Quick Tip & Plants – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In November, I shared a post relating how I was growing a staghorn fern on my living room wall. In the four months since the post,  the staghorn fern has thrived…this is the good!

To best care for the fern, and other plants, I allow tap water twenty-four hours sitting time before I use it to water houseplants. To store the water, I use rinsed out gallon milk jugs. This also allows me to have several gallons of water on hand  in case of emergency situations. Long story short, recently I grabbed a gallon and watered my fern. Horrors! I immediately saw bubbling in the water and realized I had accidentally watered with the dishwashing detergent and water mix I use to clean milk away from the sides of the jugs…this was the bad!

Dollar store purchases came to the rescue: a dishpan with a plate drying rack placed inside. These two inexpensive pieces make watering plants an easier job. I have many plants, large and small, and know the quickest way to kill them is to let their bottoms sit in excess water. When I water the dishpan catches the water run off, and the dish rack holds even the heaviest potted tree free from the bottom of the pan. The two pieces become quite soiled…this is the ugly.

So how does this quick tip end up in the same post as my staghorn fern? Well, my plant watering system allowed me to place the fern on the dishrack and pour two gallons of clean water through the soil. I almost think the whole ordeal did the fern good, it looks better than ever.

If you have a lot of houseplants try this system. It will save you hours of aggravation and also keep your plants from succumbing to soil that is too wet.

Plants – Sweet Peas and the Farmer’s Almanac

I’ve grown sweet peas many times here in NJ. I’ve been successful starting them indoors and out, but I have found that even if I plant varieties that claim to be perennial, the plants behave like an annual for me and rarely grow a second year.

This year, I soaked the seeds overnight, dug a trench around an already established trellis, and planted all the seeds in the ground. The seeds are covered now, but I have not filled in the trench. As the plants grow, I will gradually cover the bottom of the growth with more soil. This will help the roots stay cool and hopefully give the sweet peas more endurance to withstand New Jersey’s high summer heat and humidity.

Great tips for growing sweet peas can be found in the online version of the Farmer’s Almanac: Growing Sweet Peas

I picked up a pack of chiles for a great price in Aldi this week. They are a great asset to my gardens.

Scattering a few chiles around newly planted seeds might deter a squirrel or chipmunk intent on finding acorns or sunflower seeds.

Plants & Pets – The Accidental Garden

I grow quite a few garden plants from seed at this time of year. This makes space in front of sunny windows the go-to spot when my light table is covered with sprouts. Quite a few of my larger plants have ended up grouped in a spare room for a month or two. Without planning to, I created an accidental garden.

Hans, one of our cats, likes hanging out in the accidental garden too.  At first, I didn’t know he was there, and then I felt eyes watching me. Surprise!

Pheathers – Nesting Materials

Birds are beginning to forage for nesting material in our yard. My grandsons helped me fill a suet feeder with bits and pieces that the birds might like to use for lining their nests. We were careful to use string that was cut very short. I’ve read a recommendation of no more than six inches long, but we halved that to three inches to be sure baby birds would not become tangled.

At first we added some colorful feathers in hopes of spotting them within the nests, but then I had second thoughts about the dye they might contain.

Sure enough, when we soaked a feather the water soon was tinted with excess dye. We pulled out all the dyed feathers and only used natural feathers with no color added.

Other items we added were dry grasses cut short, shredded cocoa liner, cotton clothesline casings, bits of tightly-woven nylon netting, and some moss.

We hung our finished project alongside the bird feeder. I saw a bird land and take a look by the end of the day. Hmmm…looking at that nylon netting I’m imagining baby bird feet getting stuck. I think I’m going to take the whole contraption down and remove the netting…just in case.

Phlowers – Welcome Spring

“God is an artist of Nature;
He paints in colors, so rare,
The bursting bud in the Springtime,
The lovely trees everywhere.”
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham



“Nature’s beautiful dancers — flowers, water, leaves
Dancing to the music of God’s sweet breeze.”
~Terri Guillemets

“Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.”
~William Wordsworth

Pheathers – Goats and a Goose

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Winter is getting long. Spring arrives on Monday, but the forecast is still cold. Today we took a drive to one of our favorite farm and feed stores. On the way home we entered our town from a route we hadn’t been on in quite a while. We were surprised to find ourselves passing a rather large gathering of goats on a small farm. The goats seemed to be watched over by one lone goose. I’ve heard geese are good at guarding property. Hmmm…what about that pesky groundhog and his little buddy that always devastate my garden? What about those cute bunnies that chomp down my flowers? Would a goose be a good idea? Now is the time to decide as geese are available through mail order. Any thoughts from my blogging friends? Has anyone raised as goose as a pet/watchgoose? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Pheathers – Frosty Sunbathing

Betwixt and between the snowstorm and the beginning of the melt, was an enchanted period of ice-bejeweled landscapes and sunshine. The birds, exhausted after battling the wind and precipitation for food and foothold, seemed to find a few moments rest amid the glimmer, or should I say glamour, of icy diamonds.

In the past robins were one of the harbingers of Spring, but I see them all through the year now. I wonder if this one is scolding himself for not flying to warmer states.

The mourning dove seems to be resigned to waiting out the bad weather.

A gorgeous lady cardinal surveys the bird feeders atop her perch of pine.

Wow! The brilliant sunshine showed off this grackle’s bluish hood. What a handsome gent. I’m going to name him as my answer to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge of a view from the side. When we picture birds in our mind, it is usually their side view we imagine.

This grackle is beautiful both ways.

Quick Tip – Cleaning Vintage Needlework

I’m awed by the patience and skill it takes to create a doily. It has quickly become a lost art in most of the world. Twenty years ago, give or take a bit, when I was more ambitious, I crocheted two easy doilies. They took a lot of time, and if I remember correctly, several times I had to unravel a mistake and try again. I’ve walked by doilies at yard sales and thrift stores with hardly a glance in recent years. Doilies have fallen out of fashion in today’s decorating. I think I am going to reconsider that decision and start to buy some of the exquisite work now and then. Just like old postcards I like to hold them in my hands and imagine the life of the needlework artist.

This doily of mine recently became soiled. The stain lifted right out when I soaked it in warm water with a little Dawn detergent and peroxide. After soaking, you must block the doily back into shape by gently smoothing/pulling it and drying flat.

I came across a few recipes for cleaning vintage pieces of needlework. If you have a stained heirloom, perhaps one will work for you: Cleaning Old Doilies

Photograph – Brrrrrr….

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Definitely a day to stay indoors. We lost electricity for an hour, it’s back on, but I wonder for how long. I’m posting quickly while I still have Internet access. The snow turned to rain as predicted, but it’s changing over once again to ice; I hear it pelting my windows. The wind is turning my pine trees into storm dancers. They move so gracefully in the driving wind. Hopefully our electrical lines will hold and I’ll be back with a post tomorrow.

Plans – Snow on the Way

I listened to the weather report this morning and know Chicago is experiencing snow. Their weather system will soon head our way and meet up with another big storm moving up the coast line creating a powerful Nor’easter. Snow is on the way.

The forsythia bursting into bloom just a few days ago has bowed its yellow blossoms in defeat, closing their cuplike petals against the cold and coming precipitation.

Only a few days ago I walked the neighborhood sidewalks with my grand-daughters, searching for periwinkles in bloom. We found a few, but now those brave little flowers will soon be buried under inches of snow. No one wants to experience a record-setting snowstorm so close to Spring. My wish is for just a few inches of the beautiful white stuff and then glorious sunshine prompting a quick meltaway.

The daffodils look like they know what is coming and have already given up. Later on, I’ll go out and once again cut anything that is blooming, rather than leaving pretty flowers outdoors to languish under the snow.

Photograph – Skywatch Friday – Eerie Skyscape

I was outside on my front lawn last night, camera pointed toward the sky. I haven’t taken part in Skywatch Friday for quite a while. Last night’s sky was the perfect opportunity to create a post. The eerie sky was the forerunner of a winter storm. A chilly mix is falling even as I write these words…rain mixed with snow. I went outside before breakfast, dressed in my nightclothes,  and picked a big bouquet of daffodils; I wasn’t willing to allow all the beautiful yellow blooms to be crushed beneath the weight of falling snow.

Planting – Repost/Sowing Small Seeds

I repost this technique for sowing smaller garden seeds each year. There is little waste or thinning out with this method. The sprouts do not develop damping-off disease. My only change from previous years is sowing in the bottoms of gallon milk cartons. I easily made four holes in the bottom of each with a paring knife thrust through the bottom first, then a large pair of scissors inserted in the cut and twisted…Voila, a perfect drainage hole.

These seedlings only have one to two pairs of true leaves and already the colors and leaf shapes are unique. As they grow the colors will develop even further; I have high hopes for the best crop of coleus ever. Updates will follow throughout the growing season.

Here is the technique I use to plant coleus and other small seeds:
This method of planting might seem tedious, but I have tried many ways of sowing tiny seeds and feel this is the very best. I wish I could remember where I first heard of the process so I could give the proper source credit for the idea.

I sow small seeds sparingly using the sharpened point of a pencil. I dip the pencil point into water and touch it to one seed. The dampness grabs hold of the seed. I then touch the seed to the wet seed starter mix in the flat, and the seed adheres to the wet soil. I repeat this process between sixty and seventy times per flat.

I use wire garbage bag ties, marked in segments with magic marker, to guide me in the placement of the seeds.

After I sow a row of seeds I remove the wire guide so I don’t double sow a row.

The next step is a gentle, all-over spray of water to seal the seeds to the wet soil.

I then cover the flat with the lid. It is gratifying to see it instantly steam up with warmth and humidity.

I have good luck with the sprouting by placing the planted flat of coleus seed on top of my refrigerator or near, but not on, a heating vent.

This method works well for all small seeds.

Quick Tip – Eggshells in the Garden

Yesterday’s post was lovely, today I’m going to sling around a little dirt. I cooked up a batch of red beet eggs and had over a dozen egg peelings left over. I decided to add them to my Square Foot Gardens for a calcium boost. I whirled the egg shells in the blender with some water, but decided next time to use the food processor. When I poured the water off, all the shells were stuck around the blade at the bottom of the blender. The food processor would have given me a dry powder, easier to sprinkle on the garden. I made another mistake, I poured the water down the drain. GrowVeg.com has a great article on using eggshells for plants: Using Eggshells in the Garden. I’m going to start saving all my boiled egg water for houseplants.

Mistakes aside, I worked what I had into a section of the garden with a trowel.

In the next few days I’ll add a bit of organic garden soil, water it in, and then next week, near St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll plant some garden peas. Spring is definitely on the horizon.