Soil

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

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

Top 5 Secret and Natural Soil Additives For A Healthy Garden

Shawna Coronado front lawn vegetable garden

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

Rotted Manure

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

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).

Spring rotted manure application on Shawna Coronado front lawn vegetable garden

Actino-Iron

Soil Amendment Actino-Iron 2Actino-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).

Soil amendment Actino-Iron

Pure Elements SoilSuccess

Soil Amendment Pure Elements SoilSuccessPure 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.

Homemade Compost

#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.

Shawna Coronado Soil Amendment Compost Bin

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


Shawna Coronado

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

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

3 Top Summer Garden Gloves Reviewed

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

Recycle Gutters Into A DIY Vertical Shade Garden

Vertical Gutter Garden with Asparagus Fern

Big, blank, shady walls are bullies in my garden. Limited by no sun, dry conditions, and poor soil, my shady walls ogle my garden tools threateningly and push me around with that intimidating attitude all bullies have. I spend hours staring at an empty wall trying to come to terms with a sustainable solution that might work. Without a doubt, you have the same mean wall-bully hiding in your garden that hides in mine.

There’s only one way to fix a perplexing shady wall. In dealing with a wall-bully, one must cover it with a creative solution. A quick answer to that problem is to paint the wall, add several trellis’s all along the area, then plant a non-invasive shade climber at the base of a trellis, so the wall becomes less threatening and more appealing.

How To Say No To Bullies

My favorite wall-bully solution, however, is to recycle old rain gutters into a vertical wall of garden. Find both new and old gutters and downspouts online, at home salvage warehouses, or at your local hardware store. Screw the rain gutters into the wall. Be sure to screw into supports and joists whenever possible to give the wall garden extra support.

While you could hang the old gutters on a wall and place the soil and plants directly in the gutters, I adore the idea of using a repetitive color pattern as a bright pop on the wall. Here you see rows of preplanted Asparagus Fern sitting in bold orange containers within the gutters. Each container has its special spot on the recycled gutters that stretch nearly ten feet high up a tall shade-filled wall. If one of the plants dies, it is easy to replace the plant by simply adding another container, thereby making this technique an easy-to-manage solution.

Do not let shady wall-bullies push you around; get out there and discover a creative, sustainable, solution like recycled gutters to make that difficult wall into your best friend.