Planting & Project – Terrarium in Photos

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I chose a thrift store vase for this project. The bottom is heavy, a good choice since this will keep the terrarium from easily flipping over.

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A layer of pebbles…

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A layer of charcoal…

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A layer of potting soil…

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Moss and small garden cress plant dug up from outdoors…

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I rolled the sheet of moss into a tube to slip into the slender neck of the vase…

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A pencil tamped the plants in place…

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A bit of water from a slender tipped nozzle…a few seeds of alyssum…

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And a beautiful Block Island stone with a stripe running through it…magical! This post will be continued next week with a surprise upcycled stopper for the terrarium top.

Planting – Friday Firsts/First Seed Packets of 2017

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The seed racks are out in stores. Hooray! I picked out three packets to sow this weekend. Each of these varieties need a lot of grow time to reach a size that will thrive outdoors.

I will soak all of these seeds in water for a few hours before I sow them. The violas/pansy/johnny-jump-ups needs darkness to sprout. I’m going to cut down a outdoor garbage bag to cover the container. I’ll update as the seeds progress. The weekend is coming, take some time to browse through the seed racks and dream of Spring.

Planting – Motivated on Monday/Sprouts & Microgreens

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Winter arrived Saturday night here in southern New Jersey. We had watched the forecasts, knew she was barreling toward us, and sure enough we heard the knock of her wind right before we went to bed. Sunday morning dawned cold and blustery. Our mailbox was a casualty, knocked off our porch, we found it on the neighbor’s front lawn.

Gardeners, like me, are probably mourning the end of the season. The good news is the first of the seed catalogs has already arrived at my house. At this time of year, I also appreciate my sprout and micro-green seeds. The nutrient-packed food they produce is not only good for my body, but an excellent remedy for the grief the gardener in me feels when outdoor planting and harvesting comes to an end.

If you have leftover vegetable seeds from the garden, many of them can be grown as microgreens.

Planting – A Salute to Garden Volunteers

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Anyone who has read my blog over a period of time knows that I love the garden plants that spring up as volunteers. I found a few volunteer tomato sprouts amongst my roses and blue lobelia this week. (The sprout in this post  stands to the left of the larger plant in the photograph) My best guess as to the original location of the seed was soil I used this year in my winter sowing .

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Happily for me, an empty spot in my Square Foot Garden was the perfect fit for my volunteer.  I dug up the sprout, transported it on my trowel, and planted. It’s a mystery as to the variety, and that makes it all the more fun. Oh the gardening life…what a joy!

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Planting – Sprinkle and Step Wildflower Garden

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In the Spring of 2015 I sowed several packets of wildflowers in my garden beds. They performed well, and I enjoyed the surprise of seeing well-known and less common varieties of flowers grow and blossom. The biggest surprise are the biennials and perennials that returned this year. Oh the joy of seeing an unknown plant grow, bud and blossom into this lovely cantaloupe-hued flower. Even better, the scent of these Wallflowers (Erysimum cheiri) is sublime.

Wildflower packets run the gamut of price points, from 25 cents in dollar stores, to near $10.00 for a large box with shreds of colorful mulch included for easy and even sowing. I’m enchanted by my wildflower garden and bought a few more packets to add to it this year.

My method of sowing wildflowers starts with roughing up the garden soil with a trowel. If needed, I work in a bit of fresh soil, then I SPRINKLE the seed and STEP gently over the entire area. A light spray of water helps the seed stay in place. In a few weeks new wildflower plants will be my reward.

Planting – Butterfly Garden Host Plant – Dill

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In the Spring, garden seed racks are available in almost every store I shop in. It’s hard to resist taking a moment to look over their display in search of something new. I’ve noticed almost every seed company offers a packet of mixed flowers that will draw butterflies. I enjoy growing flowers for butterflies and find zinnias are a favorite of the delicate winged creatures.

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An additional way of bringing butterflies into your yard is to grow the plant/plants they use as a host for their offspring. Dill is one of the best for attracting swallowtail butterflies to your yard. Dill is  readily available as a plant or seed in most garden centers.

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Dill is easy to grow and a good choice for a child’s garden. The yellow flowers resemble a burst a fireworks, and the seeds they develop can be collected for cooking. The fern-like foliage is  a perfect addition to many recipes. I sow dill seeds directly in the garden beds, and also start it indoors for quicker blooms. Give dill a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Planting – Avocado Pits – Again???

A few years ago I grew an avocado tree from a pit I saved. The pit sprouted, grew, seemed to thrive, and then abruptly succumbed to an unknown ailment. The Crash and Burn of My Avocado Pit Project

Recently, while talking with a blogging friend, Susie, of the SusieShy45 Blog, we both agreed  to attempt growing  an avocado pit at the same time. We will be comparing notes on our progress through the comment section of this post. Please do join in if you eat avocados and want to give growing it a try. Add your thoughts and progress to the post in the comment section.

I have two pits saved, so I’m going to try growing them in two ways. For the first, I suspended the flat end (the rooting area) in water, and kept the pointed end (the sprouting area) above the water line. I placed my pit in a vase with a perfectly-sized opening to hold the pit. Another way is to suspend the pit with toothpicks inserted a quarter inch or so into the sides, and the bottom placed in a glass or jar of water.

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I planted my second pit in a pot with dirt, pointed end up. It will be a race to see which one sprouts first. Anyone else out there with an avocado pit, or a ripe avocado on hand??? Join in and let us know how your avocado grows.

Planting – Moonflower Seeds

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Last summer, I published a post on my Moonflower Vines. These night-blooming flowers glow in the soft light of the moon, all the while exuding a captivating fragrance.  I buy Moonflower seeds  off  the racks of big-box stores, but I deviated from my norm this year and bought a packet at Longwood Gardens.

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Renee’s Garden is a trusted brand of seeds.

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I appreciate the fact that each packet states the seeds are, “Not treated or genetically engineered.” Renee’s Garden also offers advice on their blog: Renee’s Blog

I soaked the seeds overnight as per directions on packet, and planted them in recycled yogurt containers. (Some gardeners also nick the outer shell of the large seed.) I filled each cup with organic potting soil in bottom half,  seed starter mix as top layer. I placed these in an empty plastic container, set it beside my heating vent, and in less than a week…

SPROUTS!!!

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Oh the JOY of gardening from seed! I started these Moonflower vines much earlier than recommended. This is due to my experience with them; they are very slow-growing  for a few weeks. I’m hoping to enjoy my Moonflowers blossoms by  late May. Happy Gardening!

How to Grow A Moonflower Vine Indoors.

Planting – Looking Ahead/Creating a Garden Bed

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The removal of our large oak tree has broadened the area of sunshine in the back yard. I want to expand my herb garden in the Spring. Now is the time to take action to clear away the grass. I placed some packing paper( black and white newspaper works fine too) on the ground in the shape I want, and covered it over with a few inches of garden soil. The grass, shielded from the sunlight, will yellow and begin to decompose into the soil. If there are any remains of the lawn when I am ready to plant my garden, I can easily turn the sod over with a shovel or garden rake.

Plants – Garden Update/Straw Bale Tomato Garden

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I posted in the Spring on “Planting Straw Bales” with tomato plants. The technique has been more successful that I had even hoped. The tomato plants are soaring above my head and loaded with tomatoes of all types. Thus far, I have harvested many grape tomatoes, but so has the neighborhood chipmunk. Growl….

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These little guys are adorable until they are ravaging your garden beds or digging dens under your concrete foundations and porches. One of the chipmunk gang in our yard has learned how to raid my suet cage and bird feeders. Double Growl…

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I sprinkled chile powder in the chipmunks favorite dining area, but he just brushed it away and kept on feasting. Triple Growl…

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One mistake I made with the Straw Bale Garden was placing the bales onto palettes instead of on newspaper. The palettes did keep the area neat at the start, but as the bales have decomposed they have sunk to low levels. I am hoping that somehow the roots of the tomatoes will find their way into the gaps of the palette and reach the ground underneath. I will update again further along in the season.

Planting – Pond Plants and the Great Tic Tac Upcycle

Creeping Jenny Groundcover with Violets
Creeping Jenny Groundcover with Violets

On a trip to a local garden nursery I noticed pond plants set aside for sale. I was surprised to see Creeping Jenny, a groundcover I grow, being sold as a pond plant. This is a great little plant. My initial purchase of one pot for about $3.99 a few years ago has spread by itself, and by my design, into several areas in my yard. I was immediately inspired to try and adapt a few sprigs of my Creeping Jenny into a pond-worthy plant.

First, I tried planting several stems in a pot with sand and rocks. No success! The fish promptly tugged the Creeping Jenny out of its moorings. I realized I needed a way to contain the roots that would be fish proof. I decided to try growing the Jenny hydroponically, not using any soil at all. The new dilemma in my pond project was how to contain the roots. I knew that if I put the Jenny in the water the fish would nibble away at the roots and the strands would separate into a scraggly mess.

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I looked around the house for inspiration and my eyes alighted on a Tic Tac container. Hmmm—if I cut the bottom of the container off would it hold the roots but still allow water to circulate and bring nutrients to the plant? Yes, it was worth a try. I cut away the bottom and also removed the white dispenser from the other end. (scissors and/or a box cutter will work)

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The next step was to wash all dirt and debris off the roots of the Creeping Jenny and twist a rubber band around them as tightly as I was able. When this was done I squeezed the sides of theTic Tac container and the top opened up into a circular shape. After I placed the roots into the container, I let go of the sides, and the Tic Tac box snapped back into shape holding the banded roots tightly within the confines of the plastic, but still enabling water to flow in and out.

I placed all of this in the pond. It worked, the Creeping Jenny floated nicely, but the bottom of the Tic Tac box was visible and allowed the plant to float on its side rather than root downwards.

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To solve this problem I found the discarded dispenser top and placed a rock in the side without the hole. I pulled away the closure tab leaving an open hole for water circulation, I put this on the bottom of the Tic Tac container and placed it in the water once again.

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Success! The plant has been in my pond for two weeks and is thriving. I’ve been saving my Tic Tac containers to use in adapting a few more water-viable plants for my pond. Updates will follow.

Plants that are poisonous to Pond Fish & Amphibians
Houseplants that do well in aquariums and ponds

Planting – Creating a Beautiful Nook and Cranny

Oxalis
Oxalis

I am in the process of moving my houseplants outdoors to yard, patio and screened-in porch for the summertime. One of my favorite “vacation” locations for a plant is within the crabapple where the tree trunk branches off into three separate limbs. The split forms a delightful little nook and cranny, a perfect spot to set a potted plant.

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To help the plant stand level I placed a rock from my flower bed border within the tree limbs. Voila`… A perfect shelf.

Projects & Planting – Yard Sale Makeovers

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I love going to yard sales in search of bargains and one-of-a-kind items. Last year, I bought a wiry bird feeder for a dollar. I had every intention of using it for the birds when I spotted it, but on arriving home, found a piece was missing. What to do? Toss it and declare the purchase a loss, or shelve it, and let ideas percolate. Well, near a year later, I put a plastic pot inside the wire, planted a few spider plantlets I rooted over the winter, and “Wow!” I love my new planter hanging in the pine.

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Another example is this decorative bird house I found a few years ago for just a quarter. It sat on my front steps for two years, but during the winter lost most of its roof. Ragged, but still sturdy, I decided to update the bird house with some Johnny-Jump-Ups. I LOVE IT! It sits in a bed of  ivy under the pine tree. Better yet, I can snip off a flower now and then for pressing. Think “makeover” before you toss out the accumulating junk we all seem to collect.  Look around your garage, basement and attic for “trashy” items you can update for the garden. Fun!

Planting – Straw Bales

This week, in hopes of purchasing some straw bales, my sister and I drove in her flatbed truck to a local feed store. The price was right, about six dollars a bale; I bought four. I plan to grow tomatoes in the bales.

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Please excuse the quality of this photograph. I realized before I published this blog post I had forgotten to take an accompanying photograph…so…long story short…ran outside in the dawn hours, tried not to slip on the rain-soaked grass, and took this photo. 🙂

Instead of placing the bales on newspaper, we opted to use wooden palettes to keep them off of the ground. The palettes add a little extra height. I’m thinking of growing the tomatoes without support, letting them cascade instead over the straw.

Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales

I would love to hear from anyone who is trying this gardening technique. We can compare notes!

Planting – Dahlia Tubers

Dinnerplate Dahlia Tubers
Dinnerplate Dahlia Tubers

I often grow common dahlias from seed. They reach a height of twenty-four inches and bloom in August when grown in this manner. Dahlias are great for late-season color in pots and borders.

The larger dahlias, often called the dinner-plate variety, are best grown from tubers. These are available for purchase in almost all of the larger warehouse stores and garden centers. The tubers are placed in the ground, and bloom late in the season. The best luck I ever had with the larger dahlias was the year I bought a pre-planted tuber from a local nursery. This year I decided to start a few dahlias in pots to get a jumpstart on their blooming time.

Dahlia tuber with sprout
Dahlia tuber with sprout

Before I purchase a package of dahlia tubers I check to see that at least a few sprouts are visible. If there is no sign of life, I don’t buy the package.

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Dahlia tubers with buds

When I open the package I check to see that all the tubers are firm. Each should have a few purple buds showing, and hopefully some green shoots.

Dahlia tubers potted up.
Dahlia tubers potted up.

I found six good tubers in my package. Instead of planting each in a separate six-inch pot, I planted all the tubers in one ten inch pot. When the tubers begin to thrive and grow steadily, I will replant each in a separate pot. When all danger of frost is gone I will plant them outdoors. Hopefully, the early start will mean early blooming. I will update their progress in a few weeks.

Planting – Sweetpeas

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I’ve planted sweetpeas quite often over the years, but I have never been wildly successful. I manage to grow them, and love their sweet fragrance and pastel colors, but the vines have never been lush and produced as many blossoms as I have wished. Who knew I was supposed to be pinching the sprouts as they grew? How did I miss this tip? I certainly pinch out most seedlings to force branching; why didn’t I realize I should do the same with my vines?

I found a good explanation of why you should pinch sweetpeas quite by accident while browsing blogs and garden sites. Why Should I Pinch Sweet Peas?


“Pinch sweet peas for the first time when you set nursery plants out in spring. If you plant sweet pea seeds, make the first pinch when the seedlings are about 4 inches tall. Thereafter, pinch the vines throughout the season, whenever you think the plant will benefit from more bushiness or when the vines begin to look long and leggy or untidy.

The first pinching is most important, because early pinching directs the sweet pea’s energy to the development of strong roots, resulting in a healthy plant that is resistant to disease and pests. Pinching also forces the plant to branch out, creating a full, bushy, compact plant rather than a long, leggy plant. Each pinched vine displays new lateral growth.” ~ SFGATE

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I usually soak my sweetpeas for twenty-four hours before I sow them. This year I am planning on using the winter-sowing technique for my sweetpeas. Updates will follow.

Plantings – Winter Sowing

I am re-blogging a few of my “Winter-Sowing” posts. If you live in an area where winters are cold, winter sowing is for you. If you plant viable seeds and follow the directions, you will find success!

Winter Sowing is an easy way to start your own transplants.

Winter Sowing is the process of planting hardy and half-hardy seeds in clear or translucent containers (milk cartons or kitty litter jugs) The containers are sealed with duct tape and placed outdoors in the winter weather. This method of sowing seeds has been attributed to Trudi Davidoff.

Over the next week or two I hope to Winter Sow more of my perennial seeds, and later in the season some of my vegetables, annuals and herbs. A good source of information and discussion about Winter Sowing can be found on the Gardenweb Winter Sowing Forum.

STEPS FOR WINTER SOWING (My own technique, might differ slightly from how others winter sow.)
1. Poke holes in the bottom of your container with a sharp tool or a hot screw driver. A soldering iron works too, but most folks don’t have one.
2. Cut the container in half, leaving a small tab to keep the two halves connected.
3. Add an inch of potting soil, add about two inches of seed starting mixture to top of soil. Moisten all, let water run out the bottom. Plant seeds. Label the outside of the container with permanent marker. You might need to go back over the labeling before planting time. Even a permanent marker fades in the sunshine.
4. Tape two halves together with duct tape.
5. Place outdoors in a sunny spot. DO NOT KEEP CAP ON TOP. The top needs to be left open for moisture.
6. Check periodically for sufficient moisture.
7. When temperatures warm up, open container in the daytime. Be very careful to check daily that the soil is moist after opening. Soil and seedlings dry out quickly.

PART II

I’ve added to my cache of winter sown containers. The warm springlike weather of the past weeks helped many seeds sprout. As they are HHA (Half Hardy Annuals) and cold tolerant vegetables, I’m not worried about the possible onset of colder temperatures through the next weeks. The plastic containers work as mini-greenhouses and protect the seedlings from frost. The cold will strengthen them and keep them from becoming leggy and outgrowing their containers. I’ve had a lot of fun with this project. I also set aside a portion of each type of seed so that in the event that some of the containers fail I will have a back-up.

A view of some of the sprouts inside their containers. The above photos show my recycled orange juice bottles. These mini-greenhouses are light in weight. To windproof them I wedge them in amongst the heavier milk jugs. (I don’t use small containers anymore, they dry out too quickly. I try to use gallon-sized or larger containers.)

A bird’s-eye-view through the top of a milk jug. The seedlings inside are asters.

Two of my mini-greenhouses had indications of the dirt drying out. I placed these inside a plastic shoebox filled with water, a perfect fit, and let them soak up a little moisture through the drainage holes in the bottom. This worked and within a half hour they were watered.

PART III

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Poppies! I LOVE poppies, but I have some problems with poppies too. Number one on my list of loves is the way poppies develop big, luscious looking pods. When the pods begin to widen and split to reveal the color of the flower inside, honestly, I must admit I run out into the yard several times a day to see if the silken petals have opened. There is something magical in the wispy crown in the center of each flower too. Often there will be a splotch or two of contrasting color at the base of each petal. The foliage of many poppy plants glows in beautiful bluish green tones. Yes…I LOVE poppies.

One of the major drawbacks of poppies, at least in my opinion, is how hard it is to grow them from seed. For years I followed the advice on the back of the packets and on the pages of reliable gardening books and sowed them directly in the ground. This NEVER worked for me. Heavy spring rains ALWAYS washed my poppy seeds away before they could sprout. If they did grow, the delicate small seedlings would be beat into the ground by that same rain. The “experts” say poppies don’t transplant well. I agree if they are grown in the house, but I have found a way to get a head start on poppies and that method is winter sowing.

I am also including a post that shows the results of my winter sown poppies: Poppies

If you want to grow poppies this year, and have a milk carton or two on hand, give winter-sowing a try. It only takes a few minutes to create a miniature greenhouse to place outside in the sunshine. Happy Gardening!

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Plantings – Manic Monday Update

This post is definitely a bit later than most. I have a good excuse. I live in New Jersey and already the snowflakes are falling, only the beginning of what they are saying could be a record-breaking snowfall. Hopefully, we will get only about a foot of the white stuff. Are you gasping in disbelief? Only a foot! Am I crazy? No, I’m just glad I don’t live further north where they are forecasting near thirty inches will fall before the blizzard is over. When you compare twelve inches to thirty, twelve certainly seems better!

I was one of those crazy people who drove to the Supermarket at 8:00 this morning. I have a gallon of milk, I have bread in the freezer, but wouldn’t you know it, I needed cat food and the orange juice bottle was empty. I ventured out. In the rush of the crowds, comparable to the eve of a major holiday, wouldn’t you know it, I forgot eggs. Grrrrr….

Anyway, it’s a good day for a quick update on my recent plantings. All are doing exceptionally well. The Heavenly Blue Morning Glories sprouted in less than a week. Hooray! If you look closely at the picture you can see I have a “sport.” One sprout a little different than the others. I will definitely keep this one growing. Who knows? It might turn out to the best morning glory ever grown. I can hope!

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Some of the coleus seeds have sprouted too. They grow slowly. It will be weeks before there is a hint of color in the leaves.

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The Meyer Lemon Sprouts are still erupting from the soil. As of now, I have eleven sprouts, but there are a least two more seeds ready to burst into leaf. O Happy Day!

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Planting – Heavenly Blue Morning Glory

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The 2015 seed displays are in place in many garden centers and box stores. The first packet I purchased was Heavenly Blue Morning Glory. I love morning glories; I have grown them every year for as long as I have gardened.

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Photograph courtesy of Flicker and Charles Lam

I plant dozens of morning glory seeds around my front porch. Each year they start off great, develop oodles of buds, and DO burst into bloom, but…they also draw Golden Tortoise Beetles that decimate the leaves, turning all the foliage into shreds. I use only natural pesticides, and since this pest dines on the underside of the hundreds of leaves, it is impossible to handpick them.

Some people think the golden tortoise beetle so beautiful; they don’t mind the bug eating their plants. That might be fine if my main morning glory display was in the back yard, but the vines twine around my front porch. This year, I don’t want to cultivate the swiss cheese effect again. Instead, I’ve decided to grow my beautiful Heavenly Blue Morning Glories in the house this year, and allow them to twine themselves around my sunniest window frames.

The first step in growing morning glories is to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. The next day, drain the water away. You will notice their hard shell has split and they are double in size.

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I prepared the plastic pots for planting by placing a coffee filter in the bottom to keep the dirt from spilling out.

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In the bottom 3/4 of the pot place regular potting soil, for the top 1/4 use seed starting soil. This technique gives the seed a good medium for starting, but also provides more nourishment when the roots extend into the soil. This enables the seeds to grow for several weeks without the need to repot several times.

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When the seeds are sown cover them with a plastic bag. The bag acts as a small greenhouse. Place the pots near a heating vent or on the top of your fridge. I will update the progress of mine as they grow.

Pleasures & Planting – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog

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My all-time favorite seed catalog has arrived. There is no mistake that I photographed the catalog on top of pillows and an afghan; this is the perfect entertainment for a cold night. The long, dark evenings of Winter pass quickly when you curl up in a comfy chair and dream of what you will plant come Spring. Baker Street Heirloom Seeds is a 350+ page masterpiece of seed offerings, how-to articles, history and gorgeous photographs. I purchased this version of the catalog. You can also order a 200+ page free version, but it does not have the articles and tips contained in the larger version.

Baker Creek Heirloom Website is definitely the first site you should visit if you order your seeds online. Happy Gardening!