This year I found myself with extra room in the garden to plant whatever my heart desired. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at growing corn, but never had the space or the right seeds. Corn is one of the most commonly grown GMO crops in our country, which makes finding truly GMO-free seeds difficult. After coming across packets of these elusive seeds at a local market, I knew exactly what I was planting in my extra garden plot. Continue reading “5 Things I Learned Growing Corn”
It’s about time I wrote a post about one of my favorite things to photograph in the garden – insects. Yes, flowers are beautiful and vegetables colorful… but insects tend to make a particularly interesting photo. Although they can be hard to photograph, because they are on a micro scale and move, if you get a great shot it’s worth it! Here are some of my favorite shots from this summer. Enjoy! Continue reading “Garden Musings: Summer Insects”
Ever wonder what makes your salsa verde green? Surprise! It’s not green tomatoes but instead a delightful fruit called the tomatillo. You can purchase tomatillos at the grocery store (typically located near the peppers), but if you have the space I suggest growing your own. With few pest and disease problems tomatillos are easy to grow organically, prolific (which means tons of yummy salsa!), and fascinating to watch grow inside husks that resemble tiny green lanterns.
Continue reading “How to Grow Epic Tomatillos”
I don’t like the idea of adding chemicals to our environment. And let’s be honest – if you are spending the time to grow your own fruits and vegetables you shouldn’t either. Synthetic chemicals and toxins, found in common pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are undisputedly bad for humans and the environment. Yet despite a mountain of scientific research that shows their harmful effects, over 80% of products sold in gardening centers still contain them. What’s worse – these products are marketed as “safe”. Continue reading “6 Ways to Make Your Own Organic Fertilizer”
I am a big proponent of growing plants from seed. Whether you are a serious gardener or a gardening hobbyist, there are far more benefits of growing your plants from seed than buying “ready to plant” trays. Continue reading “Easy Indoor Seed Starting Guide”
Every Fall, nature adorns our trees and shrubs with festive color. The changing scenery practically invokes feelings of warmth and a desire to drink hot apple cider. Or in my case, visit a pumpkin patch – where this year I found an awesome old tractor…
Once the color-glory is over and the leaves begin to blanket the ground, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture – leaf litter, the end of a cycle, is the start of a new cycle for life underneath. Continue reading “To Rake or Not to Rake? – The Benefits of Leaf Litter”
“If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds … Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long.”
– Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, 1977
In my opinion, there is nothing on Earth more underrated than dirt. We walk on it every day without any thought, spend money and time trying to eradicate it from our homes, and dump our trash and waste into it. But the truth is, dirt, or more correctly, soil, is one of the most amazing and important things on our planet. Continue reading “The Why & How of Garden Soil Amendment”
We all have them. The rusted, bent, and virtually unusable tomato cages. Their condition is a sign of a tomato harvest well done but they cannot possibly handle one more growing season. What to do? Repurpose them! This post highlights 5 awesome ways I found to use my old cages to solve common garden problems.
1. Provide protection from animal trampling.
Problem – Your beloved pet loves to run through or lay on your young plants.
Solution – Place cage over baby seedlings and young plants to keep pet from trampling them.
I love my dog. However, I don’t love her barreling through my plants in pursuit of squirrels nor do I love her tendency to nap on my freshly planted flowers. I decided instead of getting mad at the dog, for essentially being a dog, I would come up with a solution. I flipped an old tomato cage upside down and bent the ends of the cage to form handles. Then I took the cage and placed it over my plant that needed protection, securing the cage to the ground using several metal fabric staples. Once the plant is established I can easily move the cage using the handles. The dog is happy, the plant is happy, and I am happy. A big win for all!
2. Protect seedlings and young plants from the wind.
Problem – Your young plant needs protection from the wind, but is too small and fragile for stake support.
Solution – Cover the bottom third of a cage with clear plastic and place cage over the plant until well established.
I don’t know about you, but we tend to get a lot of wind in April at the exact time I am trying to get my young pepper and tomato plants established. A bit of wind is good to help strengthen the stem of your plant, but too much wind can cause stress and damage. I tried several different ways to shield my plants from the wind with no avail. That’s where Mr. Tomato Cages come to save the day! To solve my wind dilemma, I flipped an old tomato cage upside down and bent the ends of the cage to form handles (similar to the previous example) and used clothes pins to securely attach plastic to the bottom third of the cage.
Then I gently placed it over my pepper plant. I removed the cage for a few hours a day, to help strengthen the stem of the plant. Once the plant was well established, I completely removed the cage.
3. Protect plants from critters.
Problem – Critters like to munch on the leaves of your plants or dig up newly sprouted seedlings.
Solution – Wrap bird netting around your cage and place over plant to keep critters out.
In my garden, I have a big problem with squirrels digging up my seeds before they sprout and birds eating the leaves off my seedlings. I’ve tried various critter repellents, also offering bird seed as a peace offering. I’ve tried shaking my hand in the air and yelling loudly. Time for a new strategy. In comes my old tomato cages and some bird netting and VOILA we have instant critter protection. For this project I flipped a cage upside down and tied the ends of the cage together with twine.
Then I wrapped the bird netting around the cage and placed it over my squash seedlings. I made sure there was no gaps at the base for critters to get in. I will take the cage off when the seedlings have doubled in size.
4. Create a simple trellis.
Problem – You want to try vertical gardening but don’t have a trellis.
Solution – Simply flip your old cage upside down, tie the ends of the cage with twine and place over your vining plant. As your vines grow, gently guide them up or around the cage.
I decided to expand my vertical garden this year, but didn’t want to buy more trellises. Fortunately, old tomato cages make fantastic trellis and is super simple to make. All you need is a cage and some twine and you are in business! This year I grew peas, pumpkins, watermelon, spaghetti and acorn squash, and cucumbers using my old cages.
For lighter plants, I secured the base of the cage with metal fabric staples in the ground. For heavier plants, I reinforced the cage with several stakes. In the example below, I used my trellis to grow acorn squash and spaghetti squash by encouraging the vines to wrap in a spiral around the cage.
5. Grow squash.
Problem – Pests and disease are wreaking havoc on your squash plants.
Solution – Simply flip your old cage upside down, tie the ends of the cage with twine, and place over your young squash plant. As the plant grows, gently pull the leaves of the plant upward. This will make picking off and spraying for pests and disease a breeze!
Aphids. Squash bugs. Powdery mildew. Spider mites. White flies. You name it and my poor squash plants have had it. Time to give up? No way! It’s time to get creative. Bring in the old tomato cage to solve my squash growing conundrum! I always find myself pulling the leaves and stems of my squash upwards for inspection, which can become difficult as the plant grows larger. Using a cage to grow my squash, is like having a helping hand in the garden. Place your cage over your young squash, and as the squash grows you can use the cage to gently lift the stems of the plant upwards. This eases pest inspection and allows for maximum coverage of leaves and blossoms if you need to spray.
Another benefit of lifting the leaves is that it makes it easier to identify ripe squash. No more 5 pound zucchinis hiding under leaves! Although those 5 pounders do make a killer zucchini bread! Speaking of – If you are looking for a great way to use your zucchinis, be sure to check out my recipe for a delicious zucchini bread made with olive oil and Greek yogurt.
Hope these ideas inspire you! Happy gardening! 🙂
Fall is upon us. The air is crisp, my deciduous are shedding, and my perennials are ready for a long winters nap. It’s time to do my annual garden clean up. This includes not only raking leaves and tilling soil, but also ensuring that my plants are properly labeled. Continue reading “DIY Garden Markers – 5 Easy & Inexpensive Ideas”
If I could convince you to grow one herb in your garden, it would most certainly be basil. With its lush green leaves, soft fragrance, and beautiful blooms it is the star of the herb garden. Basil is known for a wide variety of culinary and medicinal uses. It can also be used in the home Continue reading “How-to Prune & Propagate Basil”
The dog days of summer are upon us. Presently, my lovely dog Willow is sleeping off the heat in some ornamental grass by the house.
As a gardener, each season presents its own set of challenges. My biggest gardening woe during the summer season, surprisingly, isn’t squash bugs, fire blight, or drought. It’s actually grass. Continue reading “The “Bad” Grass List”
This, my friends, is a tale of a very hungry caterpillar that goes by the name of Pieris rapae or Cabbage Worm. Unlike the Children’s classic by Eric Carl, this garden pest doesn’t dine on watermelon and cupcakes but instead your beloved vegetable garden. He also doesn’t turn into a beautiful butterfly at the end of the story but instead a silvery white moth. Continue reading “Cabbage Worm Eradication”