminum makes the tool easy to maneuver, plus it has a vinyl wrap around the handle to help you grip the tool well.
DeWit Potting Scoop and Cutter – This unique DeWit Potting Scoop and Cutter Potting Trowel is built in the shape of a scoop with a honed top edge for cutting out the old soil from container. It also has a more pronounced bend for holding soil without spilling and a sharp knife edge for cutting open bags of soil and compost. It’s a heavy trowel with a truly unique cutting edge which I find very handy in the garden because I do not carry a pocket knife. It also works well for pre-hung vertical gardens so you do not spill as much soil when filling wall containers. The special story about this trowel is I got to blacksmith it myself. I complained that I could not find a potting trowel that was built to not spill soil to Sietse DeWit, the President of the DeWit Tool Company. He invited me to come to his factory and blacksmith a tool with his team that would work and this cool scoop/cutter/trowel is what we came up with and it is guaranteed for a lifetime. Below is a video showing the blacksmithing process for the “Shawna Trowel”.
Caring for your garden tools is an important, but simple, part of keeping the tools in good condition for years of use. Each of these unique tools is easy to maintain – rinse after use and put away immediately. Oil wooden handles and iron to prevent aging and rust.
Better gardening starts by finding the garden tools that work best for you for your particular need. Great, long lasting, tools make gardening easier and prevent undue strain while working in the garden. Try these three interesting, unique tools in your garden to see if this garden gear might be the right fit for your special gardening situation.
According the FTC, I need to tell you that I received products in this blog post at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
Categories: Better Gardener, Gardening, Products | Tags: Bulb, cobrahead, container, dewit, diggers, garden, garden tool, Gardening, peter rabbit, rake, Shawna Coronado, tools, trake, trowel, watering can
Written on May 28, 2013 at 6:00 am , by Shawna Coronado
Hummingbirds are an entertaining way to enjoy nature. We all adore them and want them in our gardens, but sometimes a feeder alone does not attract our humming friends. Here are three tips to get them to come to your yard and recognize your feeder as a place to return to often.
1. Plant nectar producing flowers in your garden that attract hummers. My favorites include Salvia, Nepeta, Bee Balm, Delphinium, Hollyhock, Canna, Morning Glory, Trumpet Vine, and Lantana. In the photo to the right you see the perennial Nepeta Six Hills Giant.
2. Use bright colors to tempt them in – especially red. In the top photo you can see the red Antique Bottle Hummingbird Feeder from Perky-Pet I have set up in my early spring garden. Set a red or brightly colored feeder out as soon as you are able in the spring in order to let the early hummingbird scouts know where their feeding locations are.
3. Keep the feeder clean. Hummingbirds love fresh nectar and do not like a dirty hummingbird feeder, so be sure to keep your feeder clean and change your nectar at least twice per week. Feeding hummingbirds is super easy. Mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil the water solution for two minutes, let cool, then fill the feeder.
While not all feeders need to be placed in shade, I have found that a shady spot seems to be a great spot for the hummers as it keeps them cooler in the hot summer heat and prevents nectar spoilage. They love water too. Here you see an adorable hummingbird that landed on a hosta in my garden and is washing his wings in my sprinkler.
Hummingbirds are amazing to watch and a grand part of the summer garden. Lure these delightful birds in with plants and feeders then invite your friends over to watch the fun.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received a product in this post at no cost in exchange for reviewing it.
Categories: Better Gardener, Birds & Wildlife, Products | Tags: Bee Balm, bird, birding, canna, Delphinium, feeder, feeding, garden, Gardening, Hollyhock, hummingbird, Lantana, Morning Glory, nectar, Nepeta, Plants, purple, red, salvia, Shawna Coronado, Trumpet Vine