Reading Your Weeds In The Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:44 am on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did you know that your weeds tell you a lot about your soil?

Because certain weeds grow in certain conditions, when one appears, you can bet it’s there because of the kind of soil that’s there. So knowing your weeds can tell you whether your soil is wet or dry, rich or poor, alkaline or acidic, aerated or compacted.

Here are some examples according to here and here and here and here and here.

Acidic Soil (A good place for blueberries, azaleas, and hydrangeas)

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Sorrel

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Plantain

Fertile soil (Maybe a spot for a vegetable garden):

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Henbit

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Chickweed

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Lamb’s-Quarters

Clay Soil:

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Creeping Buttercup

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Canada Thistle

Weeds That Improve Soil Fertility

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Clover—pulls nitrogen from the air and puts it in the soil

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Vetch—the same

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Dock–Deep taproots bring up calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron, and help soil structure.

What have you learned from reading the weeds?

Get Free Tomato Plants From Tomato Laterals

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:48 am on Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I had no idea you could do this! Apparently, you can root tomato plants from a tomato laterals. What’s a tomato lateral? They are the little shoots on the tomato plant that grow between the main stem and leaf.

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To root them, you can cut off the lateral and stick it in dirt. It will root and grow. Or you can start them in a glass of water and see the roots develop yourself.

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If you did this early enough in the season, you could feasibly buy one plant and get several free plants from it.

How To Plant A Tomato Plant

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:10 am on Friday, April 24, 2015

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People ask me how I get 5-foot tomato plants loaded with fruit. I use my dad’s method. The secret ingredient? Cow manure. Tomatoes like a lot of fertilizer, so I mix the cow manure with the dirt and use that to fill in the hole. It works great. Here’s more:

How To Plant A Tomato:

You will need:

    A tomato plant
    Well-prepared soil
    A bag of cow manure
    Shovel
    Watering can

Directions:

Step 1: Buy your tomato plant or grow it from seed. Prepare your soil for planting.

Step 2: Dig a deep hole, about a foot or so deep.

Step 3: Mix the dirt from the hole with cow manure. Take about one-third of the bag of manure and stir it into the dirt until it is about 50 dirt/50 manure. It is important to mix the manure since it would be too hard on the plant to just put manure in the hole. Adding the dirt cuts the heat of the manure and still gives the plant plenty of fertilizer.

Step 4: Prepare the plant by pulling off all the leaves except for the top bush of the tomato. So it will go from this:

savvyhousekeeping how to plant a tomato

To this:

savvyhousekeeping how to plant a tomato plant

I will put most of the tomato plant underground with only the top poking out. Why? All the stem you see there will grow roots, which will give the plant twice the roots it already has. That leads to a stronger, healthier plant that produces a lot of tomatoes.

Step 5: Plant the tomato plant. Remove it from the pot. Put a little bit of the dirt/manure mixture in the bottom of the hole and sit the tomato plant on top. Fill in the hole using the manure mixture. At the top, pack plain dirt around the plant. Make a little mound and a ditch around it for water to collect, like so:

savvyhouskeeping how to plant a tomato plant

Step 6:
Thoroughly water the plant. Keep adding water until the ground saturates and the little ditch around the plant fills with a puddle of water. Voila, you’re done.

It’s important to note that this method is just for tomato plants. Many plants can’t handle the heat of the cow manure and still other plants won’t root if you strip their leaves off. But with tomatoes, I find it works like a charm.

What are your tomato planting secrets?

Companion Planting

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:36 am on Thursday, April 16, 2015


Check out this chart on Companion Planting. Click the image for the full version.

Here’s when I started believing in companion planting: in 2005, I planted an oregano plant. It started to have problems right away, drooping and looking sad. I watered it and waited, but the plant got worse.

Then I read that chives are a good companion plant for oregano, so I put some in the same planter as the sad oregano plant. Within 24 hours, the oregano perked up and began to flourish. It even grew into the space that the chives took up, as if to hug it.

savvyhousekeeping companion planting

I still have both plants now, 8 years later. They are remarkably healthy. The oregano has spread under my lemon bushes and the chives–which is very old for a chive plant–is amazingly sweet and tasty. I think their health has something to do with planting the two together when I first got them.

Companion planting makes sense when you think of how plants work in nature. In a forest, you see a mix of many types of plants, not a row of just one type. In a video on companion planting, a gardener explains:

Plants can’t get up and walk away. If they don’t like their environment, many plants do the next best thing and alter their environment chemically, physically, and biologically. When a plant does this, there are other species that benefit from the environmental alteration or are discouraged by it.

Watch the rest of the video here:

The bottom line is that it matters which plants you put together. Sometimes this has to do with chemical alterations in the soil. Sometimes it has to do with root depth of the different plants. And sometimes it has to do with a common pest.

For example, I made a huge mistake this year planting beets and spinach together. Turns out there’s a special leafminer that loves to eat these two vegetables, so putting them together insured I would be dealing with that pest all spring.

That’s how you learn, I guess.

For more on Companion Planting, here’s a post on The Three Sisters: Corn, Squash, and Beans.

Make Your Own Mulch With A Wood Chipper

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:02 am on Thursday, April 9, 2015

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I recently discovered that there’s a variety of affordable wood chippers for the home garden. I was excited because I’ve wanted a wood chipper for ages. The idea of being able to chop up your own debris for free mulch was very appealing to me.

So we splurged, and now I own the Eco-Shredder. It can shred brush, leaves, chips, and limbs up to 1.375 inches thick.

Recently, we chopped down a tree that had become invasive in our yard. For months I’ve been looking at a pile of branches that needed attended to, so I decided to try my wood chipper out.

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So far, I’m pleased. The chipper works great and has been making a nice mulch that I am planning to use in the walkway behind the garage.

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The drawback is that it takes a long time to feed a tree branch-by-branch through what is essentially a high-powered shredder.

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This is about one-third of the tree, and an hour of work. In the end, mulching all the branches should take about three hours.

In the future, I’ll be able to use the wood chipper every spring when I clean up my yard.

10 Garden Projects For Kids You Can Start Now

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:34 am on Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gardening is Good For Kids. Here’s 10 Garden Projects For Kids That You Can Start Now.

Grow A Bean Teepee

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[Image Courtesy]

Grow A Fairy Garden In A Container

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Or Grow a Fairy Ring

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Make A Dinosaur Park In A Tire Or A Container

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[Image Courtesy]

Grow Some Food From Kitchen Scraps

Grow A Sunflower House

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Plant A Butterfly Or Hummingbird Garden

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Grow An Entire Miniature Village

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Maybe Just Give Them Their Own Space To Garden

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Or Build An Enclosed Garden That They Can Use For Years To Come

Three Seed Catalogs To Check Out

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:58 am on Friday, March 6, 2015

It’s time to plan this year’s garden. And right on schedule, the seed catalogs are appearing in the mail.

Have you ever noticed how the majority of these catalogs have the same plants in them? In every magazine, there are the same broccoli, tomatoes, beans, and carrots seeds you can get anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can get boring, especially when you start to realize the swath of edible plants out there just waiting to be tried out.

Luckily, several seed companies do go out of the their way to provide access to a more interesting variety of plants. Here are three see I like:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This company, which goes out of its way to “promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage”, provides vegetable seeds that you don’t normally see in the hardware store–purple carrots, white eggplants, peppermint tomatoes, striped beets, purple bell peppers. They are “non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented seeds.” Order Baker Creek’s free–and rather beautiful–catalog here.

One Green World. While this company doesn’t offer vegetables, it does offer other fascinating-sounding trees, vines, and fruits. What exactly is a Tasmania Vine (pictured above)? What does a silverberry taste like? When I finally get around to planting honeyberries or a tea bush, I will look here first. Request a catalog here.

Bountiful Gardens. This is a great seed company that offers “untreated open-pollinated non-GMO seed of heirloom quality for vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, green manures, compost and carbon crops.” Not only do they have the usual vegetables, they have categories like “mushroom kits” or “unusual hot-weather heirlooms” or “grains, fibers and oil crops.” You can get the Bountiful Gardens catalog here.

What is your favorite seed company? Why?

My 2015 Vegetable Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:55 am on Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It’s that time again! What am I going to plant in my garden this year.

New experiment this year: Eggplant! I’ve never grown it before and I’ve recently learned to love it. Plus the plants are gorgeous.

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One Hop Plant (total of three now)

6-8 Asparagus (starting a new bed)

6 Strawberries

3 tomato plants: (Early Girl, Beefsteak, and some kind of heirloom wild card)

4 Sweet Bell Peppers (2 red, 1 purple, 1 yellow)

1 other sweet pepper

(No spicy peppers this year. I grew so many last year, which I canned, froze, and dried. I won’t need spicy peppers for quite awhile.)

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Sunflowers

2 Zucchini Plants

2 Acorn Squashes

2 Melons (Perhaps another Ananas D’Amerique Melon.)

2 Cucumbers

Spinach

Some Other Kind Of Lettuce

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Jerusalem Artichokes (if I can find them. People around here don’t seem to sell them.)

Peas

Leeks

French Green Beans

Stringless Green Beans

Radishes

Carrots

Potatoes

Basil

That’s it! What are you planning?

A Plant That Grows Both Potatoes And Tomatoes

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:45 am on Monday, February 23, 2015

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How crazy is this? The Ketchup ‘n’ Fries Plant grows both potatoes and tomatoes. One plant grows about 500 cherry tomatoes and over 4.5 pounds of white potatoes.

It might sounds like crazy GMO stuff, but actually a much more natural process–both tomatoes and potatoes are nightshade plants, meaning they’re related. So, this is a cherry tomato plant that has been simply grafted onto a white potato.

Sounds pretty fun to me. This plant would be great if you had limited space in a garden. I’m wagering it would do pretty well in a container, too.

4 Clever Vegetable Gardening Products

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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Strawberry Supports

This set of six supports raises plants and berries off the ground. They’re supposed to decrease mold and mildew problems, especially during wet growing seasons.

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Melon and Squash Cradles

Last year, bugs kept crawling under my melons and eating from underneath. These melon and squash cradles might help with that problem–or at least I would see it happening. From the site: “these ingenious cradles allow air to circulate, promoting even ripening and minimizing rot. If you’ve been disappointed by misshapen melons and squash, or fruits that rot before they ripen, these cradles are for you.”

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Gentle Plant & Flower Clips for Supporting Stems

I started using these clips last year, and I love them. They loosely hold stems to trellises, eliminating the use of ties. They come in two sizes, small and large, for different sized stems.

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Tomato Tray

“Helps protect all vine crops against droughts and cutworm – brings earlier, tastier harvests.” Hmmm…

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