"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away?"

Author: Unknown

Friday, February 26, 2010

GROW Project

    I just received my seeds from Renee's Garden in the mail yesterday. I am so excited to be a part of this gardening project. Thank you Renee for the wonderful seeds that makes this possible. The project is kind of a communal effort among garden bloggers to grow the same plant from seeds as one large group. We are to document the entire process by blogging about how we are growing the plant, our experience with it, tips, photo's and more. Renee generously provided Nasturtium "Spitfire" for participating bloggers. I also received some gorgeous bonus seed, Double Cosmos  "Rose Bon Bon". These look beautiful on the seed packet. I cant wait to try these as well. You can find out more about the GROW Project at this link. 
   I plan to wintersow most of these seeds, and I will hold a few back to also direct sow in the spring. I live in zone 6. We usually don't go below 0° in the winter. So far this year we have gotten down to 8°. My soil has a great deal of clay and rock, but I plan to amend my beds with compost and horse manure from a local trainer. Our summers are probably fairly mild. The average summer temp is probably around 80° to 85°, with occasional highs pushing 100°. Occasional periods of dry weather, but I usually only have to water established plants a couple of times during the growing season. Knowing my gardening habits, these guys most definitely won't be babied,lol. I plan on sowing these out in the wintersown containers around mid March, but couldn't wait to write about receiving these wonderful seeds. I plan to document with pictures further beginning with the actual wintersowing containers as we go. This is going to be a very fun, and informative project.

           "I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project, thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Testing Seed Germination

    Have you ever saved seed for several years because you lost it or forgot about it? Then wondered if they were still good, or should you just toss em? Who wants to go through the effort of potting seeds up, and then wait, and wait, and..... well you know. If they dont come up, you wonder if they are bad seed, or if they need a cold period , or if there is something else wrong. It's very easy to check germination . If you want to figure a "germination rate", then simply check 10 seeds at once. Otherwise, use whatever amount you want.
Place your seeds on a paper towel or napkin .

Fold the napkin around the seeds.

Place napkin containing seeds into a ziplock baggy. Add a very tiny amount of water, just so the napkin soaks all of it up to moisten it only. You dont want any free floating water in your bag.  Now close the baggy and set in a warm place, such as on top of your refridgerator.  Check your seeds about every 3 days for about a week or two. If after two weeks you still do not see any germination, then place baggy in the fridge for a week, and then take back out and try again. If there is still no germination, then the seeds are probably bad.

Here is what a germinated seed will look like. You will see small whitish roots coming out. Now on the right of this shot, you see there are several seeds that have not germinated yet. I started with 10 seeds, 3 germinated, so that means I have 30% germination rate. Not great, especially if they were newly  bought. However, these were not. I saved these from some yellow apples we had eaten. During the first 2 weeks, I had no germination. then I placed them in the fridge for a week, then took the baggy out and placed it back on top of the fridge. Then this morning ( a week later) I opened up the bag, and found these 3 sprouts. I will pot these up later today.

This is a close-up of the germinated seed. You can click on any of these for a larger view. You can check any seed in this manner. There are some seeds that require special considerations to germinate. Some seeds require darkness to germinate, such as: Bachelor's Buttons, Butterfly Flower, Forget-me-not, Larkspur, Nemesia, Painted Tongue,  Phlox, Poppies, and Pansy.

Unlike seeds of annuals, some perennial seeds may require a cold period or stratification period. Some of these are:  Monkshood, Penny Black Nemophilia,Sage,and Lily of the valley. Winter sowing is an easy way to handle these guys.

Some seeds also require scarification or nicking  to help with germination. These are usually the big hard seeds such as Canna's, and Brugmansia among others. This involves taking a file and filing some of the hard black coat off in a small area , or by snipping a small piece off with toenail clippers. Just be careful what ever method you use, you dont want to hurt yourself if you slip. These coats can get rock hard.
A good helpful site on germination is located here: The Seed Site.

Try growing seeds from other store produce, such as cantelopes, watermelons, grapes, peppers, cucumbers etc. Just think of the fun your missing out on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Am On About.com

  Hooray! I submitted my site to About.com today, and was quickly accepted by 5:01 pm this evening. It's probably not a real big deal, but it's exciting just the same. I read on someone else's site today thay they were accepted, so I figured I would give it a try. You can see it here: About.com.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter is Crochet Time

 I like to have crafts to keep my hands busy of an evening while watching TV. I finally finished a couple of things recently. The pillowcase was handmade, and decorated with crocheted edging. I have been making some crochet doilies from patterns from Hardy Crochet. These patterns are very inexpensive, and very easy to follow. However, I have been wanting to do a table runner with a fabric insert. I do believe they sell some patterns for these and also the inserts, but I didn't want to go to that expense. I took a piece of inexpensive white fabric, and hemmed the edges. Then with a crochet hook (these small ones have a fairly sharp point) I single crocheted loosely around the hems on the edge. I have seen comments on other sites where there is also a cutting tool, that when rolled down fabric will punch even holes along the edge. I only had a pattern handy for an edging but needed to be able to work corners to go around all edges. So, as my usual crafty self, I fudged the corners of the edging pattern as I went. Its not perfect, and if one looked real close you could see where I didnt have the pattern worked out real even. But overall I am pleased. If I do another, I will make the hems narrower as well. These were about 1/4" hems.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Garden Bloggers Sustainable Living Project, 2010

                               Earth Day is April 22, 2010


   Its all over the news, there is even articles in magazines about it. We are all encouraged to do it. We need to save our Earth for our children and grand children. People are beginning tobe conscerned about our future generations living with polluted air, littered lands, or even long term illnesses due to chemical pollution of our land, water , and food supply. It is our responsibility to step up now. The new praise now is to " Reduce our carbon footprint",or "living green". What ever you call it, lets all do our part.
   Jan at Thanks for 2day, is asking bloggers to prepare a post show how we are contributing to a greener world in honor of Earth Day. Bloggers around the world are encouraging others to save our Earth, and do our part so future generations can enjoy the beauty of nature, and the satisfaction of breathing crisp, clean air. I grew up learning to make do with what I have,or even make what I need from what I have. During those years we didn't live in as much of a disposable society as we do today. While you read some of the things I do to try and live greener, think of ways you can participate. Every day, not just on Earth Day.

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
   I am trying winter sowing this year, so I am saving all my milk jugs, juice bottles etc to sow seeds in. Right  
   now I am up to 150 containers. Reusing these saved me lots of money,instead of buying pots, and
   traditional  flats.I try to reduce paper waste and save trees on a daily basis. .
2. Conservation:
    I buy very few paper towels  Mostly I save  old worn out towels and tear them into smaller rags to use to
   dust furniture, clean spills,  and windows. I only run my dishwasher with a full load, but I have to admit, with
   a family of 6 adults, and  1 child thats pretty easy.Same with my washing machine. I wash mostly with cold
   water to reduce heating  use.We  have an all electric home, and keep our thermastat turned down to 65°. I
   try to keep bedroom doors closed during the day year round. That way I am not paying to heat/cool these
   rooms that are not getting used during the day. Turn off the lights in rooms that aren't being used.I only
   water my garden when things are getting extremely dry. My yard is left to fend for itself.We also bought an
   energy conserving front loading washing machine. This guy uses much less water than our old top loader.
3. Composting: I just started a compost pile last summer.I save my useable kitchen scraps to go in here. Also
   you  know all those leaves that some like to rake up and bag to be picked up? We run our lawn mower
   over them to chop them up and be blown back onto to the yard to give back to the soil. I also save some to
   put in the compost bin.
4. Do Not Litter: I have taught my kids from a very early age that we do not throw out garbage for any
   reason. There is no excuse for littering. Toss it is the closest garbage can, bag it up, or stick it in your
   pocket, until you find one. You may think that little piece of paper is no big deal, but multiply it by the
   millions of  people living on earth. if we all did that, our children's children will have to tunnel through the
  debris.Its only a slight momentary inconvenience, but can make a big difference.
5. Stop pollution: To me this is a biggy. Has anyone ever stopped to consider why there seems to be so many
    more  cancer diagnosis today than ever before? Seems like everywhere we turn someone else is being
   diagnosed.I have  had a few deaths from cancer in my own family. My gardens have always been chemical
    free. I use natural products to deter deer, and insects. What I can get rid of I live with. You can always find
    japanese beetle damage on many of my flowers.I am going to plant vegetables this year, in attempt to
    reduce the amount of chemical laden food I buy from the store.I also enjoy watching my grand daughters
    enjoying the flower and vegetable gardens. I couldnt do that if I had to worry about them coming in contact
    with some chemical.

    No one smokes in my home...EVER! I refuse to expose myself or my family to this anymore than we have
    to. I do  have a couple of son's that smoke, ignoring my pleadings, but they will never smoke inside my

    Even growing plants at all, whether inside or out, helps to filter the air, and add oxygen back. Now thats a
    cheap air purifier!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We Have Roots

On February 4, I made a post about trying to root some coleus in the milk jug. Similar to set up for winter sowing, but kept inside in a warm place. I taped the lid down, and set on top of my refridgerator where it got filtered light and warmth from being up close to the ceiling. I have only had to mist these a couple of times. I checked one cutting today, and Hurray, we have roots. All the cuttings look as fresh as the day I took the original pic, so I am sure they are looking just as good, but I wont disturb them yet, figured I would let them get a better root system on them before repotting. This shows how easy, and how QUICK, Coleus is to root. You gotta try it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mosaic Monday

  Ok, I have been admiring all the contributions for Mosaic Monday for sometime. So I thought I would finally put one together. Mosaic Monday is sponsored by Mary over at  The Little Red House. This is held every week on, you guessed it, Monday. We just weathered out the second winter storm for Winter 2010. Below are some shots from my yard.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Home-made French Baguette

I posted on gardenweb forum for a recipe for an Italian bread with a thick chewy crust. Ann_t gave me this recipe for Julia Child's French Baguette. The recipe was a little strange to me. When I make bread I proof the yeast in small amount of "warm" water then add flour. this recipe has you add the dry yeast directly to the flour, mix, then add "cold" water. I was afraid it wouldn't raise, but it did fantastic. The only thing I did different was putting a sprinkle of corn meal on the pan. We had Homemade Spaghetti with the loaves, and everyone loved them.The Crust was nice and thick and very chewy. You can find the recipe here: Gardenweb.  Check about halfway down . There are some nice pics as well. I also have a starter waiting for another recipe for Italian bread tomorrow.
     If you want to learn more about bread making, check out Tricia's Tutorial while your there.It was a fantastic help. I have been a part of Gardenweb for many years but have mostly stuck with the gardening forum, until this weekend. I will definitely be visiting this "Cooking" forum again. There are some fantastic cooks in there.Sorry about not having a pic,  I didnt think about it till the loaves were gone, but Ann_T's are better anyway.

The Snow is Back

  Well, looks like the weather reporters were pretty close right with this storm. They were predicting anywhere from 6" to 16" of snow for us yesterday. We got 8", but I am not complaining. Our electric went out from 3 Am Saturday morning until about 5pm last night. Our home is all electric, so thank God for the wood stoves. At least we were warm. My husband has a small generator that he plugged the fridge, and TV in, and we used an electric Foreman grill that I havent used in ages, plus the microwave. I tried boiling an egg on top of the wood stove, but it didnt want to come to a boil, so I wrapped the partially cooked egg in foil, and set it inside my wood stove next to the hot ash for 5 minutes. It worked, so I had a chef salad for lunch. There was so much snow and ice on the power  and phone lines it pulled the phone line out of the house where it was attached. Luckily, it fell across the corner of the garage roof below, which reduced tension, and kept it from being pulled out of the junction box. We were out Saturday evening when then stuff hit, and in a matter of an hour, the roads were horrible. During that 30 mile drive back home, we saw about 5 wrecks before we got home. Where Oh Where Is Spring?

Friday, February 05, 2010

My Pet Peeve

  I know this definitely isnt gardening related, but it has been bugging me for a few weeks now. Ever since I saw a commercial on TV for it. It is a touchless soap dispenser. I am not going to give a brand name, because that really doesnt matter. It feels to me like companies are trying to cash-in on the H1N1 scare. Dont get me wrong, these dispensers certainly have their place. Such as in hospitals and public areas, but really only where they have also gone to the effort to install touchless water faucets as well. Otherwise they make no sense.
     Think about it for a minute. You have soiled your hands. lets say you just coughed and covered your mouth with your hands. If you dont immediately wash them you can spread these germs to anything or anyone you touch. You go to a public bathroom, You wash your hands like any diligent person, then turn off the faucet and grab a towel. Dry off your hands, toss your towel, and now reach for the bathroom doorknob. You think you have done your part in protecting yourself and others from the spread of even more germs. Wait! When you dried your hands and reached for the faucet to turn it off, you have already contaminated your nice clean hands with millions upon millions of germs left by the many people before you who have done the same.YUCK! You thought they were clean didnt you?
     When I was in nursing school, we didnt have all these fancy touchless things to make life easier. Yea, I know, I'm telling my age. We were taught to turn on the water, get some soap from the push button dispenser, wash your hands, pull a paper towel out of the dispenser, dry your hands, then grab a clean towel and use this to turn off the water faucet so your hands are not contaminated again by touching that dirty faucet. Here is where my pet peeve comes into play. I doubt very many private homes have touchless water faucets. So whats the sense in worrying about contaminating your hands by the soap dispenser when you never touch it again after washing your hands? You only touch the soap BEFORE you wash, not after. But guess what? You DO go back to that dirty faucet to turn it off. So what good has the touchless soap dispenser done you? Not much at home. But as I said, it is very important in the public setting.
     The most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of disease it frequent handwashing.I just cant see wasting hard-to-come-by funds on these dispensers for your home. I am sure there will be others that disagree, but I am OK with that. it's just my opinion. What do you think?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hardwood Rose Cuttings

 If you have read previous posts, you know how much I love my Madame Isaac Pereire rose. After seeing how all the other hardwood cuttings were doing, I decided to go ahead and take some cuttings off this rose today. All of my cuttings get stuck straight in my little bed next to the block foundation of the house that faces NE. Most of what I put here seems to root pretty well. The soil has a good bit of clay, and doesnt seem to overly dry out.
Here is the pic of one of the canes I took. Notice the new growth buds already on it.
Then this for this next shot, I dipped the ends in water, tapped the excess off, then stuck in powdered rooting hormone and tapped the excess off again. These will then get stuck in the same bed.
Here they are put to bed, to wait for spring:
I also took some cuttings from my Coleus I was trying to save over winter. I dug the entire plant,potted it, and brought inside. Where I have it stays pretty cold, and not much light. So I am loosing all of these. So in a last ditch attempt to salvage a few, I took some cuttings. Next yr, I wont bother to dig, just grab some cuttings. I am winter sowing this yr for the first time, so thought I would try the same process to do some cuttings inside. I cut a milk jug almost in half, leaving about an inch for a hinge, The put moist potting mix inside, dipped cuttings in hormone and stuck them inside. There is also a couple of fuschia cuttings in there as well. I know a lot of people have luck with rooting these in water, but I am not one of these.
    After preparing, I tape the lid shut again, and take off the lid from the jug. and set in a warm place out of direct light. If these root, I will post another pic.

Signs of Life

The weather was slightly warmer this morning, and so far no new snow, although we have been warned to expect several new inches starting tomorrow thru Saturday. I walked out around my flower beds (in my robe again) and noticed my first signs of life. This first shot is some of my daffodils starting to show their face through some light remnants of the last snow.
I then checked on some cuttings I had prepared late in the fall. These were from my Flowering Crabapple Tree. These trees are beautiful in the Spring. My husband mentioned he would like some more of these. This morning I noticed they have some new growth buds on the branches in several spaces, so I am very optimistic these will take. Hardwood cuttings taken in the late fall or in winter are very easy to do. Just snip off some younger branches , dip in hormone, and stick in the ground. They wont do much of anything until weather starts warming some. In early Spring, and Fall/Winter are the best times for cuttings, then you dont have to worry so much about them drying out. Here are what the Crabapples look like this morning. Notice the arrows pointing to some of he new growth.
Here is another cutting I did late last year of a new plant I bought.It is Clethra ainifolia "Ruby Spice" Summersweet. During some wandering around a nursery in Ohio while touring on our motorcycle, we kept smelling this wonderfully sweet scent. We kept walking around until we found the culprit. Mind you, when we first started smelling this it was probably 20+ feet away. What we found was a variety of Summersweet. it wouldnt exactly fit on my motorcycle, so I went home empty handed. Later I found this variety in Lowes on a final clearnace of 90% off. It was supposed to be 75% off, but the manager thought it looked a little scraggily, and sold it "GAVE" it to me for 90% off. The only thing I seen was one twisted branch. The plant was nice and green. I took a few small cuttings of it right after planting. This is how one of them looked this morning. As with the Crabapples, it has a small bud.
With all this new growth, I hope Spring cant be far behind.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Promise to My Garden

Over the years, once I put a plant in the ground, things go pretty much neglected. My garden is lucky to get an occasional weeding, and a few waterings when their heads start drooping and tongues hanging out. So if your going to be in my bed you better be a tough guy. I have fibromyalgia to deal with so I have to budget my energy accordingly, and 2 years of family upheaval.
Then last spring, things started settling down and I could concentrate more on my flowers. I have never deadheaded before, mostly because I didn't know it would make any difference other than a neater appearance. After what I thought was an unsuccessful attempt to grow Balloon flowers from seed, I suddenly had a beautiful white one in my bed. The same happened with Cleome. Now let that be an example to all gardeners, just because you don't see growth of a new seedling when you expect to, don't give up. You never know what surprises Mother Nature will have in store for you.
Anyway, back to the Balloon flower. When I noticed it was starting to set seed pods, I kept watch on them. I have not been saving my seeds for a few years, but now wanted to get back into trading again. I wanted lots more, but didn't want to pay the high prices of buying a full size plant. Every once in awhile I plucked open a pod to see if the seeds were ready. Most plants are usually pretty easy to tell when the seeds are ready but this one I wasn't so sure of. I read that the seeds could be brown to a tan color when ripe.As luck would have it, each early pod I opened the seed was still a whitish tan color. So I would drop the seed and wait a little longer. I quickly noticed that as I was plucking seed pods, those branches would soon develop a new flower. Then the light bulb finally went on. I realized that if I dead headed this beauty I could enjoy the flowers much longer. At first I was afraid I was sacrificing seed for more bloom. Which I didnt want to do this yr.But after a few posts on gardenweb, someone mentioned that a lot of perennials will re bloom if dead headed. Also they will reward you with more seed later in the growing season, when blooming is finished. Wow! Wish I knew that earlier. Towards July my garden was almost bare, when it could have been more lush and colorful.
This is a shot of the Balloon Flower.

Someone on Gardenweb recommended the book " The Well Tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy DiSabato-Aust . I borrowed this book from my local library. It was a fantastic read. it was chock full of information on growing, and caring for lots of different perennials. I learned that with deadheading, pruning, and sometimes a severe cutting back, will reward the gardening with more bloom, fuller growth, and just a better overall shape and appearance. I highly recommend this book for any gardener. I hope to one day be able to have this book a part of my personal stash.

    Another beautiful example is Clematis Ramona.

This picture, however, does not due this gorgeous beauty justice. It is a much richer shade of a lavender/blue color than it appears. I had one gorgeous flush of bloom last yr. Then after reading more on caring for the different types of Clematis, I found out some require pruning at certain times.  Ramona is a Type B(2) Clematis.This type blooms simultaneously on last years growth and current season's growth, Normally blooming from June to September continuously. And can be treated as a group B or C in pruning technique. It is recommended that in late February or March to give it a light pruning, with variations in in length of stems for a better overall balance of blooms.Typically group B bloom consist of a heavy flush in May-June on previous season's growth, followed by a second smaller flush in September on current season's growth. Which I was told to dead head it to encourage the second flush. Here I was waiting months for the seeds to develop from the first flush when i could have enjoyed two blooming times then waited on seeds. (banging my head on the wall...)
      The book also stated that many perennials tend to get leggy if not pruned back early on before their bloom. Even some real tall guys like Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower). This guy will get 3-5 feet if allowed. Someone on Gardenweb (check out this link about halfway down and one other below that, both by  vera_eastern_wa, here: gardenweb topic showed a picture of this one. I loved it, but I kinda wanted a shorter flower. I mentioned this to her, and she said to prune it back sharply before buds set. Also, in Tracy's book, it states that if  pruned, you can get a shorter more compact plant. So if I cut this plant way back as its growing, before buds set, I may get slightly fewer blooms, with the plant will be shorter and fuller. Tracy gives a more thorough explanation of when to cut, and where to cut your perennials for the best impact.
      This year, my Cleome, Phlox, Clematis, Balloon flower, Yarrow (which I hated in past season's because it was so floppy),Penstemon Husker's Red,Coreopsis Baby Sun, and many more are being introduced to my clippers.

So this growing season, I promise to make an attempt to dead head flowers for re-bloom, and cut back others for a more compact, pleasing appearance. I will also be taking more pictures to document how this effort goes.

A Rainbow Invitation

Rebecca, from http://prefertobeinthegarden.blogspot.com/ posted a challenge to re-create the colors of the rainbow in your garden photos. I thought is sounded like fun. So below is my contribution. I have to admit, it was even more of a challenge to find something even close to being blue.

Picture top,left is an old red rose I have. Next is another rose is Joseph's Coat, which I no longer have.Then in the next row, left is rose Graham Thomas, and then an old Hosta. Next row is A Monkshood which is a volunteer. Not quite blue tho, but closest I could get. Then for purple is a closeup of a Fuschia.