It’s really far too early to start getting supplies or thinking about tomatoes but with the weather outside being in the minus kill-me-nows I can’t help but start peaking at the Lee Valley catalog.
I’ve already decided that I’m going to sacrifice a couple of my tomato plants to “research” and give red plastic mulch a go this year. I don’t know how much a layer of bright red plastic jives with my growing style or sense of taste — I like my understated and soil-building straw thank you very much — but this is one of those gardening concepts that is so loudly touted as “Research proven!” that I figure it’s about time to take a crack at it and see for myself.
These Tomato Craters seem neat however they are not cheap and I already have my dependable and totally free water bottle funnel system (it’s basically this project without the cap intact) and trusty toilet paper tube cutworm barrier. I’ve never lost a plant to a cutworm yet. Research proven!!
Living room gardeners needn’t be limited to corner-store variety orchids. Paphiopedilum, aka ‘slipper’ orchids (not to be confused with the cold hardy North American Lady’s Slipper) are an exotic tropical that produce a stunning, solo blossom sometime between late fall and spring. Each bloom lasts as long as 2-3 months and many varieties have dramatic, mottled foliage providing interest in between blooms.
Grow It: In the wild, Paphiopedilums (Paphs for short) grow underneath trees where they received indirect, filtered light, making them the perfect match for those of us cursed with small windowed apartments. Look for yellowing leaves as a sign of too much light. Repot your paph every two years with light and airy orchid bark. Give your plant a quick soak, pot and all, in room-temperature water. The bark mix should never dry out but should not be constantly soggy either. Choose a hardy hybrid variety like ‘Maudiae’, or ‘Gold Dollar’.
Check out The Orchid Mall to find a local vendor or The American Orchid Society for more information.
See more photos of my favourite paph: Paphiopedilum Maudiae ‘Claire de Lune’ x Minnie May – How’s that for a race horse name!
I was just thinking… seems like THE HOLIDAY SEASON is here, or something. I am very good at shutting out that which I would rather not see but with the powers that be pummeling us over the head with it earlier and earlier every year, it’s kinda hard to miss. Really, I don’t hate the holidays, what I hate is the assumption of obligation and the fact that while so many people start out with good intentions MANY seem to be in a passive-aggressive snit by mid-December. I think we should all just agree to collectively stay in bed in our pajamas watching 80′s era teen movies and call it a day. How’s that for Peace on Earth!
I don’t like giving or getting a bunch of useless crap that carries all kinds of layers of guilt and I sure don’t condone adding to that burden by HANDCRAFTING something that will only find it’s way to the thrift store pile once the guilt wears off — that’s a drag for everyone involved. However, I also really like making and receiving homemade gifts. It keeps me off the cold, winter streets and away from the madness of the mall, and becomes it’s own form of Holiday-related art therapy. I enjoy thinking about the giftee and hatching a plan to make something suitable to them, their personality, and taste.
I compiled this list of Affordable and Homemade Holiday Gifts for plant lovers a few years back. Some of the projects are kits or items I have made and some are ideas that give the gift of time rather than material goods. For example, I have been making these Herbal Bath Teas for a long time and often make a few extras as a gift to myself. A Garden Help I.O.U is one of the best gifts I can think of for a gardener since many of us could use an extra hand with some of the difficult chores.
Sure you can buy inexpensive Forced Bulb Kits just about anywhere these days but I guarantee you that what you can put together for the same price will be of a much higher quality. Most of the kits I see come with ugly plastic pots and lousy soil — don’t let the fancy box fool you. Many of them have been sitting on the shelf so long that the bulbs are dessicated, diseased or dead by the time they reach the recipient. You can put together a much nicer kit using a thrifted ceramic container, quality bulbs purchased at a local nursery (where you can hand-select the bulbs yourself), and a bag of reasonably good soil. Don’t forget to let your recipients know they can save most bulbs and plant them out in their garden next year. Amaryllis bulbs can be kept for several seasons too.
Of course I can’t write about gifts for gardeners and burgeoning gardeners without mentioning the 2007 You Grow Girl Calendar or the You Grow Girl book. The book itself also has instructions for a number of projects I have made and given as gifts including: a groovy gardening apron, chalkboard pots (don’t forget to include a stick of chalk), herbal teas (including easy-sew, reusable tea bags), gardener’s hand salve, gardener’s journal, and more.
While setting up my “Eggling Experience” I thought it would fall more into the spirit of the much loved but long forgotten “The Lab” section of this site if I were to make this into an Eggling versus Real Egg experiment. I made the claim in my introductory post that an Eggling could be closely approximated for free using the shell of a real egg, and so I present to you a wholly unscientific experiment in which I will attempt to back that claim up with anecdotal evidence.
I haven’t done this since high school so bear with me.
A real egg is just as effective as an Eggling ceramic egg when used as a vessel for growing thyme from seed.
1. Set up an Eggling according to the supplied directions.*
2. Hard boil a large chicken egg. You can use a raw egg and just plop out the contents but I felt like eating a boiled egg.
3. Peel off a section from the top and scoop out the contents.
4. Remove a section from the bottom so that the egg sits flat.
5. Cut a small square of coffee filter and place in the bottom of the egg to cover the hole. This will keep the dirt from falling out.
6. Fill the egg with sterile seed-starting mix and a dash of vermicompost (aka worm poo). I was out of potting soil and too involved in the scientific process to go out for some, so I cheated and used soil from another pot. The soil wasn’t sterile but… I added worm castings in an attempt to approximate the Eggling growing medium which is said (in the instructions) to include, “…enough nutrients for plants to grow in it for up to 5 months.”
7. Sprinkle seeds on top of the soil. I used the extra seeds that came with the Eggling kit in an attempt to keep the projects as similar as possible (okay maybe no “as possible.” More like, as possible as I can be bothered without making a special trip to the store for additional supplies).
8. Water the egg slowly until water begins to drain into the tray from the bottom. I followed the directions outlined by the Eggling so that they followed the same routine.
9. Place both Eggling and Real Egg in a warm place to germinate. Mine are sat on top of the television awaiting germination.
*The supplied directions were seriously lacking in direction. When setting this up I tried to think like a beginner and I will say that as a fake beginner the lack of instructions left me feeling anxious as to whether I was doing the right thing. Did I make the hole big enough? How long will it take to germinate? How do I care for the plant once it has germinated? How do I prune? How do I transplant it? What happens next? p.s. In step #4 of the instruction pamphlet it is suggested that you shatter the Eggling and add the pieces to the soil of the transplanted plant “as fertilizer.” Dudes, last time I checked ceramic did not qualify as “fertilizer.”
p.s. NaBloPoMo is HARD.
Famous for candy-sweet cobalt blue blooms that resemble tidy clusters of pint-sized grapes, muscari is a versatile, carefree spring bloom. Pack a punch and plant bulbs in eye-catching “rivers” or clustered together in problem areas under trees and in rock gardens. This hardy bulb will even survive in the toxic soil beneath black walnut trees!
Muscari stay in bloom for weeks and multiply effortlessly. Grow white muscari (Muscari botryoides ‘Album’) to use in a spring wedding bouquet or slip a handful of wispy M. comosum ‘Plumosum’ into a vintage medicine bottle. Or better yet, grow my personal favourite M. latifolium whose elongated, bi-colored flower spikes have a dark blue base that ascends to a light blue/lavender top.
With fall bulb planting season in full swing, I couldn’t help posting this little blurb I wrote for the April 2006 issue of Budget Living Magazine that never was. I just love the pretty little delicate blooms of muscari. I have a tendency towards the tiny little bulb plants that naturalize on their own. There is a garden I pass regularly on my travels that is really just a little teeny patch underneath a magnolia tree that comes to life in the spring with an assortment of small flowering bulbs, arranged very carefully for maximum impact as the garden cycles from one flower and is replaced by another. I literally find myself stalking that little garden every spring and was relieved to finally meet one of the owners last year and lay to rest any fears about my weekly presence crouched down with an assortment of cameras in front of their house. They have video surveillance in front!