Sunday, January 29, 2017

The problem with USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

Any system that puts Phoenix, Arizona and Orlando, Florida together has a serious flaw.  But they are both USDA Hardiness Zone 10.
"USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones."
What it really means:  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map helps determine which plants are unlikely to die of cold weather at a location, not thrive.   There are many other reasons your location will kill unsuitable plants.  The picture below shows part of the problem.
Both city parks are in USDA Hardiness Zone 10

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cumin Confusion: Black Seed, Black Cumin, Kalijiri and Kala Jeera

The confusion among cumin, black cumin, black seed, kala jeera and kalijiri is a great example of why we should use botanical names, not common names, even in recipes.  By the time the spices reached the English, the culinary names were totally screwed up. And if you buy Kalijiri instead of Kala Jeera, your curry will be disgusting.

Let's start with the edible spices:
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Monday, January 9, 2017

On-Line Business Owners: Are You Really Ready for Success?

Ewwwww ... My Blog EXPLODED!!! 

EXPLODE!!!!, in boldface with multiple exclamation points, is a word commonly used by those on the shady side of the business of promoting things. Their spam emails tell you they can "Make your on-line business EXPLODE!!!" Or they promise to EXPLODE!!! your website traffic, sales, profits, or maybe even that undersized part of your male anatomy.

What they don't tell you is that it is not always a good idea to EXPLODE!!! traffic or business.
It sounds strange, but businesses can fail because they succeeded, but didn't plan how to handle the success.

Reconstruction of the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot
If it had exploded as planned.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

How To Salvage Floor and Wall Tile

If you are remodeling, you might have wall, floor or fireplace tiles worth salvaging for resale or to re-use in the new version of the house.  Or you may need to remove intact tiles from "over here" to replace damaged tiles "over there". Removing tiles intact is not a difficult project. It requires a little hand strength, and a few common tools that can be used on other projects. It takes time more than anything else.

I will explain some tile removal techniques, using a 1980s shower stall as the victim example.

This is a typical wall installation - the wallboard or backer board, some mortar (called "mud) to build the thickness up to match the edge tiles, a layer of wire mesh embedded in the mud, and then the thinset mortar that holds the tile to the mud.   Floor tiles do not usually have the wire mesh, and may be laid right over concrete. 

The typical layers: wall or backer board, "mud", wire mesh, thinset mortar, tile

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No-Tool Frost Cover Supports for Tender Landscape Plants

We joke that the the classiest house in the Phoenix area looks like a low-class Victorian washerwoman's house when a freeze is coming, because Phoenicians grab anything at hand to cover plants (Check the images. The Superman sheets are fab!) when one of the rare freezes is coming.  King size sheets and muslin curtains are popular, propped up with anything from saw horses to dining chairs to keep the covers off the plants.  Plastic drop cloths are popular, but you can cook your plants under the plastic if you forget to take it off.

If you have a bit more time to prepare, or live where frost protection is needed several times a winter, try this inexpensive solution that won't leave you sitting on the floor with no sheets on the bed. It looks like an old-fashioned circus tent.
Frost Cloth and Rebar Tent
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Four Cheap, Effective Fertilizers

For Occasional Use by a Lazy Gardener

I seldom use fertilizers, but if I have to, I use the simplest ones that will do the job.  I am reluctant to use combination fertilizer and weed killer or pest killer. If landscaping has weeds or pests, I'll buy the right single-purpose product. I am also reluctant to apply "time-release" products because in my experience, they are timed for the typical Eastern lawn and garden with more rainfall.
1914 Fertilizer Brochure Cover
If a landscape that I'm responsible for needs fertilizer, one of these four fertilizers will be applied: ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium phosphate, or soil sulfur. In keeping with my gardening philosophy, they are the simplest, cheapest fertilizers you can buy.
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