One of my awesome-sauce neighbors came over a few weeks ago and said, “Wanna buncha old cement blocks?” When I saw the blocks I jumped up and down and clapped my hands, “Dude – I have the best idea for these – A GARDEN BENCH!” He stared numbly at me, blinked his eyes, and said, “I just wanna get rid of’em. Take them.” Well alrighty then. I took the blocks, painted, stacked, and fed cedar 4X4’s through the holes. Topped with bench cushions and KERPOW I have super garden bench power.
12 cement blocks
4 cedar 4X4’s
2 cans of one coat paint
Cushions that will fit
1. Paint cement blocks your feature color
2. Make two towers of six blocks each [see photo] placed on a level surface
3. Feed cedar 4X4’s through the top holes
4. Top with cushions to make it a comfortable sit or lay.
This is a super-easy solution to your summertime garden bench troubles. No drilling, no sawing, and the bench is sturdy and secure. Create a perfect place to relax and spend an afternoon reading in the garden or place it along a sidewalk or near the entrance to your garden and use it as a tool and watering can rest stop. Get yourself garden bench power today and build a bench!
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.
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].
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].
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.
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
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Eleven years ago I was a “traditional gardener”, meaning I used the traditionally advertised products on the market that were filled with chemicals to treat my garden. This led to over-fertilizing and using chemical pesticides regularly. Bottom line: I wantonly abandoned the idea of doing healthy things for my garden in favor of what the media told me I should do. At that time I would consider my garden an average garden even with all of my chemical efforts. Then one season a friend of mine suggested I grow in an environmentally healthy fashion and stop listening to the hype. I thoroughly researched the importance of how to go chemical free and gradually converted my entire property over to about 98.9% organic and natural. An amazing and surprising thing happened in response to that changeover – my garden grew more beautiful, astounding, and lush than it had ever been when I used all those chemical solutions.
The secret for using less chemicals and pesticides in your garden is this: good soil grows healthy plant roots. With healthy plant roots you have strong plants that can survive tough conditions. Over the last ten years I have discovered what type of amendments work best in gardens nationwide and in my own garden. I have my favorite list of five all natural products and organic matter that really work well in my front lawn vegetable garden (seen in the photo above) and in gardens all across the country.
5 Amazing Soil Additives
Without a doubt, rotted manure is an important organic amendment for your soil because of its nutrient rich content which is the basis for building a strong structure of carbon compounds within the soil. Be sure that the manure is well rotted or it will burn your plants. You can get it in bagged form at your local garden center or find a farmer nearby. Be advised that manure from a farmer sometimes contains grass and weed seed. I add a generous amount of well rotted manure to the garden soil before I plant a garden, then again annually as a top dressing around plants.
Worm castings is worm poop – that’s right – worm poop. Like rotted manure, worm castings create a strong soil structure and add beneficial biology to the root zone of your plants. Worm castings help hold moisture so you water less. Mix ¼ cup of worm castings into the soil planting hole for each plant. I use Organic Mechanics worm castings which are OMRI and Organic certified (below you see a mix of rotted manure and worm castings added to my spring front lawn vegetable garden).
Actino-Iron is an all natural OMRI certified granular soil additive that combines the Actinovate organic fungicide with organic iron and humates. Actino-Iron is a product that is already used in many of the soil mixes you find professionally in the market because it helps control root diseases and keep your plants greener. I have used it for three years in a row and found it works very well to strengthen the root systems of my plants. Last year I had a drought and the plants stayed green and healthier because Actino-Iron builds a relationship between the root zone and soil microbes, strengthening the roots by growing more root hairs. I had a couple tablespoons in the root zone of each plant (see photo below).
Pure Elements SoilSuccess
Pure Elements has several gypsum based products that are great soil amendments for all types of growing such as grass renewal, perennial beds, annual flower gardens, and vegetable gardening. My favorite is Pure Elements SoilSuccess Renew + Transform because it adds humates to the soil and helps reduce tomato bottom end rot. This is a good product to increase soil microbial activity and improve germination, shoot, and root growth in all your garden beds, particularly your vegetable beds. My plants are crazy huge this season and I applied about one pound of SoilSuccess per 100 feet of garden.
#1 rule of healthy organic gardening – make your own compost. Below is a photo of my overly stuffed composter doing its happy work in my garden. While there are many ways to make your own compost, the fact that it is absolutely free for you to build makes it one of the best ideas ever. Using grass clippings, kitchen scraps, dry leaves, and all types of natural things from your home like coffee grounds, you can create “black gold” for your garden beds. Compost has amazing nutrients in it which helps your garden soil be the perfect place for microbes to interact with root hairs. In other words, by adding compost, you are building stronger roots. I add compost to the soil in new gardens and also use it as a top dressing to smother weeds around healthy plants.
According the FTC, you need to know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.
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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.
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I’ve learned many important lessons about life and plant life since I started gardening a few years ago. There are three tips that always come back and repeat over and over in my mind…
If it’s not thriving, move it. This one must be my Mom’s favorite gardening advice. She casually mentions as she walks by even big shrubs, “if it’s not thriving, just move it!” And she’s right. If a plant isn’t thriving where it is, it’s not magically going to sprout healthy blooms or throw out new, green growth. For whatever reason – sunlight, water, soil condition – the plant isn’t going to make it. You’re better off trying it out in a new spot. If it lives, great! If not, you’ve still got the same sad plant. No harm, no foul. I saw this tip in action last month, actually. I had two dwarf gardenias planted up next to our screened in porch. They happened to be planted next to where the concrete foundation of the porch was creeping into the soil and they never looked healthy – no blooms, no new growth. I kept thinking I’d just give them a little extra fertilizer and one more season and they’d catch on. But Mom wandered by one day and casually mentioned her favorite advice “if it’s not thriving, just move it!” I moved them the next week and BAM! Six blooms and lots of new growth. In a week! Turns out, Mom’s usually right.
Mark it. Last fall, I planted a Virginia Bluebell bulb I ordered from White Flower Farms. I was so excited to receive my first mail-order plant and get it in the ground. I was really ready for those precious blue bell-shaped flowers to lend some much needed color to my early spring shade garden. I knew right where I planted it for about two weeks. The leaves fell and my memory faded. Where exactly, between a hosta and a tree trunk, I planted it was much harder to find six months later. By the next spring, when it was supposed to be blooming, I poked around everywhere for a hint of growth sprouting up. Nothing to be found. I couldn’t find the exact spot so I couldn’t figure out if the root had rotted or been eaten. Lucky for me, Beverly, my childhood nanny turned friend and gardening mentor sent me a four Virginia Bluebells from her own garden. I planted them in a few different places around the garden and the first thing I did was to mark them – even before watering! I’m determined not to lose track of this batch.
It’s better together. This one’s easy. I’ve learned it from Mom, Beverly, and E. Gardening is a hobby better enjoyed in the company of friends and mentors. It’s easier to dig holes, carry containers, shovel the dirt, and even enjoy the blooms… together.
Photo by Whitney of The Curtis Casa
(Side garden: hydrangea, daylily, calla lily)
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.
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