Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado

Better Gardener: 4 Seed Starting Kits That Work For Your Garden

Written on July 16, 2013 at 6:15 am , by

Seedling Starter Kits at 4 Weeks

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.

Shawna Coronado Front Lawn Vegetable Garden

Seedling kit watering

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.

Seedling Kit SteadyGROWpro

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.

Seedling Peel Away kit

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.

Seedling Peel Away Kit assembled

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.

Seedling APS-24 Growing System

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.

Seedling Kits planted up

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.


Shawna Coronado

Garden Obsession: How To Use A Garden Cloche

Written on July 9, 2013 at 5:51 am , by

Cloche covering petunia and seashells in garden

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.

This season I decided to conduct an experiment and see if I could learn how to grow a Tuberous Begonia from bulb by starting the bulb with a cloche cover in a  Terrarium Grow Kit.

How To Grow A Begonia Bulb With a Cloche Cover

Begonia and Cloche Kit1. 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.

Begonia growing in cloche

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.

Cloche grown begonia full size

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.


Shawna Coronado

How To Install A Rain Barrel in 3 Easy Steps

Written on July 2, 2013 at 9:42 am , by

55 gallon rain barrel installed

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 drilling rain barrel holedrill. 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. Assembling downspout drain for rain barrelAttach 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.


Shawna Coronado

3 Top Summer Garden Gloves Reviewed

Written on June 25, 2013 at 6:00 am , by

Gloves Womanswork Work Gloves

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.

Gloves Gold Leaf Royal Horticultural Society Dry Touch

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.

Gloves Rostaing  Rubber Coated

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.


Shawna Coronado

3 Quick Tips To Bring Your Eye Vertical In The Garden

Written on June 18, 2013 at 6:45 am , by

Shove and Rake Trellis

When walking through most suburban gardens I notice an alarming pattern; flatness. My eye is forced to stay firmly on the ground with no upward interest for the vertical. It feels like my eyeballs are in a straitjacket. No movement allowed and whatever you do, do not look up! Vertical gardening and upward placement of garden accessories allows your eye that rest and movement it needs while building more appealing interest for the garden visitor. Better yet, it enables you to save planting space and is suitable to an urban environment.

Want to learn how to build some upward interest? Below are three quick tips that will help inspire you to move-it-on-up in the garden.

Shawna Coronado's Vertical Side Garden

3 Quick Tips

Trellis Creativity – Trellis’s and vines are the easiest ways to grow your way up an unattractive wall. Have a tight budget? No problem. Try something beautifully unique like painting your old shovels and rakes and drilling them on to a fence (photo above). Plant beans, morning glories, or clematis and you have a gorgeous vertical solution.

Balcony Love – Do you have a balcony on your house? Why not attach the ground with the balcony by building upward interest? Below you see containers sitting on top of the balcony, small containers drilled into the bottom edge of the balcony, and several types of clematis climbing up the wall. Your eye is instantly lifted to new heights.

Hang It From A Tree – Trees are an active part of our garden and hanging a mass of matching garden accessories from one tree creates a focal point in the garden. In the bottom photo you see the creative idea one gardener came up with – hanging a birdhouse collection all in the same tree. Most people walking by this urban display are captivated for long minutes and stop to enjoy the uppity view.

Vertical Whimsy In The Garden Birdhouse Tree

Want to take the vertical garden idea even farther? Vertical Vegetable Gardening by Chris McLaughlinTry thinking outside the box and grow a vertical vegetable garden to help feed your family or community. A great book to reference is Vertical Vegetable Gardening by Chris McLaughlin. It teaches you how to discover the benefits of growing your fruit and vegetables up instead of out in order to save space.

Think creatively and build your own garden focused on different views and vertical opportunities which saves planting space and adds interest and whimsy to your garden plan.

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


Shawna Coronado

Perennial Foliage and Glass Adds Interest In The Garden

Written on June 11, 2013 at 6:35 am , by

Lady Fern and Halcyon Hosta

When I was young I loved visiting my grandmother’s shady perennial beds in central Indiana. They were filled with every leafy shape the mind could imagine, yet rarely a flower could be found. My grandmother taught me that there are other beautiful options that can bring just as much joy to your gardening heart. Both foliage and decorative glass offer colorful alternatives to the traditional blooming beds and I use them as much as I can in my own garden.

Foliage

Planning your foliage garden well means your garden can stay beautiful year round without flowers. Mixing leaf structures and plant heights adds interest. At the top you see Fern ‘lady fern’ mixed with Hosta ‘halcyon’ in my side garden at home. I love the blue of the hosta because it contrasts marvelously with the bright green of the soft, feathery-leaved ferns.

A favorite combination is to mix some coleus love into my shade vegetable containers. Lacinto Kale from Bonnie Plants and Coleus from Hort Couture’s ‘Under the Sea’ line make a fabulous color splash together. No flowers can be seen, but the foliage color is astounding and really adds to a shade patio container arrangement (see below).

Lacinto Kale with Coleus

Heuchera and Hosta

Mixing Heuchera and Hosta together can be a brilliant foliage combination. In the garden bed above you see a random bed plan of Heuchera ‘snow angel’ and Heuchera ‘beaujolais’ mixed with Hosta ‘krossa regal’, Hosta ‘gold standard’, and Hosta ‘half and half’.

wine bottle border

Glass

Bottle Tree along pathWant to keep your perennials in place while adding color and interest with glass? Bring whimsical glass accessories in to the garden beds. I have endless wine bottle paths (photo above) draped with ground cover and a fantastic bottle tree (photo right) I found at Carolee’s Herb Farm, a favorite stop whenever I am in central Indiana.

Bottle trees are a remarkably cool folk art brought from Africa and the Middle East centuries ago and were originally used to capture bad spirits. Now they capture color and light and bring a bit of joy to my suburban shade garden.

Below are two books I recommend to help you study up on filling your garden with color not found in a flower; Fine Foliage by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz is a delightful full color book which brings wonderful ideas for foliage color combinations, and Bottle trees.. and the Whimsical Art of Garden Glass by Felder Rushing is an outstanding full color celebration of creative glass-in-the-garden creations.

Bottle Trees Book and Fine Foliage Book

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