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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Yet ANOTHER use for a pallet

Life on the Balcony has this AMAZING idea for a pallet. 

Isn't this great? I'm thinking we may use this idea for herbs or maybe even strawberries.

Go to Tatertots and Jello for instructions on how to make a garden wall:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Berry Patch Creation

Strawberries and raspberries always seem to be one of the easiest things for us to grow in our garden. We plant them, forget about them, and get berries. Not much other work is required. It could be that our climate is great for them, but I suspect that they are just hardy plants that grow well in many places and environments. That being the case, one of the first things we planted this year were strawberries.

Most of the gardening books we use indicate that the best time to plant strawberries and raspberries is late summer or early fall. This allows you to harvest a crop the next season. If you live in a dry area like we do, planting in early spring will work well, just don't expect to get a harvest the first year. In fact, it is recommended to pinch off the flowers of your raspberries and strawberries the first year in order to let the plants focus on establishing themselves. This allows for one to harvest a better crop the next season. Both plants do well in the sun although they can survive in shaded areas. Both plants like plenty of humus and fairly acidic conditions. They are also potash hungry. When preparing their soil, add wood ashes to the ground as it will help them thrive.

Here is what our strawberry patch looked like before we started working it.

 We added straw and compost, and then we double dug the ground. 

 We purchased bare root stock. These are strawberries and raspberries that don't come in pots and their roots don't have dirt at all. This is the cheapest way to start them and we find that they grow just as well as long as you plant them immediately after purchasing them.

(bare root plant)

Here is what our patch looks like after our work. 

This will be one of many berry patches that we will have dispersed throughout our yard. It will require some patience on our part to wait a year for the fruit but trust me, it is worth the wait when you bite into your first fresh strawberry from your yard.

What have you found works well for your strawberry and raspberry patches?


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look What We Found!

In the nice spring weather we decided to do a little yard work.

Reece was manning the weed whacker.

He stumbled upon some wooden beams,
which deserved further inspection from Maya and Mason.

To our surprise we found a garden bed.

 No, the drip system was not in place and it didn't have beets, carrots, and radishes growing in it already. But, it did have some GREAT soil. We turned some compost into it, added the drip lines, and planted our root veggies. They are already popping up!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bathe your seeds

By Jennifer

Who doesn't feel better after a warm bath?

I like to indulge my pea and bean seeds in a soak before planting them outdoors. In the picture foreground, on the left, is a basic shriveled pea seed. The other seeds, which I soaked for three nights, have plumped to double in size and are starting to sprout. I planted them right after their photo shoot. (Lest you think I am kind of slow in planting peas this season, this is a variety that holds up to summer heat. Phew!) 

I soaked the seeds in a dish of warm water overnight. Next day (day 1) I drained the water and placed a wet paper towel directly on top of the seeds in the dish. The aim at this point was to keep the seeds moist but not soggy. I checked the seeds the following two days, wetting the towel when needed. I chose to plant when all had visible roots, on day 3.

Why bother with all this? Well, indoor soaking offers a more controlled environment for germination, removed from the temperature and weather extremes so true of finicky spring. Sprouted seeds also guide your planting patterns. Often times we direct sow more seeds than we think we need, in anticipation that some may not sprout. And then, we end up thinning seedlings that are too crowded. Soaking seeds first gives you more control in the outcome.

Even soaking just a portion of your seeds can help in your garden planning. Say you want to plant 50 bean plants. You soak 10 seeds, and eight swell and start to sprout. That gives you a sample germination rate of 80 percent. So plant 63 seeds. (OK, for all you math fiends out there, it's really 62.5 -- but I dare you to cut a seed in half and still have it sprout!)

Soaking to estimate germination rate is helpful with seeds you're not sure about: those that have been stored in less than ideal conditions, or for a very long time.

In my experience bean seeds are more fragile than peas and can split in half if jostled too much while soaking. They're also quicker to go moldy if left soaking too long. I've learned to plant my soaked bean seeds when just a hint of root starts to show.

What are you tricks for seed sprouting?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homeschool Activities

The kids built a ziggurat (an ancient Mesopotamian temple) We are using the Story of the World curriculum, which I LOVE!!! We were also excited to find this song while studying the Mesopotamian's.  

 Mason trims the wheat grass to throw into our smoothies which helps his motor skills.

Maya does a science experiment "magic trick" with magnets. She believes in safety first, hence the goggles.

Madelyn learns to stack. 
Why is it that we even buy things for our kids at this age? You get them a gift, they play with box and wrapping paper. You buy them blocks to stack, and they stack the toilet paper!

A field trip to a museum is entertaining as well as educational. 


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Stephanie shared this beautiful picture of her daughter and their serama chick. Both are beautiful! Enjoy this Sabbath day!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Little Green House

We had grand plans of building a green house, budgets and time didn't allow for it this year, hopefully it is in our 5 year plan...but we will see.  Instead, this window in my bedroom works great in the mean time.

It brings me so much joy watching these little plants grow. It is just a miracle that it all starts with just a little seed. It also seems like a miracle that I don't kill everything.

Basil starts

My kitchen basil

What do you have growing, and where do you keep it?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Outdoor Poetry

by Michael

Here is one of my favorite poems that describes the beauty and simplicity of the outdoors. It describes how I feel when I sit outside in the summer, with a growing garden, and the sounds of chickens clucking in the background.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Share your favorite outdoor garden poem with us in the comments section


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Either Fart or be Fat

Have you watched this video yet? It is all about the "white poison", sugar. If you haven't seen it, grab a coke and some cinnamon bears big glass of water and a carrot, and get cozy. It is an hour and a half, but it is very enlightening, I know you won't be disappointed.

If you just want to hear about being "fat or farting" skip to about 1:14:00 and listen until the end for a nice recap of the entire video.

Then when you are intellectually worn out, check out this funny SNL clip on HFC

And here is the original that SNL is making fun of.

What do you think of this sugar and high fructose corn syrup debate?


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Destiny Brings Them Together

Some things are destined to be together; chocolate and peanut butter, Scully and Mulder, politicians and corruption, bacon and ....well....er.......bacon and everything. Even some plants are destined to join together to make each other better, stronger, and like bacon, tastier.

In past articles we have discussed the benefits of companion planting. Companion planting is the practice of sowing plants together in order to increase yields, and to help reduce pests in the garden. In our garden we love to plant tomatoes with marigolds. The marigolds repel pests that are attracted to tomatoes.

I found a good article about companion planting on The University of Florida's extension site. It has a great list of plants and their companions. It also notes which plants don't do well together. Check out the list below. Introduce companion planting into your garden plan this year. It is a natural way to help improve your garden.

Let us know if you companion plant, and if so, what works well for you?

~Mike ~