Friday, March 31, 2017

Why you need a garden journal

I know what date I took a picture, because the camera dates them for me, but when did I plant those things? That's why I need to start a garden journal - if I'm going to make garden experiments, I need to document my projects better.
Nice lettuce on February 20, but when did I plant them?
Here's where I should wax rhapsodic over the joys of using a hand-bound journal with a vintage nib pen for my botanical musings, or launch a discussion of which garden journalling software works best for Mac, Windows and Linux or my smart phone. Or maybe discuss my search for an app that keeps my gardening data in the cloud, whatever and wherever that is.

But I'm not going there.

My main computer lives in my office and my gardening all happens outside or in the workshop. I have a not-so-SmartPhone and I don't want to risk my laptop in the garden.  I already have the property dimensions on graph paper, and the Weather Underground keeps track of weather history for me. I don't need to track every weed I pull, just a few significant dates like when I plant seeds and when I need to do certain tasks, such as check on the seeds I have chilling in the refrigerator.

The simplest solution is a calendar page with enough room to make notes, in a clipboard that hangs in the workshop. At the end of a month, the loose page will be archived into the big binder that has all my house notes.

Here's the journal page I picked, from a wonderful group I know nothing about except that they provide free calendar templates for Linux, Mac and Windows.  Download what you need and print them out.  If I need more room for notes in any month, I will staple a piece of lined paper to that month's calendar.
Monthly calendar with note area
2017 Calendar Template Download 
And here it is, in front of my extremely sophisticated grow light system. The upcycled lettuce and pastry containers have soil blocks and seedlings in them.  ("Upcycled" sounds so much better than scavenged.)
Garden journal at work, collecting notes.
Read more!

Monday, March 27, 2017

DIY Pet Pill Pusher for Cats

Dogs are easy to give pills to - toss them a few treats and then the pill wrapped in a bit of lunch meat ... snarf, and it's gone.
Cats are different. When one of our cats, a muscular 9-pound adult, needed medication  twice a day for 10 days we quickly realized that we needed tools as well as hands.
They'll be too busy on Facebook to find me here!

So I made a pill pusher to make the process easier for us and her.

Read more!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Using a Seed Starting Heating Pad

Many seeds require a warmer soil temperature for germination than the seedling needs to grow after germination.  This ensures that the seeds germinate when the weather is warm enough for the plants to survive.
Frost on my lettuce seedlings.
For most seeds, directly planting the seeds in the garden is the preferred method, but many gardeners start some of their plants indoors with "bottom heat" to provoke germination and get an early start on the season.
  • They want to harvest as soon as possible, whether for market stalls or just bragging rights.
  • Their growing season is too short for this plant.
  • By the time the soil is warm enough, the remaining growing season is too short to get any harvest.
  • Their soil never warms up enough to germinate the seeds, but transplants will grow.
  • Their area for starting seeds indoors is too cool for germinating.
  • They need to get the plants germinated and seedlings established before hot weather arrives.
  • They want to get their garden work done before hot weather arrives.
I'm gardening in several of those categories, especially the last two.  I want to get the chili peppers and tomatoes in the ground to avoid the coming hot weather, and my workshop is too cool.
Read more!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Improved Frost Cover Support

The frost cloth was working, but rain made it sag and I was afraid the weight of the wet cloth would rip itself.  I added support lines between stakes to support the cloth in more places. It worked well after a moderate rain and a light snowstorm.
Support lines shown in yellow

It's easier to put on and off, and the cloth doesn't snag around the support posts.

The lines use clove hitches around the base of the mushroom cap on each support - it's an easy knot to make and unmake, easy to adjust in the middle of the line, and one of the few that can be made in the middle of a line without untying one end.
Supports with the added guy lines (orange garden twine)

 Possible Variations and Improvements

I don't have time to try these, but they would work.
  • Alternate supports ... use PVC pipe with end caps.  PVC pipe can be cut at home, is not as rough and is less likely to snag the frost cloth than rebar.
  • For a removable but convenient support system, pound in pipe big enough to hold the supports so you can drop them in quickly. Plug the pipe holes with something between uses to keep dirt, dead leaves, and critters out.

Read more!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watching Grass Grow: Sprouting the Buffalo Grass Seeds

Instead of waiting until nights are reliably above 60 before seeding, I'm pretending that the grass seed is in Kansas and experiencing a nice wet spring.  I'm watering it every few days, and letting the jute mesh keep it moist.  Nights here are starting to be above freezing with days in the 50s and 60s and even 70s, so it should be happy to sprout.

(Feb 21)  3+ weeks after scattering seed and upholstering the lawn, a few days of rain, a couple days of snow, and temps ranging from highs of 45-75 and lows of 25-45 I have grass sprouting. 
 Tiny little shoots, but it's grass.
I don't know if this is buffalo grass or blue grama.
I also have weeds and perhaps some of the wild flower seeds are sprouting.  This area will take some time to sort out. Read more!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Curb Appeal #1: Getting From Curb to Door

Your first thought about your house's curb appeal should not be what color to paint the front door, where to hang hand-crafted wreaths, or what to plant under the windows.
Neglected house

Having the cutest front door on the block doesn't matter if it's hard to get from the curb to the front door.  I'll expand these bullet points later into posts with examples, explaining why they are important, but for now, here's some things to think about.
Read more!