Archive | January 2012

Peat Pots Love Yogurt Cartons

Although the temperature got up to 62 degrees today in northern Missouri, it is only January 31st and winter is sure to make a comeback soon.  But if you plan on starting seeds inside this spring, it’s not too early to start saving your yogurt containers.  Yogurt cartons are great for holding individual peat pots.  They catch water and soil from hitting your table and you can label them using a felt tip marker.

The only yogurt container I’ve found that doesn’t work for holding peat pots is the Yoplait brand.  Its opening is too narrow.  Also, only round peat pots work rather than square ones. I have tried to make a square peat pot fit into a round yogurt carton, but let’s say it’s less that optimal.

Perhaps you have found some containers that work just as well.  I’d love to hear some new ideas.


Catalogs and Calculators

Last week, I couldn’t refrain any longer.  I had to order some vegetable seeds.  I pulled out the 17-18 seed catalogs that I’d received so far this year and began perusing the pages for deals on the best varieties.  When you place a seed catalog in front of me, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I want one of everything!  But then I started tapping the calculator keys and I quickly realized that I needed a plan.

I made a list of what I wanted to grow this year, making note of what did and didn’t do well last year.  For instance, I bought some fancy (meaning expensive) zucchini seed last year that never produced, and I ended up replanting with black magic zucchini seed that I got pretty cheaply at the local hardware store.  The zucchini tasted great, too.  This year, I’m resisting the higher priced varieties on many vegetables.

Because of shipping and sales tax, I also didn’t order seed or plants that I can’t get locally.  Of course, “local” is a relative term.  Since we live 27 miles from our grocery store, I’m calling “local” everything within 50 miles of us.   I can get tomato plants locally, but I need plants that are especially resistant to blight, wilt, and all kinds of diseases.  I fight tomato disease every year, so I’ve ordered seeds that are resistant to as many diseases as possible.

Every year, I like to try something new in the garden.  This year, I’m trying tomatillos which I hope will be quite tasty in salsa.  Last year, I tried some peanuts and sweet potatoes, but the rabbits got both of them.  I’m going to be more vigilant this year and try them again.  The thought of sweet potato fries makes my mouth water.

So what about you?  Do seed catalogs make you daydream of tomatoes and watermelons?


Finished Product

My birdhouses are ready to go!  I put two coats of latex semi-gloss paint (Martha Stewart’s Tobacco Leaf) on the mainframe of the houses and painted the perches a shade of red (also Martha Stewart paint, but I couldn’t read the name through a previous slosh on the can).  I don’t know how easily intimidated birds are by colors, so I played it safe and used a neutral beige color.

If you look closely, you may see some “stuff” inside the birdhouses.  I left some dried “skin” inside and thought the birds might like to clean that out to their liking.

These birdhouses didn’t take much time or skill to build, and I didn’t leave a very big mess during the process. It’s a great project for folks of any age.  I plan to grow another crop of birdhouse gourds this year to have as projects next winter.  It’s just another “fruit” of the garden that can be enjoyed during the cold winter months.

Biding My Time With Birdhouses

Doing projects to prepare for spring is one good way to beat the winter the blues. While in our shed the other day, I found a couple of gourds left over from a few years ago.  As you can see, they need a little work before a bluebird or sparrow will call them “home.”

To keep our garage clean, I sanded these gourds outdoors on our picnic table and removed its flaky outside skin.  Next, I used a pocket knife to make a hole (front door) for the birds.  As you can see, the hole isn’t perfectly round.  It doesn’t have to be for the birds to use it. (I tend to think that birds are like me and are suspicious of perfection.)

Using the pocket knife and a long screwdriver, I reamed the inside of the gourd to remove seeds and dried “tissue”.  It doesn’t have to be totally cleaned, but enough to give the bird some room to move around.

I drilled a hole beneath the house opening and inserted a 2″ dowel rod with a diameter similar to that of pencil. Be careful when you drill into the gourd because it can crack. You can see that happened to me with one of my gourds.  To keep the dowel in place, I hot-glued all around it.  Now the bird has a threshold to stand upon.  I also drilled two tiny holes opposite each other at the top of each gourd so I can later thread wire through them to secure the birdhouse to the tree.

Painting is the next step.  I need to see what it’s our garage that would be appropriate.  Check back later and see the final result!

Someone Can’t Wait to Garden

What is more barren than a plowed garden in January?  No signs of life are anywhere except for the hoof prints I found.  Evidently the deer can’t wait for me to start gardening.

Ah, patience my “deer”.  Spring will be here soon.

Wait–Don’t Toss That Poinsettia!

Don’t toss your poinsettia just because Christmas is over.  Now if it’s all bare and wrinkled…well, good riddance.  But a healthy plant’s striking red leaves (or pink or white depending on the variety) add so much color and life to your house during the winter months. Besides, keeping a poinsettia and getting it to bloom again next Christmas is a fun project and so simple that I’ve even done it.  Here’s how:

Now is the time to repot your plant in a little bigger container for its roots to grow.  I use standard potting soil and a pot with good drainage.

In the latter part of March or the first part of April, prune back your plant. At the ehow website they suggest cutting your plant back 8 inches.  In the past, I have not pruned my plant and it looked stringy instead of compact and bushy.  This year, I’m going to prune my plant on April first and if necessary, will prune again in the summer.  But no pruning after Sept 1st!

To encourage new growth, fertilize the plant at least every month.  Keep it watered, but not drowned, and put it in indirect or filtered light.

Right after Labor Day, I put my plant to bed every night in a totally dark closet.  Poinsettias need about 14 hours of total darkness every day to stimulate their blooming.  The color transformation of their leaves from green to red takes about 10 weeks.

I’ve had so much fun doing this before that I’m doing it again this year.   I hope you’ll try it and have fun with it, too.

National Houseplant Day

Happy National Houseplant Day!  And how are you going to show your philadendron that you care?  Repot it?  Give it a fertilizer spike? I don’t recommend giving it extra water, since overwatering is supposedly the number one sin people commit against their houseplants.  Perhaps a kind word or two to your fern or African violet will suffice.

This is a picture of the rubber plant I’ve had since my mom’s funeral nearly four years ago.  It’s a horse!  I’ve got to replant it soon, but I’ll need a forklift to assist me.  I love this plant, but I understand that it’s poisonous.  It’s surprising how many houseplants are poisonous.  Check out and see seven relatively common plants that can kill you.

And on that happy note…enjoy your plants!