Browsing Category: Gardening

Garden Penny Ball

My wife was cleaning out an old purse last night, and kept pulling out handfuls of pennies.  I always save all of my change in a jar, as a vacation savings plan.  I’ve been saving for close to 4 years now, and plan on cashing in next summer.  I don’t, however, save the pennies in my vacation savings jar.  So I have a bunch of pennies laying around as well.  So I decided to take a look to see what I could do with all of the pennies besides cash them.  I found this awesome looking penny ball that you can make for uh… pennies.  All you need is some good UV resistant and waterproof glue, a bunch of pennies and an old bowling ball.  I find bowling balls at thrift shops and garage sales all the time, and for a dollar or two.

One of the really cool things about this penny ball is that it not only looks really cool, in my opinion, but also repels slugs from you garden, and if placed near your hydrangeas, will turn their flowers blue!

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Mini Water Garden Fountain

There is nothing quite as relaxing as the sound of a gurgling stream, or a bubbling brook.  I have a pool at my house, and I love the water, but when I am out by the pool on a hot summer day, I think having that sound of water would just take the whole scene up a notch.  One of the things I really like about this, is that it is not only a fountain, but a mini water garden as well!  We grow a lot of of vegetables and fruits in pots on our deck in the summer, and having a water feature nestled in there with some cool water plants would look great.  This little project looks like a cheap, and easy way to achieve that without taking up too much real estate on my deck!  I found this DIY on CanadianGardening.net, and they not only give the the DIY for the fountain, but a list of plants that would do well in a small fountain such as this.  Here is what they say to do:

Pump primer
To make these potted ponds, I used a 95 GPH pump (GPH stands for gallons per hour). Although 95 GPH may sound like a lot, it’s one of the smallest sizes on the market and is only appropriate for containers. Here is one I found on Amazon for $13.

Here’s the formula for calculating the volume of your pond or container using imperial measurements: length x width x depth (all in feet) will give you the cubic feet of a rectangular container. Multiply this by 7.5 to obtain the number of U.S. gallons. The galvanized-steel tub used in the picture below measures one foot deep by 11⁄2 feet square: 1 x 1.5 x 1.5 x 7.5 = 16.88 U.S. gallons. To calculate the size of the pump needed, divide the total number of gallons by two, which means you would only need an 8 GPH pump for a container this size.  Here is a container I found on Amazon for $27.

But that’s just the beginning. The size of the container can also influence the strength of pump required. The longer the tubing from the pump to the water output, the more GPH is needed to keep the water moving. A waterfall entails its own set of calculations, as distance from water pump to water output can be significant. For the best advice and information on selecting a water pump, visit a retailer that specializes in water gardens.

Installing water plants
To install water plants, remove them from the plastic containers they’re sold in, wrap the soil and roots in burlap, then place in small mesh baskets (specifically made for water plants and available at most garden centres).

Cover the top with pea gravel (this will keep the soil down). Remember to check the pump’s filter periodically, as this is where residual soil will collect.

The smaller the pump, the smaller the filter and the more frequently it needs to be cleaned out.

The plants

  • Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’): A marginal water plant, meaning it can be grown either at the edge of or in a pond but still in soil, this unusually shaped rush reaches 60 centimetres tall and does best in sun or part shade. Make sure you’re not buying J. balticus ‘Spiralis’, which is less upright and has a tendency to spread. Zone 4
  • Dwarf or miniature cattail (Typha minima): Another marginal plant, it reaches up to 45 centimetres tall and grows best in sun or part shade. Zone 3
  • Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’): A marginal plant that produces white flowers in early summer, it must be planted in a perennial bed and mulched to successfully overwinter. It reaches 15 centimetres tall, does well in sun or part shade and tends to spread. Zone 5
  • Needle rush hair grass or spike rush (Eleocharis acicularis): A marginal as well as an oxygenating plant (essential for the survival of fish), this North American native grows to about 30 centimetres tall and does best in sun or part shade. Zone 3
  • Fairy moss (Azolla caroliniana and A. filiculoides): This tiny moss (one to three centimetres across) floats on the surface of the water. The green fronds turn red in fall; the plant spreads rapidly. Overwinter indoors; native to North America.

Tub time (shown below)
A large, galvanized-steel tub (30 centi-metres deep, 46 centimetres square) serves as the base for this water feature.

The pump was installed on the bottom, then covered with a plastic pot. A trick I learned from Canadian Gardening’s previous editor, Beckie Fox, is to use a piece of gridded plastic (the type that’s installed over fluorescent lighting) as a foundation for the top layer of stones. I added a variety of larger sizes (not pebbles) and finished it off with a flat slab of slate, which forms the ledge over which the stream of water runs.

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DIY Pallet Planter for Strawberries

I have been growing strawberries in pots the last couple of years, and they just don’t flourish the way I feel they should.  I started looking for ways to grow strawberries that would suit my home.  I looked at hangind planters, which I really liked, but just wasn’t a good fit for my house, I looked at different types of boxes and hanging planter.  But then I found a site called LovelyGreens.com that shows how to make a planter box out of a pallet, and I knew that was right up my alley!  They also give a great tip on how to make sure the pallet you are using is safe.  Pallets that cross international borders must be treated.  Some use heat treating, and some use chemical treating.  Check out the picture at the bottom of this post from LovelyGreens.com that shows how to tell the difference.

So, here are the instructions on making the planter, but if you want to see more pics, then follow this link to LovelyGreens.com for more.

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How to Make a Better Strawberry Planter out of a Wooden Pallet
You will need the following materials:
- A suitable pallet as described above
- A hand-saw or jigsaw
- Electric drill or hammer
- Two sizes of screws and nails – approx. lengths 4 cm (1-1/2″) and 8cm (3″)
Optional:
- Heavy duty chisel/wedge and iron mallet
- Non-toxic paint and paintbrush
Step 1: Cut the pallet into three equal pieces
The easiest way to do this is to cut lay the pallet so that the long planks are in parallel with your own position. If your pallet has nine planks, like mine did, then count over three planks and then saw the wood between the third and fourth planks. Saw right in the middle, to keep things easy and to ensure that all of your proportions remain correct. Continue another three planks and cut again. Remember that you’ll have to saw in the exact places on both the front and back of the pallet.
Step 2: Trim and remove excess wood pieces
You’ll have three pieces of pallet now, all of the same height and width. Two of the pallets will be formed from the top and bottom and will have chunky blocks securely fixed to them between one of three planks on the front side and the single one left on on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks. Please refer to images for step one and two. Though I chose not to do it in this project, you could also remove that single plank on the back side. If you do this then you could have a deeper planter – it’s up to you.
The piece that made up the centre part of the pallet also has thick wooden blocks sandwiched between its front side and stubby planks on the other. Pull these blocks and stubby planks off but keep them in reserve – you’ll need them to complete the project. If there are nails sticking up after removing these pieces then either hammer them flat or remove them completely.
Step 3: Fix the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet. Screw in from the other side of the middle (bottom) piece. 
The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom. Though the image shows the structure right way up, it’s actually easier to flip it over in order to fix the bottom piece to the sides. You’ll want to screw or nail the bottom piece into the wooden blocks still attached to the side pieces.
Step 4: You should have three to four of these pieces that were removed from the centre piece of the pallet. Separate them into individual blocks and planks.
This is easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Since pallet wood that has been heat treated can be brittle if you try to pull the plank off with the tongs of a hammer. If you have a heavy duty chisel then I recommend that you use it to separate the block and the plank and sever the nails in two. If you’re planning on doing any more pallet projects you could really save yourself a lot of tears and invest in one along with an iron mallet down at your local hardware store. If any of your pieces have bits of nails sticking out then try to hammer them flat.
Step 5: Use planks to create the sides and the blocks for feet
If you’ve followed the directions in step 1 and sawed in the middle between the long planks, then the little planks leftover from step four should all be approximately the same length. They will also be the same width you need to create the shorter sides of your planter. If your original pallet was the same size as mine then you’ll have four of these planks to make up two pieces for each side. The bottom planks for each of the shorter sides can be created by re-using the bits of wood you cut off the side pieces in step two. For a more pleasing and symmetrical effect, line the small side planks up with the planks along the front and back pieces.
Attaching the wooden blocks as feet can be a bit tricky and in the end I drove very long screws in sideways to attach them to the bottom of the planter. Putting feet on the piece will help with drainage and slow down the process of the bottom rotting. I think they also make the planter look nicer.
I can foresee some people finding pallets of slightly different sizes to mine and being left with less small planks and blocks in this step. In fact it’s more likely that you’ll end up with three of each rather than four, especially if you’re using a smaller pallet. In this case you’ll be cobbling together more scraps to make and additional side piece and having to find a fourth block to use as the last foot. In this case I’d look at removing one of the inner blocks from the side pieces to use.
Step 6: Project Completed!
Well almost :) Turn your planter right way up and have a look at it. Does it feel sturdy? Are the feet wobbly? Are there extra bits of wood sticking up that you could trim back? Once you feel the planter is complete then either plant it up as is or use a non-toxic outdoor wood paint to paint the exterior. Being wood, this piece will eventually rot down but some tlc now can help extend its life.
Step 7: Plant it up
Soil and compost will erode through any unprotected opening in the sides or bottom of the planter. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I chose to line the bottom of my planter with scraps of wire then a layer of gardening fabric that will let water out but keep matter in. Since I placed my planter against a hedge I also chose to roll the black material up the back since I won’t be planting any strawberries on that side. On top of the fabric and running up the sides I used straw as an organic erosion barrier.
The easiest way to plant your strawberries is to work your way up from the bottom. A layer of compost, mixed with well rotted horse manure and slow-release organic fertiliser went in first. Then I placed the plants in the bottom slots along with straw. Another layer of my compost mixture and then I repeated the process for the next set of slots. You’ll also notice that I’ve spaced my plants out far more than you’ll see in most other pallet planter tutorials. If you want strawberries to produce well, it’s recommended that you place the plants at least 35cm (14″) apart. I’ve also made sure that each plant will be able to grow and spread out without smothering any plants underneath.
Choosing your pallet
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1 Simple Tip For Better Tomatoes

I grow tomatoes every year, because I just love the taste of a vine ripened tomato nice and hot from the sun right off the vine.  My tomato growing skills however are a bit lackluster, so I am determined to change that this year.  Everyone I ask who has great tomatoes always says the same thing.  Remove the sucker branches.  (See the photo below for which these are.)  They grow between the main branch, and the large side branches.  These suckers take away a lot of the energy from the vine that the plant should be using to grow tomatoes.  They also create a lot of shade within the plant, so the more important branches don’t get sun.  One of the cool things about removing these suckers is that you can root them and grow a whole new plant!  Or, you can just stick them in the ground, keep them watered, and they will grow on their own!  As they say on AGardenForTheHouse.com: Now, you don’t have to remove the suckers from your vines. But left to their own devices, I can tell you that tomato plants soon grow an enormous quantity of stems, require vast amounts of space and endless tying, are susceptible to disease, and produce low-quality fruit. However, a well-pruned vine, one whose leaves are all exposed to the sun, invites both health and jumbo-size produce. And such a vine can be easily maintained in small, 12-to-18-inch quarters.

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Glow In The Dark Log Stools

One of the great things about the summer time is getting to be outside more.  Not just during the day, but getting to be outside at night is extra magical.  I love sitting around an outdoor fire at night, just sitting quietly listening to the fire crackle, and the sounds of night bugs and frogs.

I built a great fire pit at my parents’ house that is circled by log stools for sitting around the fire.  Once it starts to get late, and the fire starts burning low, the stools become hard to see, and I have stubbed many a toe on those stools!  This is a super fun way to keep those stools visible and ad some glow fun to the fire pit.

Paint the tops of your log stools with glow in the dark paint.  I looked through a lot of different glow in the dark paints, and found these to be the best bet: Glow Inc. Paints from Amazon come in a couple of different colors like green, blue, purple, and white.  I was unable to find any in red and oranges like those shown in the picture below from Pinyourhome.com, so if you can find any good ones, please let me know in the comments.  Aside from just painting the logs with the glow paint, I would suggest also giving them a quick coating of spray shellac just to make the paint last longer out in the elements.

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Use Vinegar To Kill Weeds

When we moved into our house a couple of years ago we inherited an amazing garden that somehow stayed weed free for years.  I’m not sure how the previous owner was able to pull that off, but it seems reign over the weeds has ended, much to my displeasure.  So, I am on a mission to maintain her legacy, and once again eradicate the weeds from our garden!  I’ve tried pulling them out, which works for some of the weeds, but others have roots that just don’t want to come out, and the tops just break off.  Then they just come right back.  This looks to be my best option so far, mostly all natural, with the exception of a small squirt of dish soap.  I found this recipe on Alternative Gardening, an amazing resource for gardening, gardening naturally, and gardening with kids.  Here is what they had to say:

Homemade Weed Killer

What you’ll need:

  1. 1 gallon of white vinegar
  2. 1/2 cup salt
  3. Liquid dish soap (any brand)
  4. Empty spray bottle

Put salt in the empty spray bottle and fill it the rest of the way up with white vinegar. Add a squirt of liquid dish soap. This solution works best if you use it on a hot day. Spray it on the weeds in the morning, and as it heats up it will do its work.

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DIY Hanging Terrarium

Flowers and plants are great for Mother’s Day but I loved the idea of a DIY Hanging Terrarium.  They add so much beauty to any room you choose to hang them in.  And are great for mom to hang above her desk at work!

For details please visit Home A Sandwich Shoppe

All you need:

  • Hanging Terrariums
  • Succulants

Hanging-Terrarium-Final

 

Easily Grow Carrots in Pots

My kids love carrots, and every year we try to grow them with no success.  For some reason both carrots and radishes have failed miserably in my garden.  This year I plan to change all of that!  This year I will plant my carrots in pots, and if the success of the writer on Vegetable-Garden-Guide.com is any indication, we will be growing crop after crop all summer long!  According to him, with just one 13 inch wide by 12 inch deep clay pot, you can harvest 30 – 40 carrots per growing cycle!  And, he says that you can just keep planting them over and over all summer long, using the the same soil and pot, by resowing the seeds.  Why is it so much easier to grow carrots in pots?  Here is what he says:

The advantages of growing carrots in containers are:

  • No poor soil problems if using shop bought compost.
  • No weeding and digging concerns.
  • And no soil pest problems.

What you do need to keep in mind though is a little more attention will need to be given to watering and feeding.  Here are his instructions to growing your best carrots ever!

Growing carrots in plant containers is no different than growing them in open ground. Make small drills in the growing medium about ½” deep, thinly sow the carrot seed along the drills, fill in the drills and water using a watering can with fine holes. After about 1 week you should see the carrot sprouts.  After the carrots have germinated and are about a 1″ tall start the thinning process. You can pull them out or get a small pointed pair of scissors and snip them off at soil level. Thin them so they are about ½” apart. Later you will thin them to approximately 1″ and the thinnings should be big enough to eat.

I can’t wait to get my carrots in their pots.  I think my kids will love planting their own carrots as well, and taking care of the plants until they can eat their own harvest!

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Fight Mosquitoes Naturally

I am not sure why, but mosquitoes don’t really bother me.  I’m not sure if that they don’t bite me, or if their bites just don’t really bother me.  My oldest son is the same way.  However, my wife and my youngest get obliterated by mosquitoes!  They get these huge welts, their faces blow up, and generally, it is just not a good time for them.  So, I love being outside in the warm weather, I love eating dinner outside, being in the woods, boating etc., but my wife and little one tend to shy away due to their adverse reaction to being bitten by mosquitoes.  So this year, I plan to spend a lot more time outdoors with my wife and little one!  I started researching good natural ways to keep the mosquito population down, and here is what I came up with:

  1. Bats:  Bats are one of the best ways to actually get rid of mosquitoes, not just keep them away.  One bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in a single hour! Here is a link to the bat house I have.  Plus, you will be doing the world a favor by giving bats a home.  They are on the decline, and need safe places to live!
  2. Marigolds:  Marigolds are easy to grow, and make a great border flower.  Plus skeeters hate the smell of them!  Get 500 seeds for $2.50 here!
  3. Tea Tree Oil:  Some people don’t like the smell, but I happen to enjoy it.  You can put it in a spray bottle with water, 1 part tea tree oil to 3 parts water, and spray it on.  Repels ticks too! You can buy it here, and get a free tea tree soap too!
  4. Mosquito Traps:  Mosquito traps are easy to make, and will trap and kill hundreds of mosquitoes.  But, if you are going to use a bat house, I would suggest leaving the mosquitoes for them, and skipping the trap.  Here is a link to an easy natural mosquito trap.
  5. Catnip:  Catnip is cheap and easy to grow.  But while you may be keeping the mosquitoes away, you may be inviting the neighborhood cats! Buy seeds here!
  6. Herbs:  Basil, lemongrass and rosemary are great additions to any herb garden.  Keep your herb garden in pots where you spend your time outdoors at your house, and you can keep the mosquitoes at bay while you’re at it!  At your next barbecue, try throwing some rosemary or sage onto the grill.
  7. Pyrethrum Daisies:  These I love!  They look great, and supposedly not only repel, but kill mosquitoes as well.  You can buy them here.
  8. Citronella Plant:  I have these in hanging baskets all over my deck.  Just give them a rub when you get outside, and they release their amazing mosquito repelling scent!  Buy one here.
BatHouse

Bat House

 

 

Grow Your Own Sunflower Fort

Want to get your kids excited about gardening?  Help them grow their own Sunflower Fort!  All summer they will be checking on the growth of their fort, and then when it is ready they will have a fun shady place to play outside, and let their imaginations go wild!  I can see my little one imagining he was a tiny bug, or a forest nymph sitting inside of these giant flowers.  I guess I need to get them started on this project right away, as it is just about planting time for sunflowers!  I found this idea on EscapadeDirect.com, and here are the instructions and ideas they provide:
What You Will Need:

  • 4×6 foot garden patch
  • Shovel
  • Short Stakes
  • String
  • Tall-Growing Sunflower Seeds (such as Giant Greystripe or Russian Mammoth)
  • Cheesecloth (optional)

What You Do:

  • Late in spring, when the weather is warm, mark a 4×6 foot rectangle in the garden.
  • Loosen the soil by digging into the ground around the edges a foot deep. The soil should be loose and crumbly.
  • Push a stake in the ground at each corner. Mark the “doorway” with stakes (it is best to make the doorway on the 4-foot end of the rectangle).
  • To help you plant seeds in straight lines, tie a string to the doorway stake and run the string around the stakes surrounding your fort.
  • Plant seeds an inch deep and 6 inches apart. (Poke a hole in the dirt with your finger, put a seed in, and cover it up). Plant the seeds all around the edges of your fort — but not the doorway.
  • Water the seeds.
  • Cover the seeds with a layer of cheesecloth to protect them from animals. Leave the cloth loose so the plants can grow; weigh down the edges with dirt to keep the cloth from blowing away. Water the sunflower plants several times each week — morning is the best time to water.
  • When the plants are several inches tall, remove the cheesecloth. Thin out the plants; sunflowers get huge and need the room. Keep the plants watered — sunflowers need plenty of moisture. Be sure to occasionally pick out any weeds between the sunflowers; weeds will steal water and nutrients from the sunflowers.
  • When the sunflowers are approximately 6 feet tall, loosely tie the tops of the plants from one side of the fort to the tops of the plants from the other side of the fort (continue doing this down the length of your fort) — this will form a roof over your fort. Don’t tie them too tight, or you will damage the sunflower stems!

Now you have a nice shady retreat to play in this Summer!

Additional Ideas and Tips:

  • Try making a Sunflower Fort in different shapes! For example, lay out a large circle in your garden, then create a maze-like path into the center of the circle. Children can walk through the Sunflower Maze to reach their play space in the center of the circle. A-maze-ing!
  • For added color, plant Morning Glories (or other fast-growing vines) near the Sunflowers. The Morning Glories will use the Sunflowers to climb on, and your Sunflower Fort will have another beautiful color.
  • Plant a variety of Sunflowers that grow to different heights — the tallest Sunflowers will create the walls and roof of your playfort, and the shorter Sunflowers will help fill in the walls.
  • Line the inside of your playfort with shredded wood chips to provide a comfortable floor and to help prevent weeds from growing.
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