Make your own inexpensive DIY portable quick-clean potting table

It’s February, and for many of us garden folks that means seed starting season is on the way! Some of us have even started a few depending on the Growing zone we live in. I’m in Zone 3-2b, and that means it’s time for me to plant things like leeks, some herbs, and slow-growing flowers so they’ll be ready for the short outdoor summer season.

But I have a small issue with only planting a few. I find it impossible. I always plant WAYYY too many seedlings every time I get the seeds out, which is a lot of containers, a lot of soil, a lot of space and a lot of MESS! I never worry, the extra seedlings always find homes (either sold, donated, gifted or “gorilla-planted-in-a-friend’s-garden-but-it-wasn’t-me-can’t-prove-a-thing-look!!!-a-bird”) but I’ve always envied the convenient potting tables I’ve seen in plant nurseries.  So neat, so tidy, so easy to fill the pots and easier on the back.

But like most, I just don’t ave room for yet another large piece of gardening equipment, especially one I’ll only use a few times each year (oddly, I  might be coming to my senses….not!).  So this year I found a way to have my “potting table” without losing more storage space, at almost zero cost. Continue reading Make your own inexpensive DIY portable quick-clean potting table

Keeping Cats out of the Garden

I love cats.  I really do.  I have two of my own rescue fuzzits to prove it.

But I do NOT love them in the garden. And as much as I take good care to give my own furry friends their yard time safely away from the veggies, other neighborhood cats (and even skunks) will find their way in. When they started digging this spring, and leaving their little “presents”, I started thinking hard for a safe, friendly, EASY solution.

After a good bit of brainstorming, I think I managed to come up with a safe way to deter the feline diggers that would not impact my food crops ability to grow, or my ability to easily work in the garden. Continue reading Keeping Cats out of the Garden

Overwintering Sweet Potato Vines for Next Season

In my earlier post Growing Sweet Potatoes in the North, I described how to grow short-season sweet potatoes in a northern Zone 3-2b garden. I also mentioned overwintering the vines for the next season.

This is a very easy process and you can bring these slips into the house for the winter, and treat them the same as you would any other pretty houseplant while you wait for warmer weather. If you read my previous post, you will notice the process is almost identical to what I do in spring, except on a smaller scale. Continue reading Overwintering Sweet Potato Vines for Next Season

Growing Sweet Potatoes in the North

Sweet potatoes are one of those crops that taste great, store great and are versatile in cooking from fries to casserole to soups. However, traditionally they are seen as a southern crop, needing longer growing seasons and more heat than can be found in the north.

But it’s not impossible! With the right set of conditions and the right plants, northern growers in zone 3-2b can definitely enjoy their own crops of these delicious tubers, as well as maintain their plants for years of enjoyable growing.

Continue reading Growing Sweet Potatoes in the North

Trying Square Foot Gardening – My first season in review

Last summer, before getting the winter greenhouse ready, we finished landscaping the yard into my new summer happy-place. Raised beds throughout, pea-gravel pathways, and space for fruit trees the next season.  I was excited to plant but knew I did not have enough season left for anything other than a couple quick crops.

So I planted, and did enjoy a few refreshing snow peas and some early bush beans.  But in planting, I realized all my planting experience was in the traditional rows.  These were fine in my old tilled ground, but in the raised beds it felt like I was wasting WAY too much space.  Short little rows limited by the bed sizes, lots of thinning wasted seedlings, and so much dead space between that I had to weed but got nothing from.

Which prompted me to start looking into what other people were doing in their raised beds. I loved the height of the beds and how clean they were, but why did the Pinterest photos look big and lush and full, and mine were…well…not?

Then I stumbled onto Square Foot Gardening.  Things made sense! I added the book to my Christmas hints, crossed my fingers and waited. Continue reading Trying Square Foot Gardening – My first season in review

Build a low-cost DIY Outdoor Solar Chandelier

Gardens are great.  Fun to grow, fun to harvest, fun to design, and yes, fun to decorate.

While putting the gardens and landscape together, one of my aims was always to have a nice place for relaxing and entertaining.  Our deck works perfectly for this, and it occurred to me that a solar chandelier would be a perfect addition for those quiet evenings spent sitting around chatting.

But one drawback to garden decorations?  Price.  I did see a number of nice solar chandeliers for sale, but none of them fit within what I was willing to pay.

Happily, I can be a resourceful creature and set about making my own.  This is how I did it in one day, and how you can do it too.

Continue reading Build a low-cost DIY Outdoor Solar Chandelier

Aphid Wars – AKA “Attack of the Plant Vampires” & Lessons Learned

I should not have been surprised when aphids showed up in the greenhouse.  But I’d had such a good start in November, with no sign of any issues, that I assumed I had escaped the terrible sucking plant vampires for this year.

Well I was wrong. Very very wrong.

I somehow forgot that greenhouses are totally different than outside. Aphids showed up mid-late December 2014, and man did they teach me a lot.

Continue reading Aphid Wars – AKA “Attack of the Plant Vampires” & Lessons Learned

Urban “Farming” 365 – The first 3 months (Persephone Period)

Planting seeds, October 30, 2014. It was snowing...
Planting the first seeds, October 30, 2014. It was snowing…

After a long couple years of planning and building, magic happened at the end of October 2014. The first seeds were planted in the raised beds of my experimental all-season urban greenhouse. It’s a bit of an understatement to say I was excited. It was like Christmas morning as a kid amplified about ten times.

For those new to the blog, here’s a bit of history on what I am working to accomplish:

In a nutshell, all-season food production in a northern urban yard, and sharing that information to inspire and encourage great folks like yourself to grow food in this harsh climate.

How I am going about this is by converting my urban yard into a mix of relaxing/entertaining space, some grass, a large number of raised beds, a micro-orchard and an experimental all-season greenhouse that will hopefully work in both winter and summer to keep a continuous supply of fresh greens and produce available. And I hope to accomplish this with a minimal amount of resources (ie, minimal heat and no supplemental lighting, as well as rain barrels through summer and year-round composting).

What I am not trying to accomplish is commercial food production. 1-2 households would be a great outcome in my mind, and if there are extras to share, BONUS!

So how have my first three months gone? I’d say fairly well, with a lot of learning! Plants and nature are excellent teachers. I’ve had a wonderful mix of wins and lessons (I will not call them failures, because they teach me the most!) and I’m excited to share them with you. Continue reading Urban “Farming” 365 – The first 3 months (Persephone Period)

Inside, quasi-tropics at 30+C, January 24, 2015

Quick Reference Guide – Great Garden (and related) Twitter chats

Quick Reference Guide - Twitter Garden Chats
Quick Reference Guide – Twitter Garden Chats

If you are a gardener and not on Twitter, no-one can really make you join.  But you may be choosing to exclude yourself for some really really great chats.

At least, I’ve found them to be wonderful places to learn, share and socialize with some awesome, fun and knowledgeable folks.

And they don’t have to stay digital.  There is an annual twitter seedswap I’ve learned of, and participants often meet up if they know they will be in the same areas or conventions (MANTS 2015 is a great example).  I’m looking forward to participating and learning even more from these groups 🙂

If you are new to Twitter chats, they are scheduled events, and you track the conversation as well as join in through hash-tags (yes THOSE.  The annoying things you always wondered why people use.  They are really very useful ways of tracking and cataloging topics on social media even outside of Twitter)

I expect I will be updating this list as I go, so please leave others that you love in the comments (or if I’ve gotten anything wrong or it needs updates, please correct me!).  Where possible, descriptions are taken directly from the chats’ resources. Continue reading Quick Reference Guide – Great Garden (and related) Twitter chats

Greenhouse Building – Part 4 – Raised Beds

Once the main structure was done, I needed space to grow things.  Although many greenhouses grow everything in pots and flats on top of raised tables, my intention is to use raised beds that can directly benefit from the heatsink below, and also give plenty of uninhibited root space to things like broccoli.  I’m hoping it will also give me a much larger planting space, and make the greenhouse tending easier overall.

The design considerations were not huge for the raised beds, but if you are building some in your greenhouse there are a few things to think about.  I’ll discuss what I did and why, and hopefully touch on things that you may want to include in your planning process.

Continue reading Greenhouse Building – Part 4 – Raised Beds