Colorful Houseplants

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:10 am on Friday, November 21, 2014

I was looking at my Christmas Cactus, which is in the middle of blooming lovely pink and red flowers on my kitchen sink. It gives me a lot of pleasure to look at.

It occurred to me that the reason I don’t have a lot of houseplants is that I associate them with the 1970s. I can’t get it out of my head that houseplants go in spaces that look like this:

Of course, that’s ridiculous. I know that.

I decided the way to cure my houseplant problem is to buy colorful ones. Here are some options I’m considering:

Red: Solenostemon ‘Glory of Luxembourg’

Purple: Oxalis

Pink and Green: Polka Dot Plant

Yellow: Croton

Purple and Green: Purple Passion Plant

Red and Green: Caladium

Purple And Pink: ‘Kingswood Torch’ Coleus

Growing Cover Crops On Raised Beds

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:43 am on Wednesday, November 5, 2014

That is one of my garden beds. The plants your see are my cover crop, also called “green manure.”

Cover crops are plants that are grown over the winter to protect the garden bed and enrich the soil.

In this bed, I used a Green Manure Mix, which “contains 50% Conventional Bell Beans, 25% Organic Biomaster Peas and 25% Organic Purple Vetch. Peas cover the ground, while vetch climbs up the beans.”

In another bed, I’m trying out red clover.

Here’s how a cover crop works: you plant the seeds in the fall and it grows all winter. About 6 weeks before you’re ready to plant your spring garden, you dig the cover crop into the dirt and let it decompose. The organic matter enriches the soil and leads to a happier vegetable garden.

Someone once told me that soil doesn’t like to lie barren. In a forest, patches of dirt are soon covered with plants. Growing a cover crop in your raised beds is to simply put beneficial plants into your garden before weeds can sprout.

So what’s beneficial about green manure/cover crops? They

    * Fix nitrogen to your soil, a major nutrient all plants need.

    * Improve the structure of the soil.

    * Keep rain from washing away your good soil.

    * Stop weeds from sprouting in your garden.

    * Keep soil from compacting.

    * Encourage beneficial insects.

    * Discourage pests.

And, for me, there’s the added benefit of keeping my cat from using my raised beds as a litter box.

Here’s a list of cover crops. For most of us, now is the time to get them in the ground.

Why Plant Garlic In The Fall

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:40 am on Thursday, September 18, 2014

savvyhousekeeping garlic bulbs fall versus spring when to plant

Here’s a great tip from Mother Earth News–if you plant garlic in the fall and harvest it next spring, you’ll have bigger, better bulbs.

According to the site:

Try to plant your garlic about a month before your ground freezes, so the plants have time to get established. During winter, the crop will go dormant; then once spring and warmer temps roll around again, your plants will experience a burst of growth. By summer harvest time, you’ll marvel at the success of your crop!

The above picture, also from the site, illustrates the difference between planting garlic in the fall versus the spring.

Lessons From My 2014 Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:05 am on Monday, September 15, 2014

As my 2014 summer garden is winding down. It was a strange year. The plants I normally get a lot of produce from didn’t do well, while plants I’ve never had much of a yield from thrived.

Last year, I got a lot of tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and blueberries. This year I got a lot of chard, carrots, lettuce, beans, and peppers.

But that’s what I love about gardening. Every year is completely different. You could plant the exact same plants every year and get a completely different yield.

That’s what makes it fun and exciting (and challenging and frustrating, too).

2014 FAVORITE PLANTS: My mulberry tree! I planted it in the winter and it produced quite a few berries right away. I love how mulberries taste, like a mix between a plum and a blackberry.

I also planted Gherkin Cucumber and am pleasantly surprised by how tasty the cucumbers are raw. Plus they’re cute.

And, of course, there was the delightful surprise of the Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon.

2014 LEAST FAVORITE PLANTS:

I’m mad at all my other fruit trees right now, since I just didn’t get much in the way of fruit this year. The nectarine and cherry trees were as happy as can be, but didn’t give me any fruit. Last year, the blueberry bushes yielded 700 berries last year, but only 100 this year. My lemon crop was destroyed by frost. The strawberries were doing well but the crop was cut short by bugs (more on that in a minute). In fact, the only fruit-bearing plant that didn’t give my problems was the orange tree, which gave me a lot of oranges this year.

So all the fruit trees are in the dog house, is what I’m saying.

LESSONS:

An Experiment In Corn:

I tried growing corn in a planter along the front of my house. Here’s the corn after I put it in.

I learned a lot about corn. I learned that they like rich soil and regular, consistent watering. Even so, my plants didn’t get as tall as I wanted, only about 4 feet instead of the 6 feet I was going for. And the ears weren’t that great tasting. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I don’t think I’m going to bother with corn again. Corn is so cheap in season, and the corn plants took so many resources, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Then again, never say never.

An Experiment With Grocery Store Onions:

As I wrote before, I put some sprouting grocery store pearl onions in the ground and ended up with a surprise bunch of full-grown onions. They were fun to pull up. I’ll probably make French Onion soup with them.

Too Much Lettuce:

My method of growing lettuce was just too successful this year. I ended up with so much of it, there was no way I could eat it all. Next year I’m going to focus more on spinach and other greens that can be cooked and frozen.

You Can Get Control Of Insect Infestation (Without Poison):

Every year, there is a new pest. This year it was Largus Bugs. Though they’re pretty harmless if there’s just a few around, but if there are hundreds of them–as was the case with me–you have a problem. They suck the juice out of fruit, so they were happily destroying my strawberry crop for awhile. But I just buckled down and killed tons of them, and then the plants rebounded. Now I’m getting strawberries again.

Sometimes gardening isn’t so pretty.

And sometimes it is:



Always Amend Your Soil:

The biggest mistake I made this year was I was lazy about amending my soil in two of my big raised beds, and so didn’t get as much squash and tomatoes as I usually do. Lesson learned: I will never be lazy about this again.

What I’m Changing Next Year:

    I’m going to put in more blueberry plants and increase the amount of water they get.

    I’m putting in regular orange carrots instead of weird purple ones.

    The raspberries are going to get more water too.

    I’m not going to prune my nectarine so drastically and see if that makes any difference in why it’s not producing anymore. (Tips on this?)

    I’m putting in spinach instead of lettuce.

    I’m planting stringless green beans. Mr. Savvy is very particular about strings on green beans.

    I’m amending the soil!

My Grocery Store Onions

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:46 am on Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last spring, I bought some red pearl onions to use in a stew. I didn’t use all of them, and they started to sprout.

Naturally, I put them in the ground.

Fast forward to last week. The onion plants had grown large and flowered. I collected the seeds to grow next year. Now the plants were starting to wilt. It seemed to be time to harvest.

So I did.

And I ended up with a nice bundle of onions.

And they were free!

Here they are after being sprayed off with a hose.

It goes to show that it pays to stick sprouting onions in the ground. It’s amazing what the grocery store can yield.

How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Worms

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:34 am on Monday, September 1, 2014


[Planet Natural]

Fall is the time to plant brassicas. This is the mustard family of plants. It includes cabbage, turnips, kale, mustard, radish, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli (among others).

And with brassicas come the cabbage worm.

The cabbage worm is the caterpillar of the Cabbage Butterfly, those little white butterflies that look so cute floating around your garden. They lay eggs on the brassica plants, and the caterpillars hatch and eat your plants.

The first time I planted broccoli in the fall, the cabbage worms were soon all over my plants. By the time I discovered the infestation, they were well on their way to destroying the plants. I didn’t get a single head of broccoli that year.

After that, I tried to control the problem but getting rid of the butterflies, but I’ve relaxed about that. After all, butterflies are pollinators.

And besides, it feels wrong to hurt a butterfly.

So here’s a no-pesticide way to control cabbage worms on your fall garden.

Stagger Brassica Plants.

If you plant the brassicas in a row, you’re giving the butterflies a nice runway on which to lay their eggs. But if you stagger them in among other types of plants, you’re upping your odds that the butterflies won’t see all the brassicas and won’t lay on every one of them.

Cover Plants

Use row covers or individual covers like Milk Jugs to keep the butterflies off the plants. The butterfly can’t lay eggs on a plant it can’t get to.

Inspect For Eggs

In early fall (now) inspect the underside of the leaves for the eggs. You can see them. They’re yellow or white and look like this.


[Dals Wildlife]

Brush them off.

Pick Off Worms

The cabbage worm is hard to see! It starts off tiny and it’s the exact same color as the leaf. If you see a hole in the leaf, however, you probably have them. (Also you can see their brown poop.) A magnifying glass can help you focus. Pick them off and drown them or feed them to the chickens.

Attract Beneficial Insects.

According to UCDavis “important parasites include the pupal parasite Pteromalus puparum; the larval parasites Apanteles glomeratus, Microplitis plutella, and several tachinid flies; and egg parasites in the Trichogramma genus.”

Basically this boils down to several wasps that lay their eggs in the caterpillar and kills it in a gross way I’m not going to go into right now.


[Forestry Images]

According to Mother Earth News, you can attract these wasps by planting “sweet alyssum, chamomile, feverfew, catnip and buckwheat. When allowed to produce flowers, dill, fennel and other members of the carrot family also attract braconid wasps.”

How do you get rid of cabbage worms?

Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:41 am on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One of the nicest surprises in my garden this year was the Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon. I don’t know why it has such a crazy name. I planted it on a whim because I read that Thomas Jefferson planted them in 1794. (Anything that can bring my garden closer to Monticello is fine with me.)

This melon is a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. It has green flesh with a yellow/orange tinge on top. It’s incredibly juicy with juice dripping all over your arms when you eat it. My son is crazy about it.

At one time, this melon was popular to grow in the United States, but it fell out of favor because its short shelf life didn’t lend itself to shipping. Now, it’s very rare to get your hands on an Ananas Melon.

But one of the exciting things about gardening is that you can grow out things you’d never eat otherwise.

You can buy the seeds to grow your own Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon here.

My 2014 Fall Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:33 am on Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can you believe August is half over? I’m busy harvesting. This is today’s haul: kale, tomatoes, four different types of green beans, three different types of peppers, corn, lemons, oranges, baby carrots, and an egg.

And while all this is going on, it’s also time to think about my fall garden!

Here’s my plan for My 2014 Fall Garden:

To plant now:

    Brussels Sprouts
    Spinach
    Radishes
    Carrots
    Onions
    Beets


To plant next month:

    Garlic
    Fava Beans
    Turnips or Rutabaga

I’ve never grown Turnips or Rutabagas before, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do. I try to grow something new every season to keep things interesting.

What’s your fall garden plan?

Magical Compost Tea

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:22 am on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You may be asking yourself why I am posting a bucket of muddy water on my blog. Ah, but that’s not mud, that’s compost tea.

I’ve written about the magic of compost before on here, and how amazing it is that you can take your kitchen waste and turn it into an fertilizer for your garden. This year, I’ve been taking the extra compost I have and making compost tea with it, and using it as an all-purpose liquid fertilizer for my plants.

Let me tell you: it works great. If you pour compost tea on a droopy plant, it will pick up within an hour of your applying it–that’s how powerful this stuff is. And it’s free and easy to make.

So how do you make it? Put a quart (4 cups) of compost in a 5 gallon bucket and fill that bucket with water. Let the bucket sit overnight so that the compost can “steep” into the water, thus the name compost “tea.” After that, transfer the compost tea to a watering can and water your plants as you would with any other liquid fertilizer.

Compost tea can be applied to any plant. It’s especially great if the plant is producing food and seems to need an extra boost of nutrition. It also helps sickly or struggling plants and is a great way to feed your container garden.

Also compost tea lets you make the most out of a small amount of compost. So if you don’t have room for a giant compost bin, don’t worry. Make what you can and then make compost tea with it. That way your plants can still benefit from the magic of compost.

Grow Your Own Hops

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:36 am on Monday, June 9, 2014

Three years ago, a friend gave us two Cascade hops plants. Since we make our own beer, I put them in the ground to see what they would do.

Two years later, they were doing this:

Hop plants are a sticky, fast-growing vine. They produce papery flowers in late August, then die down and go dormant until spring.

Hop flowers, of course, are a major ingredient in beer.

The first two years we had the hops plant, they didn’t do much, just produced a few flowers before dying back down to the ground for the winter.

But last year, the vines grew about 10 feet and were loaded with flowers. I harvested two buckets worth of flowers, which I then de-stemmed and cleaned.

Since we couldn’t make beer with them right away, we vacuum sealed them in bags and popped them in the freezer.

I can’t wait to see what kind of beer Mr. Savvy makes with them.

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