Bee Balm

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:21 am on Saturday, April 19, 2014

I read somewhere that the more functions a plant has in your garden, the more useful it is. If you fill your garden with multi-use plants, there’s more of a chance that your garden will work together as a natural system.

What do I mean by functions? Let’s take a look at bee balm, a plant I’m putting in the front flower bed this spring. Bee balm is a perennial herb. It is:

* Attractive to beneficial insects–As you can tell by the name, bees love bee balm. They even sleep under its leaves.

* Beautiful–Bee Balm adds visual pleasure to the garden.

* Edible–The leaves can flavor food and the flowers are a lovely addition to a salad.

* Medicinal–According to this site, bee balm can help in the “treatment of colds, … headaches, gastric disorders, reduce low fevers and soothe sore throat, [and] relieve flatulence, nausea, menstrual pain, and insomnia.” Wow.

[How Stuff Works]

So, four functions, one plant. Sounds like a deal to me.

Grow A Sunflower House

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:54 am on Monday, April 14, 2014

Remember how I told you about growing a bean teepee for the kids to play in this year? Well here’s a similar idea: grow a sunflower house.

To make it, simply grow giant (6 feet +) sunflowers in a “C” shape, like in this picture:

Once the sunflowers grow tall, you’ve got a great fort for the kids. This site has some ideas for how to embellish the sunflower house and make it even more awesome.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Fuchsias are one of the easiest plants to propagate. To grow your own, all you need it a clipping off another plant.

That’s great because fuchsias come in all kinds of colors and styles and are very malleable. You can hang them from baskets, grow them as shrubs, or even train them into trees, like so:

[Read about how to do this here.]

Perhaps most importantly, fuchsias are forgiving plants. They grow in both shade and sun and bounce back from neglect pretty easily. And hey, if you kill it, you can always start again with a new clipping.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant:


    Flower pot
    Potting soil
    Bucket or something to mix in
    Fuchsia clipping


Start with a clipping from a plant. Simply pinch the end off an existing fuchsia plant, like so:

The clipping is wet because it fell into the cup of water I had it soaking in. I don’t know what kind of fuchsia it is, but the flowers look similar to this one, only red:

[Courtesy Love That Image]

Next, choose your pot. Pick one on the smaller side, since fuchsias don’t seem to like a lot of room while growing.

Fill the pot with dry dirt to the top:

Pour the dirt into a bucket or container. Add water until it is thoroughly moist, then pack the wet dirt into the pot again. Add more soil if necessary.

Stick your finger into the middle of the dirt. Insert the fuchsia clipping so that its stem is in the soil and the leaves are in the sunshine, like so:

Clean off the pot, and voila! You have the start of a new fuchsia plant.

Put the plant in a window where it can get indirect light. Once the soil has dried out, start adding a small amount of water every day. Fuchsias like a steady supply of water, but they don’t like to be drowned. I usually give a new plant about an ounce of water a day.

In a week or so, you will start to see new growth on the plant, and that is how you know that it has rooted. Continue to give it water. Before you know it, it will be taking over your windowsill.

Fava Beans

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 11:57 am on Monday, March 24, 2014

favas savvyhousekeeping

This is the remainder of my fava bean harvest. I probably could have gotten some more beans out of the plants but I needed to make room for the tomatoes, so I picked the rest of the crop yesterday and pulled up the plants for my compost.

Because they put nitrogen into the soil, farmers use favas as cover crops. Favas are a cold-season crop and take a long time to produce beans. The plants get about 3 feet tall and don’t produce a ton for their size. I planted nine plants and harvested about 100 bean pods altogether.

The beans themselves are full of protein and quite delicious, especially when fresh. However, they are also labor intensive. Not only do you have to shell them from their pod, but each bean is surrounded by a bitter membrane that you have to remove. To do this, I popped them in a pot of boiling water for two minutes so that the membranes loosened. The inner bean is a grassy green and very tender:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Removing the membranes takes some time, but once you do it you have a pile of lovely beans that you can put in a salad or serve as a side dish. I made some for dinner last night. After removing the membranes, I pan-fried them with some oil, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper, like so:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Since the pan frying was only about heating the beans and adding flavor, the whole thing took about 5 minutes. The end result was a delicious, pillowy bean, kind of like a cross between a green bean and a potato. And because everything except the oil and spices came from my garden, the cost of making this side dish was around $.10.

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Planting favas was an interesting experiment. While I wouldn’t bother with them if they were springtime plants, since they can be planted in the winter, they are a nice way to put your garden to use in the cold months. I will probably plant them again.

Free Green Onions

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Here’s how to get some free green onions. Next time you get a batch from the grocery store, don’t throw out the roots. Instead, put them in a pot of dirt. They will soon sprout up new onions for you. I’ve done this multiple times–in fact, as you can see, I have two new green onions starting in my kitchen.

Grow Your Own Tea Bush

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

[University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture]

I was excited to learn about the Tea Bush, called Camellia Sinensis. All tea that we drink–black, green, oolong, etc.–is made from this bush. By growing it in your yard, you can make your own tea.

The Tea Bush is originally from Asia and closely related to the Camellia, as you can probably tell by the name. And like the Camellia, it is a pretty bush with fragrant white flowers and waxy green leaves. It takes well to pruning, can be grown as a hedge, and can get 10-15 feet tall. Best of all, this plant works in light shade, so it is a good way to add an edible plant to a shady spot.

I haven’t grown a Tea Bush yet, but I plan to put at least one in the backyard. According to the Sunset Western Garden Book, the plant can be grown in Zones 4-9, 12, 14-24. I would assume that if you can grow a Camellia, you can grow a Tea Bush.

You can purchase a tea seedling from One Green World for $20. They say the plant is 8-10 feet high and is cold hardy to 0°F.

Let’s grow our own tea.

The Magic of Rot

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 11, 2014

savvyhousekeeping diy compost

My husband made me a rotating compost bin. Here it is:

savvyhousekeeping rotating compost bin diy

I proceeded to compost between April and December, about 8 months. I put everything in there that you should compost–grass clippings, moldy bread, egg shells, the remnants from beer making, coffee grounds, and so on. The compost never smelled bad, but it attracted a lot of bugs, to the point that in August, you couldn’t open the bin without flies swarming at your face. I knew this was part of the process of rot, but it was gross.

I stopped composting in December because, frankly, I was getting a little discouraged about the whole thing. I knew everything was rotting, but I didn’t see how it was turning into something for the garden. So I decided to let it rest for three months and see what the compost was like.

Fast forward to last weekend, with me deciding to empty my compost bin. When I began digging it out, I discovered that the ends of waste from my kitchen and yard had miraculously turned into a brown substance that looked exactly like dirt.

savvyhousekeeping diy compost

I couldn’t believe it. My kitchens ends had turned into this amazing, soil-like substance that bore almost no resemblance to their original state. It was so dark that it was black in some places.

I pulled 13 wheelbarrows of compost out of the bin. That is enough to thickly cover one of my 12X12 garden plots. Here it is after I spread the compost on the plot:

savvyhousekeeping diy compost

I would say we had 2-3 inches of compost on top of the soil, and all from 8 months of piling kitchen scraps in a wooden box.

After spreading the compost out, we dug it into the soil. Now I’m ready to plant.

I can’t stress enough how astounding this process was to me. When I was dumping moldy vegetable ends into the bin every week, I often thought, “this will never work.” How could that gross stuff ever be something I wanted around the roots of my plants?

Well, I was wrong. We produced all that compost in 8 months for almost no work, and it deeply enriched the soil of the garden. I am sold on compost now. I’ll never go back.

My $18 Rotating Compost Bin

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:01 pm on Monday, March 10, 2014

savvyhousekeeping's compost bin

As I mentioned before, I have been wanting a turning compost bin for awhile now. So last weekend, my husband made me one!

He used a combination of scrap wood and some new plywood to make me a box perched on a v-shaped stand. It has a “brake” in the form of a piece of wood along the base. When you pull it out, the weight of the box rotates the bin for you.

The arrow is pointing to the compost bin’s brake

On the top is a wide door that we can open to throw the waste in. There’s a lot of room in there.

savvyhousekeeping's compost bin

Because my husband was using wood, he water-proofed it with a deck stain to keep rot from eating away at the wood.

savvyhousekeeping's compost bin

The whole thing cost $18. A rotating compost bin this size in the store would cost over $300–at least that’s what I saw when I shopped around.

ETA: Since wood rots, paint the inside of the bin to keep it from breaking down. It will double the life of the bin.

ETA 2: Sorry, I can’t provide specs for this bin at this time. Maybe in the future!

How Fruits, Vegetables And Spices Grow

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:46 am on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bored Panda has a great round-up of photos of how some of the fruits, vegetables, and spices grow. For instance:





See the rest here.

How To Prune Fruit Trees

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:39 am on Monday, February 10, 2014

Here’s a great video on the basics of how to prune fruit trees.

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