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Friday, December 24, 2010

Taking Advantage of the First Snow of the Winter

Taking Advantage of the First Snow of the Winter

Guest written by our friend Donnie Donovan

The first snow of winter is always such an exciting event. The land is covered with a pristine white blanket of snow that is just begging to be dug into. We wait all year for this big event and are always prepared with snow gear to ensure we can really enjoy the cool temperatures. The first snow always seems so much crisper and more enticing. Snowmen, snow angels and snowball fights are always at the top of the agenda.
If we are lucky and there is enough snow, we build snow forts before the snowball fight. Of course, the first snowfall activities would not be complete without a couple of rounds of sledding. We have the perfect sledding hill within walking distance of our home. The kids bundle up, dig out their sleds from the garage and off to the sledding hill we go.

After a long day in the snow, it is time to curl up with a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and settle in for the night to watch some directv service specials. The day is always filled with lots of fun, but it is completely exhausting. We will definitely sleep well after our day playing in the snow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

200 Year Old Tip on Perennial Gardening

Okay one more fun thing. This is from 1785 and it talks about perennial plantings. I wanted to find something about gardening 200 years old.

A Tomato Transplant Container from 100 Years Ago

A page from Vegetable Gardening 1909

We have a lot in common with gardeners from the past. Even 101 years ago they looked for methods to grow transplants. I thought this was interesting in that they use metal cans and melt parts of it.

About Tomatoes: The Journal of Horitculture May 4th, 1880

Just another example about growing tomatoes.  It is from the Journal of Horticulture May 4th, 1880. This is a great way to read up on the history of vegetable gardening.

Using Google Public Domain Books for the GARDEN

This is a clip from Google. I used their public domain book search. You can create a HTML copy and paste it. This is just an example. Public Domain is a time frame. If you seach the books from 1950 backwards that pretty much covers the free books. That means you can read them for free, use your e-reader, or tag them to a blog like I did. I am always looking for something to do in the winter.

Here is the link to use Google Public Domain Search

What is interesting about the entry below is it is from 1877. Not much has changed in preparing tomatoes. There is lot about tomatoes and gardening that you can use for your needs that was written 100 years ago.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Save Your Vegetable Seeds From Grocery Stores!

One thing you can start doing in December is saving your vegetable seeds from the grocery. You won't want to save them all but you might find some gourmet peppers or similar.

I got a bag of extraordinarily sweet small peppers from Costco. Now they could be hybrids which means the seed won't reflect the fruit. But it is worth the risk. I can't find the name of the peppers either. I figured - let me save 20 or 30 seeds and see if I can get a plant to grow.

If you shop at stores with "exotic" or "gourmet" vegetables you might find a hardy heirloom squash. If you save seeds this way, you have the advantage of tasting the final product before you grow them. That's a smart way to grow a garden.

Enjoy the off season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Dig at Growing A Tomato Totally Indoors

I posted three reference articles on growing tomatoes indoors. I didn’t write them. I wanted information. They were very helpful. The main issues still hold true for container tomatoes be it indoors or outdoors. Those issues are sunlight, water, and soil.

The articles I read suggested various sizes of containers. I am going to go with a 5 gallon bucket filled about 2/3 the way up with moisture control potting soil. Why? I already have those buckets and I know for a fact that inconsistent watering will mess up your tomatoes. The more soil you have… the harder (though not impossible) it is to harm your plant from over or under watering it. Prepared moisture control soil also has fertilizer in it. I want this to be easy.

I am going build a side light system. It will just be a standard fluorescent light fixture from a local hardware store. The overhead lights you see around, nothing fancy. I will mount it on some 2x4’s so it can stand on its side. This plant will be lighted from the side. I could buy a system but I don’t feel like spending more than the parts will cost to build it. Plus it is holidays and I am saving money for gifts etc.

The artificial light must be left on the plant somewhere between 12 and 18 hours. I will do 12 hours and set the plant by my basement door. If it gets leggy… I will extend the hours. You have to use a timer. It is an absolute must. Set it and forget it.

I am going to use water soluble fertilizer at every watering. I will cut it to half strength as the tomato grows, flowers, and sets fruit. When the fruit sets, I will go to ¼ strength.

The other issues I see are pollination, insects, and disease. Those issues will be new to me - indoors. I probably will treat the surface of the soil with Seven Dust. It works and I researched the potential side effects. Pollination will be tapping the stem of the plant. The electric toothbrush at the base seems like too much work for me.

I will germinate a few seeds in a styro-foam cup by the window. I think the biggest issue for me is going to be my wife. To me it’s a plant. To her it’s a bucket of dirt. If it goes well, perhaps I will have also grow a few future 3 foot transplants for May 1st.

Ehows Entry On Growing Tomatoes Indoors: The Winner Is?

Okay this is from Ehow. Here is the original link http://www.ehow.com/how_2080460_grow-tomatoes-indoors.html

I figure three sources are enough to fumble my way through it. Hopefully, you may decided to try it too. It mentions the electric toothbrush at the base and states a shake of the stem will work. It suggests a 5 gallon pot versus the 6 inch pot in another article. Time to develop my strategy. The winner... me of course. I now have something to do. Im sure insects and diseases will be an issue. I'll have to read up on that too.
Here is the written entry text from the linked article.

First, decide where you will grow your tomatoes. You'll need an area that is away from traffic, but easy to get to. Perhaps a corner in a utility room, a heated garage or basement; any of these will be fine. A table makes it easier, but is not a requirement. Ideally, a table that is about waist high will allow you to access your plants without having to bend over, but as long as the floor isn't too cold, the floor will work.

The tomatoes have two important requirements: light and temperatures. You will almost certainly need a grow-light setup. Some people report success using a sunny window, but I have not had luck doing this due to short days in winter. Grow lights don't have to be expensive. I use cheap shop lights with plant light tubes. A basic setup with one shop light, two pieces of chain, and two light tubes (marked plant and aquarium light) can be found for about $15 to $20 at a discount or home improvement store.

Since I use an unfinished area in the basement, I am able to easily hang the lights from beams in the ceiling. I use metal chains, so that I may adjust the height of the light as needed.

The other consideration is temperature. You will need to grow your plants in a heated area, such as heated basement or heated garage. Ideally, tomatoes need temperatures in the 70s during the day and upper 60s at night. Anything cooler will cause the tomatoes to grow poorly.

Next, you will need to choose your seeds. Your local nursery may have seed packets for sale, but if they don't, plenty of online seed stores will have many varieties to choose from. Beginners will have more success by choosing a tomato variety that grows a compact plant: look for tomato seeds that say patio or container in their descriptions. As you get more experienced, you might want to try other varieties, but you will need bigger pots!

Germinate your seeds in a small pot with seed starter mix. Peat pots are ideal, because they can be transplanted without disturbing the roots. Keep the mix lightly moist, but not soggy. Put two or three seeds in each pot. They should germinate in about a week.

Turn your grow lights on for about 12-14 hours a day. An inexpensive timer can make this much easier. The lights should be about an inch from the top of the plant, and raised as it grows taller.

When the seedlings are three inches tall, they should be transplanted into large containers. The minimum size should be five gallon pots, but bigger is better, to leave more room for roots to grow. Fill the pot with new potting soil and carefully transplant the seedlings into the larger pot. If you've started with a peat pot, simply make a hole in the soil of the large pot, place the entire peat pot into the hole, and carefully spread soil to fill the hole and cover the top of the transplanted peat pot. If the transplants are in a plastic pot, carefully turn the pot upside down, cradling the top in your hand, and lightly tap the bottom of the pot with your free hand. This should dislodge the soil and seedlings into your hand. Very carefully plant the ball of soil into the new pot as above.

If more than one seedling has sprouted in each pot, you will need to thin them out. Pull out the smallest seedlings and discard. Leave one seedling per large pot. Carefully place your stake or dowel rod into the soil, but be careful to keep it a couple of inches away from your new plant. The roots are very delicate at this time.

Begin fertilizing the plants when you transplant into the new, larger pot. I like to use liquid seaweed, especially at transplant time, because it adds a number of micro nutrients and promotes healthy plants. Since I am an organic gardener, I only use organic products, but any all-purpose fertilizer will work. Use it at half the strength the directions recommend. I highly recommend using the liquid seaweed in addition to any fertilizer. Maxicrop and Neptune are two excellent brands.

Water the plants thoroughly, but not too often. Keep an eye on your plants, and at any sign of distress, give them water and liquid seaweed. But be careful not to over water - too much water is as bad as too little. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Each home is different depending on temperature and humidity levels, as well as air flow. As you gain experience, you will be able to know water requirements simply by touching the soil. A container with a catch pan underneath will help drain excess water.

As the plants begin to grow, watch to make sure they are not getting "leggy." If they are, you probably need to lower the grow lights.

When the plants begin to grow yellow blooms (which will turn into tomatoes), it's time to start giving it some phosphorus. Scratch a little bone meal into the top of the soil. This will promote the growth of healthy fruits.

The flowers need to be pollinated. Some growers use fancy techniques to simulate the buzzing of pollinating bees by placing an electric toothbrush near the blooms. I have found it is a lot easier - and just as effective - to give the plant a light shake. Carefully grab the main stem in your hand and shake the plant gently a few times. Do this about once a week or so, as long as the plant is producing blooms.

At some point the plant will need some support. Hopefully you have already placed a small trellis or stake into the pot, and all that's needed is to attach stems to the stake to provide support. Old pieces of pantyhose work well, or you can use the green velcro garden tape that is designed for this purpose. You will need to occasionally rearrange the support areas as the plant grows.

Now all that's left is to wait for the tomatoes to ripen! Eat and enjoy.

No Sweat to Growing Tomatoes Indoors: Just Tap the Plant?

Well Mr. Cox seems to present it as a tap on the stem to pollinate the plants. The entry below this one talked about an electric toothbrush to simulate the bee and thus the vibration releases the pollen. Now I hope I can just tap the plant vs. brush the plant.  One thing about gardening, you learn as you go. Seems like a 6 in pot is all I need.

Grow Your Own Tomatoes Indoors This Winter
Original Link

By Robert Cox, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, Horticulture

Tomatoes here, tomatoes there, tomatoes everywhere. When we're adrift in a sea of tomatoes, why a column about growing more tomatoes?

Think about the taste of those store-bought facsimiles you purchased last January and you have the answer. Those pale, hard, tasteless, imitations made you long for the real thing. This winter, you can have it.

You don't need a green thumb or a greenhouse to grow vine-ripened tomatoes indoors. "Window-sill" tomatoes will do well in 6-inch pots filled with good potting soil. You'll also need the right tomato seed, seed starter mix, fertilizer, and plant stakes. Presto! Tomato salad comin' up!

Window-sill tomatoes are smaller than their outdoor relatives -- quarter-to-half-dollar-size. But don't let their small size fool you -- they come with a big tomato taste. They aren't "slicers," but they are perfect for salads or snacks.

Here's how to grow a winter tomato garden:

You can grow one plant in a 6-inch pot or two plants in larger pots. For a continuous winter supply, start one or two new plants from seed every two weeks. Recommended varieties are Pixie, Patio, Toy Boy, Small Fry or Tiny Tim. These varieties will produce small plants, but they still may need to be staked, especially when they begin to bear fruit. Quarter-inch dowels make good stakes.

Germinate seeds in a small pot with starter mix. Plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep and water. Keep starter mix moist but not soggy. Germination should occur in 5 to l0 days.

Transplant from starter mix into potting soil when seedlings are about 3 inches tall. Fertilize regularly, but lightly, beginning about two weeks after transplanting. Water plants thoroughly, but not too frequently. A catch pan under the pot will keep windowsills dry.

When plants bloom, help Mother Nature along: Tap the main stem and larger side branches with your finger. This moves the plant slightly and encourages pollination. As you tap the plant, you might see a small cloud of pollen falling from the open flowers.

Turn plants occasionally, so all sides get a fair share of sunlight. After each plant has provided a bumper crop and has become unproductive, cut it off at the base, saving the potting soil for future transplants. Toss the old plant in the compost pile.


To satisfy our year-round demand, commercial suppliers plant tomato varieties suitable to production and shipping needs. Often, these tomatoes lack the taste, color or texture that most people prefer. To better withstand shipping, they usually are picked at the "mature green" stage. To complete ripening at their destination, they are gassed with ethylene, a natural plant hormone that is part of the ripening process.

A United States Department of Agriculture study found that ethylene gas has no effect on the tomato's nutritional quality. Surprisingly, such tomatoes provide only slightly less beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, and vitamin C than the tastier vine-ripened fruits. One 5-ounce tomato -- whether home-or-greenhouse grown -- provides a third of our daily needs for these vitamins, along with some iron, fiber and B vitamins.

A Glimpse at Growing Tomatoes Indoors

Well, I decided I want to grow tomatoes indoors. Not seedlings but full plants. I am beginning my search for information. I thought I would share this entry from Jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.

The above link has great pictures regarding pollination. First thing to keep in mind is forcing flowers. I did not know that would be an issue. Second thing to keep in mind if finding an electronic vibrating bee. Read below. Very interesting.

Back to my search. I think it would be great to have some cherry tomato plants in the house. I wonder if there are self pollinating tomato varieties?

The linked entry below: (Just the words, I could not copy the pictures)

Learning how to grow tomatoes indoors can be very rewarding. My own organically grown produce always tastes better than the store bought. My mouth waters thinking about my next fresh tomato salsa or the smell of a garlicky homemade spaghetti sauce simmering. Mmmm, let's get started!

For an indoor garden, you will want to choose a crack resistant variety. Not only will these tomatoes do better indoors under lights, but these varieties also tend to be the better sauce/paste tomatoes.

Seed Starting Soil Mix

The first step to learning how to grow tomatoes is preparing a good starting soil mix. The mix I always use is a standard potting soil mix with about 10% worm castings added. Standard potting soil is usually equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and sphagnum peat and is adjusted to the right Ph by adding 1 teaspoon of hydrated lime for every gallon of soil mix. I actually like to Ph adjust my mix this way for tomatoes because the lime is a good source of calcium, which prevents blossom end rot in tomatoes later on.

I moisten the initial mix little by little, using plain water and Thrive Alive B1. The mix is just right when you squeeze a handful and get a few drops out of it... but only a few. If you mix it a little too wet, just add a little dry vermiculite and remix.
Starting your Tomato Seeds

Starting seeds is always a delicate part of growing anything, and learning how to grow tomatoes is no different. Start with a regular nursery tray full of your soil mix. Tomato seeds should be planted 1/4 inch deep, and about 8 seeds/inch. You may want to cover them for the first few days to keep them from drying out.

Tomato seeds germinate best at 80 degrees, and should be mostly up in 5 to 12 days. Remove any cover you may have on them as soon as they begin popping up. The fresh sprouts should be kept 4 to 6 inches under fluorescent lighting. The light should be kept on 18 to 24 hours a day. When they are 1 1/2 inches tall, carefully transplant them into their own 6 inch containers.

Tomato Plant Care

The easiest step of how to grow tomatoes. Keep them under 2 or 3 fluorescent lights that you leave on 18 to 24 hours every day. I usually feed them Maxsea 16-16-16 at this point, although they could probably use even more nitrogen (the first number). The strength of the solution is about 600 ppm, which is 1 rounded teaspoon of Maxsea/gallon. I also add 10 ml/gallon Thrive Alive B1.

The ideal temperatures for growth are 70-75 degrees during the day and 65-67 degrees at night. When the plants reach 12 inches or more, they may need transplanting to one gallon containers. After 6 weeks or 8 weeks, your plants should be just about ready to begin fruiting them.

Begin Flowering your Tomatoes

Flowering is one of the trickiest parts of how to grow tomatoes indoors. You will need to be familiar with how to force flowering in plants. Some tomatoes flower in 60 days and others take up to 80 days, beginning from the time you force flowering. Just as you begin this process, you want to make your final transplant into 3 gallon containers.

For the first two weeks, you want to feed them heavy with a 10-52-70 or similar fertilizer. Each time they need water give them food also at 800 ppm, which would be a little over half of the recommended "full strength" on the directions. Keep in mind you are feeding them each time you water them. For the rest of the season, feed them 16-16-16 or similar at 800ppm.

Tomato Flower Pollination

If flowering is the trickiest part of how to grow tomatoes, than pollination must be the trickiest part of flowering. As soon as flowers develop and begin to open, you must pollinate everyday while it is warm and humid. Ideally, the humidity will be 65 to 70 percent. Greenhouse growers usually do this between 11:30am and 12:30pm (basically noon) when these conditions occur naturally. For them, early and late day pollination often will not produce proper crops.

This is a tomato flower. Part A is the male anthers that will drop the pollen. Part B is the female carpels that will catch the pollen. The little red arrow is where it all takes place.

Most male anthers produce their pollen on the outsides of the anthers, making it easy to release pollen into the wind for pollination. In the tomato plant, however, pollen is produced internally, as if trapped in a straw. This is the biggest problem for tomato pollination.

The plant needs vibration at the right frequency, such as the buzzing of a bees wings, to dislodge and release the pollen. The best way I have found to do this is to take an electric toothbrush to each support truss and main branch. The more pollen to successfully fertilize the plant, the more seeds will be produced in the fruit (and therefore the meatier the tomato will be).

Final Indoor Tips

Just some final ideas for you on how to grow tomatoes. Flowering plants need stronger light to grow properly developed fruit. Check out high pressure sodium lighting tips if you have any doubts. Also, always use a little lime in the transplant soil to prevent blossom end rot. A dose of Cal-Mag once your tomatoes have fruit set would not be a bad idea. Finally, the vines that grow from leaf axials are called suckers, and should be prunned off throughout flowering. They suck up food that would normally be used to grow nice tomatoes. In 60 to 80 days you should be enjoying some homemade spaghetti sauce yourself!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well It is Time for the 2011 Gardening Season to Start: Seeds and Catalogs

I have been busy with my family and kid's sports. I've been managing my other blog Game On Youth Ice Hockey. I pretty much neglect gardening from October till January. The good news is I did manage to put in the radishes, kales, and other cold weather crops. I kept picking until mid November.

NOW. It is time to collect seeds. Yep. I collect my tomato seeds now off the dried fruits on the vine. I just bag and tag them. I am keeping three or four varieties that did well.

I am also ordering all my free catalogs. Here is a list of ones I ordered. Nothing like thumbing through next years potential when its 25 degrees out.

Free Catalogs:
Territorial Seeds
Harris Seeds (multiple catalogs)
Tomato Growers
Totally Tomato (multiple catalogs)
Park Seeds
Rare Seeds
Stoke Seeds

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Full Line of Quality Medical Scrubs, Uniforms, and Accessories

My wife has been in the medical profession for 15 years. She wears scrubs every single day. I found a great website for quality, comfortable, and stylish scrubs. Blue Sky Scrubs carries the finest and most fashionable medical scrubs and hats available to you or in my case as a gift for my wife. If you have to wear something everyday, you might as well make sure they are fun, fashionable, and professional.

Shopping at their site is easy and they offer a huge selection of hospital uniforms and scrubs, nursing scrubs, medical hats, medical coats, jackets, and they even have their own line of designer surgical hats that can only be purchased online. The have excellent shipping rates and offer free shipping for orders over one and fifty dollars. My wife typically orders scrub sets to keep things simple. You can order sets or mix and match as your style and comfort standards dictate. Check out the huge selection of medical uniforms and scrubs at Blue Sky Scrubs. They have everything you need.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Daugher Found Style With Cole Haan Shoes

As I spend time searching the internet for seed catalogs and indoor growing supplies, my daughter enjoys using the internet to shop for shoes. She enjoys finding “stylish fashion bargains” that save me money.  And you know what? - she did. Shopping on-line at Zappos.com provides the buyer with two great money saving conveniences. They offer free shipping and free returns. This policy saves you money before you even shop. They even offer a 1 year return policy. If you are shopping on-line; free shipping, free returns, and a 1 year return policy is must. Now you have no reason not to take a look at the high quality shoes and styles of Cole Haan.

Cole Haan is a company that has been in business since 1928. Cole Haan not only met my daughter's standard for fashion bargains, they met her standard for the newest styles. They had what she wanted. She was fond of the Cole Haan Aire Laurie Mule. A stylish backless slip-on sneaker. Cole Haan not only sets quality and style standards in shoes but offers other luxurious product lines for handbags, belts, and eyewear. Cole Haan offers beautiful products people love to own, because they pay attention to the details. No two products are alike. They hand craft their products using the highest quality materials and create products that meet artisan standards.

It isn't about following style, it is about leading the charge. Every season Cole Haan adds exciting new products to their line of shoes, handbags, sunglasses, and leather goods. If you want quality, style, and luxury in a pair of shoes or two, Cole Haan shoes will exceed your standards. Free shipping, free returns, and a 1 year return policy makes shopping for Cole Haan products a bargain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crafting some holiday cheer

Guest post written by Bree Dickens

I'm a really big crafter and that comes out even more during the holiday time because there are so many fun things to make! Plus, my daughter loves to help me with all of my crafts, so it's a great way for us to spend some quality fun time together.

I was trying to come up with some new ideas for DIY gifts by looking at craft and holiday blogs with our clear TV bundle online. Well, the trouble was figuring out what out of all of those things I really wanted to get. But I've just about done the food and drink mixes in mason jars to death, so I knew that I should do something different than that.

Instead, I wanted to do another kind of DIY holiday gift that might last a little bit longer and that even the diabetics that I know can enjoy. So IÕm going to use some old timey coffee mugs and saucers that I found at the flea market to make candles in. I think that they'll be really cute and something that my friends can keep around for a long time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cleaning Up the Garden: Cleaning up the House

The gardening season is coming to and end. I still have tomatoes, kales and radishes. However, it is time to pick the last of my crops and begin cleaning up the garden. Cleaning the garden does several things. It removes debris that can hold insects and disease and it gives you a start on next years plantings. A clean slate or bed so to speak. There are other things you can do to clean up your home and that includes looking at the summer's potential water damage to the house. Flood damage or leaking walls? There are many services available to help with water damage and flooding like fixing water damage austin.

Turning the ground now will often turn over insect eggs and disease and bury them, to naturally kill them. If your garden is 10 years old like mine, you might find the trees have blocked out hours of sun. Or you might want more sunlight and less trees.  Time changes your garden and it changes your house. Maintaining your house is important. Did you track in dirt and mud over the summer? Floor cleaning tips austin can offer you some ideas to clean up your floors or services available to help remove a growing season's worth of dirt off your ceramic floors.

 The garden brings great rewards to the home but it does require working in dirt. Carpets can become a victim of feet from the garden, especially in the entry ways. There are many services and products available to help clean up your home. You don't always need a service but you might want to use green products. A company based in Austin may have some products you want green carpet cleaning products austin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Riding Around

Guest post written by Darren Hill

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons is just to ride around in my car and see all the sites. Now we have a convertible and it's getting almost too cold to get to ride around in it and enjoy it so I'm really taking as much advantage of it right now as I can.

The past couple of weekends I've been driving it around a bunch of mountain roads and looking at all the leaves and the trees that are changing. I also like to stop and take pictures of all the breathtaking views at the overlooks on teh side of the mountain roads. Some of them just make for such great pictures that I decided to enter them in a contest for one of our local TV news channels.

I had found http://www.cleartvbundle.com/ not that long ago and decided to switch over our internet service to it. So I used that to email a bunch of my different high-resolution pictures to the station.

I haven't seen my picture on there yet, but I think that I have a good chance of it ending up on there.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Designed to Sell - Favorite Real Estate Themed Television Show

Post contributed by Noah Schmidt

Out of all the home improvement shows on HGTV, my favorite is by far "Designed to Sell." Rather than give home improvement efforts unlimited funds and wherewithal to create the custom home of their dreams, Designed to Sell limits the cash flow to $2,000, forcing designers to be creative and think outside of the box in order to maximize the look of a ramshackle home.

See, any blind fool can take a pot of cash and buy large marble columns and fountains covered in gold leaf. Real design can be done on the cheap, with nothing more than trinkets found in a convenient store. Often times it is this freedom of choice that liberates the designer's clogged mind. Suddenly real estate is like an art canvas, and the designer has accessed the secret power of the avant garde which allows them to turn ordinary trash and garbage items into million dollar house decorations.

This is the great part about Designed to Sell. I feel their creative energies transferring to me like some kind of magic transfer. I suddenly have tons of ideas to use in my own home design, which I employ every week much to the dismay of my family. They say that I am borderline schizophrenic, but really I just love how home design can speak to the impermanence of life. Watch Designed to Sell on HGTV on satellite TV from www.tvbydirect.com/directv-deal/TEXAS-TX-direct-tv.html.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Construction Worker On Halloween

Guest post written by Peggy Garrison

Our son is always wanting to help my husband with all of his construction work and thinks that it's so cool that he builds things at work. My husband does some little woodworking projects at home and he helps him out with some of those, or at least my husband lets him think that he does. So for Halloween this year my son wants to be a construction worker.

We actually already have a lot of the things around our house already for him to wear but there are a few pieces that he will definitely need. So I've been looking on my clear wireless internet for those pieces, like a construction worker hat and vest.

It wasn't as hard as I thought to find a cheap plastic construction worker hat. I also found an orange vest like the kind that people wear so that people will see them working for far away. Then I'm just going to dirty up a pair of old jeans and a white tshirt and let him wear that with one of my husbandÕs old tool belts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Asparagus in Fall

Every wonder what asparagus looks like 5 months after its was edible? Asparagus is a perennial plant. We eat the shoots in the beginning of the season. If you let some shoots mature, the plant grows larger and stronger and you reap the rewards the following year. This is what asparagus grows into. Notice the red seeds.

Behind the asparagus are my Pablano peppers. Still kicking October 6th.

Galapagos Tomatoes: Too Many to Eat

Well, too many to eat is a good thing. The rest are hanging to become seed. I liked the picture. It is a good close to the summer.

And The Before

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October Garden: Peppers and Eggplant Survive!

The pepper plants are hanging in there. And so are the two varieties of Eggplant I planted. In the picture below is my tabasco plant. I will pick them all and make dried peppers. The eggplants I will eat over the next week.

I am excited to have vegetables into October. I didn't do much to the eggplants but kept them dusted. Flea beetles will devastate them in my garden.

October Green Pole Beans!

Now I did get lucky and this grew from a seed that survived from last year. It grew up the black cherry tomato plant and stake. I left it there to do as it wished. It started coming up in early August.

The Black Cherry tomato plant produced very well but burned out in August. If you look closely it is producing fruit again. Around September 1st new green shoots started coming out. I figured I'd let it grow as the beans grew. 

The October Garden: What's Producing... Tomatoes

Well, as I said, I tire out toward the end of the season. But I did manage to get in my third wave of tomatoes, radishes, and kales. I was also lucky enough to have a string bean grow from some lost seed.

Here are some of my tomatoes. Waves 1, 2 and 3. I don't think wave 3 will make it. I will try and build and wire cage hot-house.

This is one of my 1st wave of tomatoes, planted back in May. It is loaded with large healthy green tomatoes. It did well. I will have fried green tomatoes when frost time hits. The variety is Whopper. I will save the seeds and grow these next year.

This is one of my 2nd wave of tomatoes. I planted it in Julyish. It is the standard cherry Super Sweet 100's. It started producing in early September. I will be using this as my standard 2nd wave.

These are my 3rd wave of tomatoes in the cages. In order front to back are Silvery Fir, Glacier and Sub Artic Max. I don't think they will mature. Some have set fruit. I plant to get these in the ground next year on April 1st. I'll put them in a hot-house cage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decorating for Next Year: Using A Butcher Block as A Planting Station

Well, as you can tell my blog is slowing down as the gardening season closes. My kids sports and other activities have picked up and that is taking over my time. I am shifting away from watching my garden grow to watching my kids grow another season. I figure there is about a month left before the frost comes. And this is the time I start thinking about growing plants indoors.

This isn't only the time for cleaning up the garden but a time for planning the next garden. We just finished our basement and one thing I added down there was a utility sink and growing closet. If you have the room I highly recommend you create a growing closet and if you are lucky enough to have the room... add a utility sink.  Having a utility sink makes gardening clean up easy and quick.

Now that we finished our basement. I plan to build a flagstone patio right at the top of the walk-out stairs. I planned out the stone and am looking for furniture. The classic outdoor look I want, in furniture, I was able to find here at adirondackchairsinc.com .  I prefer natural products and in this case stone and wood. It ties nicely into my garden style.  Another interesting piece of furniture that can be used in the finish basement is a butcher block. The butcher block is a great piece of functional furniture. The right style can function as a piece of decorative furniture and can also function as a planting station. The link shows different styles and one of them is perfect for a planting station.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seeds from the State Fair for Fall Planting: Winter Radishes

I've cleared out more beds and am getting back into the swing of things. Here are some seed packets I bought at the fair. There was a large heirloom seed section.  I could have bought $100 worth of seeds. I decided to concentrate on seeds I could put in now and in the spring.

1. Radish: Round Black Spanish 55 days
This radish is known as a winter radish and can be harvested well in the winter. We will see.

2. Arugula: Wild Italian 45-60 days.
A different variety. Sturdy leaf that is cold tolerant.

3. Kohl Rabi: Purple Vienna 50-65 days.
Needs to go in 4 weeks before frost.

4. Radish: White Chinese Winter 25-30 days.
Develop best in cool weather.

5. Radish: Chinese Rose-Winter 20-50 days.
Fast growing and can stay in ground to continue maturing.

More State Fair Pictures: Tomatoes, Pumpkins and More

More pictures of Maryland grown vegetables.

What Good is the State Fair without Vegetables Pictures: Peppers, Gourds, Squash

Maybe one day, I may compete. Nah. But here are some interesting pictures.

How the Tomatoes are Doing: 1st and 2nd Waves.

Well I survived the blight very well. Wettable sulfur is the way to go. Here are some pictures. I fertilized the tomatoes with Miracle Grow and pruned them. I want to see how long I can get them to maintain through September.

This is a 2nd Wave Orange Jubilee.

These are 2 first wave tomatoes. Growing well with green tomatoes and buds.

This is the Sara's Galapagos. Yellowing out. Loaded with fruit.

Grape Juice From My Concord Grapes

The Concord grapes did very well. I must have 100's of bunches. I purchased a $35 juicer. I made grape juice. It was quite easy. Because the Concords have seeds, I had to juice outside. The juicer is 400 watts. Powerful enough for what I wanted but it didn't grind the seeds down. Which is good, I didn't want the seeds. It did however bounce them around and they would shoot out the top each time I added more grapes. I move the project outside since they were bouncing around the kitchen.

Once juiced I brought it to a boil for 5 minutes. I did add honey for fun and a bunch of ice to dilute it and cool it down.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finally Fall Plantings & My Third Wave of Tomatoes

So not only does the heat of August beat my garden down, it beats me down.

I finally cleared 3 beds and did my Fall planting. Late! but I did it. I went with transplants and went to my local nursery. I didn't like what they had. When I touched the leaf lettuce, I saw white flies. Not the type in my garden but I didn't want to introduce a  new pest. So I passed. I went to Home Depot and Lowes. Their lettuce was bolting. Heat effects transplants more rapidly then plants in the cooler ground. I passed on the lettuce but ended up getting Swiss Chard and  loose leaf head cabbage.

Incidently, I went back to the nursery 2 days after my first visit. The lettuce had bolted and the kales and greens were chewed to sin by critters. I'm glad I passed.

I put in the transplants, planted 4 kinds of radishes, and put in my third wave of tomatoes. They are small. I will be making solar cages for them as October approaches.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Types of Tomato Cages: Support Your Local Tomato Plant

There are lots of ways to support tomato growth. Here is one example of plants growing in my mother's garden.

She does have a wooden stake in there for side support. She is using collapsable orange cages for the main support. You can see them better if you click the images and enlarge them.

Powdery Mildew on Cucumbers: Picture

Powdery mildew often hits cucumbers, zukes and squash. These cucumber leaves (below) look like they have a white powdery dusting on their leaves. That is powdery mildew. As soon as you see it on one leaf it is time to treat the whole plant.

There are lots of treatments. I use wettable sulfur. It creates an environment on the leaves the mildew doesn't like. This year I had 2 small outbreaks of powdery mildew. A quick spray cured the plants. This is the first year I didn't have a large epidemic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whiteflies? White Flies? A Neglected Garden

I hit the August wall. Life stuff over took my garden. Good stuff, but still time was taken away from my ability to tend the garden. It happens every August. A combination of this and that. My garden is over-grown. I began taking it back yesterday. I am still getting great produce but it is out of control. I have been posting about a Fall garden. Now is the time to take it back and plan for the Fall.

What did I miss?

1. Never got my beans in to the extent I wanted.
2. My third wave tomatoes aren't growing and needed some love.
3. The weeds are happy. I never pulled the August wave.
4. The vegetables never got a round of liquid fertilizer.
5. The white-flies became a Nation.

I have been fighting white-flies for weeks. They have INFESTED my kales and kohlrabi. I picked the kohlrabi and bagged the leaves. My 2 kales, Dwarf Curled and Russian Red, I cut ALL THE LEAVES off. There must of been 1000 white-flies. I was covered in them. I basically destroyed their main habitat.

The kale stems will survive and I plan to leave them in the ground. New leaves will come and they will be part of my Fall crops.

The lady bugs never came to eat the white-flies. I am unleashing a week of fury to recapture my garden. I plant to have pictures up this week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things to Have for College

Thanks for the post from Sylvester Campbell

Moving off to college can exciting. But you don't want to get there and realize that there were a few things you should have considered before loading the car. Here are a few of the most important.

Have A Plan.

College is going to be the best four years of your life. There are tons of people to meet and fun to be had. But if you have not considered things like "What kind of job can I get in my major?" and "Are my goals realistic?", then you many be wasting your time.

Know What You Need.

If you are moving away to college your new dorm, or apartment, is you home away from home. You may need to consider what you will need to make you live in your new home easier. For instance, you will need a highspeed wimax internet packages. Make sure you know what your school provides and what you will need to purchase on your own.

How Are You Going to Make a Living?

Beyond paying you tuition, room and board, and books, you will need money for other thing too. Like food when the cafeteria is not open, pizza during late night study sessions, and other toiletries that you will run out of. Do some searching. Look for jobs on and around campus.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lettuces and Greens for the Fall

Lettuce, Kale and other greens love cool weather. Bolting is the issue of planting lettuce in June and July. When it is hot, the lettuces send out a flower stalk to produce seed and cut leaf production. Plus the leaves get bitter. If you break a leaf of bolted lettuce you notice a white substance seaping. It's bitter. We obviously want the leaves.

Now that it is August, you can plant lettuce. Lots of it. It is frost tolerent to a degree and some varieties can take a good frost.

Kale is great to plant now. It may not mature in time to eat in the Fall but it does over winter very well. I plant Kale now and 50% survives the winter. I can pick Kale in March! from my Fall plantings.

Other greens... mustard greens and other Asain greens can go in too. Here are some ideas. Most seeds need to be purchased at a nursery this time of year. Home Depot and such might also have some and they are probably on sale!. Lettuce and green seeds last for years.

Organized With Paying Bills Online

Guest post written by my buddy Aldo Mays

I was skeptical at first about paying bills online and I am probably not the only one. I worried about the security of it all. Would my information be safe? Would I have to worry about my debit card number being stolen and used by someone else?

I have been paying bills online for several years now and have not had any problems. Paying bills online has made paying bills so much easier. I am a stickler for organization, so this method of bill pay helps keep me and my life more organized.

There is no rushing out to buy stamps at the post office anymore and it is easier than writing a check for each bill. It is as simple as getting online with my satellite internet and logging on to all the places I need to pay bills. Practically every bill I have I can pay online.

All my utilities for my home are paid online, which includes my phone, internet, water, gas, electric, and cable. The credit card I have also allows me to pay the balance online. I even go as far as paying my car insurance online because of the added convenience. If you want a great internet service so you can pay your bills online, then click for more info.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Varieties of Cold Tolerent Tomatoes I am Growing

Original Blog Entry With Pictures and Seed Starting.

Maybe tomato seeds don't germinate in 100 degree heat. My plan is to plant cold weather tolerant tomatoes in July and tend them through to the first hard frost. I know my May tomatoes will be disease beaten or sun beaten come mid August and pretty much can be pulled by months end. Some of the cherry tomatoes survive every year into September. This year I figured, I would plant a third wave of cold tolerant tomatoes.

I ordered and planted the following varieties:

Sub Arctic Max: 62 day determinate. Bred for extremely cold climates. Dwarf vines of 2 1/2 oz fruits.

Oregon Spring V: 58 day determinate. Develop by Oregon University for short season gardeners. Medium to large fruit.

Silvery Fir Tree: 58 day indeterminate. Delicate lacy leaves with a silver sheen. 3 inch fruit from Russia.

Polar Baby: 60 day determinate. Very small plant that bear large harvest of 2 inch fruits. Developed in Alaska for cold weather.

Glacier: 58 day determinate. Sets fruit well in cold weather. Comes loaded with 2 -3 oz fruit. Potato leaf foliage.

Now I have a Russian Heirloom, a few bred specifics for cold, 2 unique foliages, both determinates & indeterminates and a variety of tomato sizes. I figure that was the easy part.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

1st Prize Hybrid Tomato

Here is a tomato from the 1st Prize Hybrid I grew. They had a woeful germination rate too. Might be time to find a new seed company. This plant is having some Early Blight issues. I have harvested a good amount but, I'm not sure if I will grow it next year. It is a large tasty fruit. Those are currant tomatoes for size comparison.

Update of the 2nd and 3rd Wave of Tomatoes

The 2nd wave is doing well. Here are two. I have three more for a total of 5.

Here are the 3rd wave of tomatoes that are cold tolerant varieties. They are growing more slowly then I expected. Unless the have a burst, I think I might be in trouble. They my not mature in time before the first frost.

Tomato Sun Scald Picture

When cutting back your tomato to make a barrier from the soil to the first leaves or when thinning the plant for air circulation, you have to be carful of exposing your tomatoes to the sun. If the tomato is exposed directly to the sun, it can get sun scald. It looks like this. On a green tomato it is usually a bleached looking white brown patch.

Sara's Galapagos Tomato Update

The fruits are red and very sweet. The best currant, I've tasted. It had a really bad germination rate. I will collect a lot of seeds and hope to bring it back next year.

What the Garden Produced in the Last 5 days

August is usually the killer time for my garden. By now I am tired of weeding and am using the weekends for family events. So, the weeds and chores pile up. Early Blight took 1 plant. I won't be growing that again. Sorry Aunt Gertie's Gold.

Pictures are fun. Here is what I got out of the garden this morning. Zuke bread and cucumber salads are the  plan.

Zuke, cukes, Bonnie Best, Delicious, Whopper, Black Cherry, Florida Basket Tomatoes.
Sweet Banana Peppers and Jalapenos

Never Got the Beans In: Busch Garden Flowers

Well, I haven't put the beans in. I plan on using this weekend to clean up the garden. I went to Busch Gardens. Here are some of the flowers. I usually take container garden pictures from these type of places. There just wasn't that much that impressed me, if any.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bush Beans: 55 days of Warmth?

You have about 5 days to decide if you want to get another round of bush beans in the ground. They take about 55 days to mature and continue to produce thereafter. You will have the heat of August to establish the plant. September does cool down but if we avoid a freak frost, the beans should be fine.

I will be removing my beets, kholrabi, and some determinate tomatoes. Bush beans will be a crop that goes in. I have only planted green beans later in the season but might try a few other different varieties. If my timing was perfect, I would have gotten the beans in last week. But that is life.

They need the heat to germinate and grow. We have that. Keep in mind we are hoping September keeps the night in the fifties or hotter.

TIP: Soak your bean seeds about 6-8 hours before planting. This will save you many days toward plant maturity. They will germinate much more quickly vs. waiting to absorb water and swell from the garden.

A Perspective on Time

Not everything that comes out of the garden is vegetables. Sometimes it is inspiration or a thought. Sometimes poetry, good or bad. Often we see time as a line. I think it is more circular. Like the seasons. So while you are weeding and combating pests, take the time to think. Who knows what you will come up with.

A Perspective on Time

If  I were measured in bloom,
my age would still progress.
The count would hold color and fragrance,
and time would be meaningless.

The snow would fall and the rains would come,
and Spring would again arrive.
If I were measured in bloom,
my soul would always thrive.

Copyright July 2010 Gary Pilarchik

Do It Yourself Wedding Planning

Do It Yourself Wedding Planning
Guest post written by Denise Burks

I decided to plan my own wedding after being unsatisfied with my wedding planner. I knew what I wanted so I decided to start searching online with satellite internet. My search was made easy with my hughs satellite internet AKconnection. I was overwhelmed with how many results I was able to find on local churches, receptions areas and florists that were a few minutes from my home.

Though I was a bit disappointed that I could not book my initial reception hall I was able to book my second choice through their easy reservation form. I found it incredibly useful being able to show my florist my flower selections with a simple email attachment. I kept in contact with each of my bridesmaids through instant messenger and planned my honeymoon online as well, which included a six-night seven day stay in Hawaii.

The hotel gave us a special wedding rate as well. I never felt so productive planning anything in my life. I especially liked that I could order all of my accessories and invitations online and could even get special discounted rates for ordering in bulk. When I had my planner the stores she took me to had limited supplies and I would have to wait for them to be ordered and for them to arrive at the location. I did not have that problem doing it on my own.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Radishes and Cool Weather Planting

Radishes are fast growing vegetables that prefer the cool weather. Heat makes the grow too quickly. The root won't develop adequately in the heat. It tends to be small and woody. The leaves will take off to flower and turn to seed. We have time in Maryland to do several planting of radishes in mid August and September and even October. They have some resistance to frost. Timing is the key. You probably can get away with early August planting if you use shade to your benefit.

Radishes take about 28 days to 45 days to mature depending on the variety. If they aren't plump by the time the mature date comes, pull them. Rarely, will a radish that fails to mature by maturity date, mature at a future date. Right? If it's not ready about a week after the maturity date, just yank it.

Some favorite varieties of radishes that mature quickly. The seeds you buy in the Fall will be fine for Spring planting also.

The Cherry Belle is listed as 24 days to maturity. Your best bet is to plant it mid August, first week of September, middle of September, and first week of October. You could even try mid October if you feel lucky.

The French Breakfast is a classic. It is another 25 day, early maturing radish. I have the best luck with these. Planting is the same as the Cherry Belle.

Some different varieties if you are interested in color, taste and uniqueness.