How to Water The Garden

How to water gardens may seem like a “duh” comment, but if plants are watered too much, too little, or at the wrong time they can be damaged, stressed, or killed.

Best Times to Water – The best times to water are in the morning before the sun gets too hot, or in the evening when the sun is going down. In the heat of the day, water can evaporate quickly and the plant doesn’t benefit from the water you give it. You may need to water some plants twice a day in very hot dry weather.

How Much to Water –  Too much water can smother the plant and too little will dry it up and it will eventually die.  Most plants thrive with at least one inch of water per square foot each week, but there are just too many interpretations as to what this actually come to in gallons. You need to know your plants and how much water it takes to keep them vibrant and happy. Do not water by spraying leaves from overhead when the sun is high and hot, it can burn the leaves.

Water by Counting – I use a very non-scientific method to determine how much water I need to give each plant or pot. I count while applying the water. Turn on the water, put the sprayer near the base of the plant and count until you think you’ve watered enough, probably a slow count of somewhere between 10 and 20, or whatever works for your plant or pot. When experimenting with the right count for most plants, you can use a meter to measure the water in the plants roots before and after you water. This will help you determine the correct count. This method works with watering cans also.

Using a Soaker Hose – This is a great way to water and a time-saver also. You can lay the soaker hose around plants or thread it through the beds. Most soaker hoses will water a width of about 18 inches, so use that figure to determine how far apart to lay the hose. You can also splice in regular hose to avoid watering areas with no plants such as between beds or the distance from the water source to the watering area. Start with running water through for an hour and test how deep the water goes.

Different Plants Have Different Needs – Some plants like lettuce or roses need more water and plants like sedums need less. You will learn what works best for the plants you grow by how the plants respond. Droopy leaves say, “Help, I need a drink”.  Even though most plants will recover with a good watering, it puts a lot of stress on them to allow them to get to this stage. So, experiment and learn what your plants need.

Storing the Garden Hose

Garden hoses are the most awkward, twisty, annoying things ever made, but they are also a necessity, so let’s look at some ways to store them that will keep them close to where we want them, but keep them curled up and off the lawn.

Hose House – One of the easiest things I think I have used is a small box with a handle on the side, a hose connection and drain hose outside, and a wheel inside that runs on the water trapped in the hose when you turn off the water. You hook up a hose at the spigot then hook the other end to the box. You initially wind the new hose onto the wheel with the handle, then when you turn the water on and pull the hose out to use, all you have to do is give the hose a short tug when you’re ready to put It away and the water in it pulls it back into the box and onto the wheel.

Hose Cart – This handy cart is similar to the Hose House, but you have to use the handle to crank the hose back onto the wheel after using. The hose cart is an actual cart that you can move around. You attach one end of the hose to the spigot then the other end to the cart so water flows into the longer hose you have wound on the wheel. This one is convenient because you can move it around if you have a large area to water, but it too requires two hoses.

Hose Hanger – This little plastic or metal device hangs on the side of the building and you can wind the hose onto it and keep it off the lawn. It may take a little time to wind a 100 ft. hose onto the hanger, but it does keep it out of the way.

Hose Bowl – This can be a large galvanized tub, a wooden barrel, or a large flower pot. The idea is to wind the hose into the container to keep it out of sight and ready for use the next time. All you have to do is give it a tug and it should roll right out of the container.

Watering Trough – This type of hose holder looks good and hides the hose inside. One of these small four ft. troughs is inexpensive and will hold a very long hose.  You would need to put a few drainage holes in the bottom and put a couple of inches of rock in it and you are read to curl up your hose.

 

Learn More About Chenille and Shaggies

Chenille yarn was developed in the 1830s by weaving tufts of colored wool into a blanket that was cut into strips then heat treated to create the frizz. This fuzzy fabric was called chenille and was made into shawls and later carpets.

By the 1920s, a cottage industry took shape in Northern Georgia. Textile manufacturers sent out trucks of pattern stamped sheets and dyed chenille yarns to families for tufting then returned to collect the sheets for final processing.

In the 1930s, manufacturers were doing the tufting in factories and creating bedspreads, pillow shams, throws and mats. Later, when more centralized factory production began, the chenille yarns were made into clothing.

Today the chenille yarns are used for clothing, custom patches, names, numbers and letterman jackets. Chenille fabric made from 100% cotton is very soft and may have raised designs in the fabric, although other materials such as rayon, nylon, and polyester are used for different effects and weights of fabrics and products.

An ingenious designer, Janey Lynn Skekleton, inspired by her grandmother who made cleaning cloths from an old chenille bathrobe, used chenille fabric to create a line of products for the entire home.

In the kitchen, besides dish cloths, aprons with replaceable towels, trivets and dish towels, there is the Berry Best Veggie Sack that stores fresh fruit and produce and absorbs the ethylene gas that accelerates ripening.

In the bath and spa, luxuriate with mitts, soap sacs, and shower shaggies that come with a soap pocket and help eliminate dead skin cells.

Made from 100% Cotton Chenille and other materials, Shaggies come in megalicious colors and patterns like Orange Marmalade, Yum Yum Bubble Gum, Espresso, Cornbread, and more. Their soft thirsty surface holds 10 times its own weight and works on any surface for picking up messes, polishing surfaces, scrubbing pots, and dusting floors and furniture.

Ball Jars Are Not Just for Canning Anymore

Back in the day, when I saw Ball canning jars in the store, I just passed on by because I didn’t grow enough to can anything. My Aunt Marilyn used to can tomato juice that was to die for and I always wanted to try it but never grew enough tomatoes. This year, I have nine plants of various varieties and am definitely going to get into canning this year. Auntie has promised to give me her recipe.

I recently read an article in a health magazine about BPA (Bisphenol A, a toxic chemical) in plastics. Even though I always buy plastics that say they are BPA free, plastic is a pain to keep clean and the dishwasher makes them all cloudy. This article talked about using Ball canning jars for food storage and freezing. So, I tried it and it worked really well. Easy clean up too, just pop in the dishwasher for sparkling clean jars.

I’ve discovered other uses for canning jars too. Ball jars work great for storage in the bathroom, kitchen, craft room, laundry room and garage.

The original Mason jars were invented by John L. Mason in 1858. He subsequently sold his ideas to others. Charles William Ball and his brothers began making glass jars in 1886 and acquired smaller companies and mass-produced Ball jars and distributed them across the country. They sold the Ball jar part of their business to Alltrista Corporation (now Jarden Corp) and Jarden now makes most of the home canning jars made today including the Ball Jars and several other brands.

Ball jars come in many different sizes (from 4 oz to 1 gallon; regular and wide mouth), colors (clear and about 15 different colors), and textures (smooth, some with embedded symbols or textures in the glass, and some still have Mason embedded in the glass along with the Ball name).

Ball jars are great for canning and storage. And, they make special jars for freezing. I am throwing out all my plastic storage containers and stocking up on ball jars. Not only are they convenient to stack and store, they are a breeze to clean, and I can freeze things in them.

This year, if my tomato plants are prolific, I’m going to make and store catsup, marinara sauce, barbeque sauce, diced and whole tomatoes for soups and anything else I can think of.

Go get your supply now, you’ll love using them for canning, and storage all over the house.

Check Out the New Noodle Machine

There’s a recent trend in cutting vegetables to look like noodles, called Zoodles. They are most often used for making zucchini spirals for those who prefer their spaghetti noodles to be of the non-carb variety.

Tools

There are hand-held tools that you insert the zucchini into and twist and the spirals come out the end or the side, but probably the most efficient and time-saving is the spiralizer. This machine is not expensive, cranks by hand, and it sits on the counter with gripper feet. You can even buy an electric version if you have trouble turning the handle.

How To

You place your vegetable lengthwise between the crank and the holder and turn the crank. This peels off continuous lengths of spaghetti sized strings that curl. If you want circles, you can cut out the core of the vegetable before putting on the spiralizer, then you get circles. This makes quick and easy work of chopping raw vegetables.

Vegetables

Spiralizing is not limited to zucchini. Almost any raw vegetable can be cut this way and the model you select may have numerous blades for various widths spirals. Try any vegetable with a firm enough skin like beets, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, butternut squash or potatoes.

Recipes

Zoodles can be used in salads, with pasta or alfredo sauce and meat of your choice, in slaws, soups, and in the case of potatoes, can be roasted to form curly fries.

Toss starchy (potatoes, rutabaga, parsnip, peeled butternut squash) spirals with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Roast in 450-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until crisp done and lightly browned.

If you love Alfredo sauce, but can’t eat wheat noodles, try making your Alfredo with zucchini, summer squash, or potatoes.

 

Planting and Growing Strawberries

If you haven’t planted strawberries yet, you may still have time, especially if you plant Everbearing Strawberries which bear fruit all summer.

The key to success with any plant is the soil. Prepare your strawberry bed by mixing in a good amount of compost and turn it into the existing soil with a shovel to create a light, airy soil and raise the bed up just slightly from the surrounding soil.

If soil is too alkaline, add a little aluminum sulfate to bring the pH down. These plants will spread and put down roots wherever the vines touch the soil, so give them plenty of room to roam.

June bearing strawberries should be planted about 3 weeks before last frost, which means they should start bearing fruit in early June. However, if you can only find June bearing strawberry plants now, and you are willing to risk waiting for fruit, you can plant them now and see what happens.

Or you can plan ahead and plant June bearing strawberries in the fall for a 2018 crop.

Place plants at least 12 inches apart and 24 inches between rows. Mulch around plants with compost, straw, or chopped leaves.

In the fall, trim plants back to about 2-3 inches above ground and mulch 3-4 inches deep to protect them from winter snows and cold temperatures.

You may need to protect your crop from birds and small critters. One way is to use row covers, lightweight fabric that lets light and air through, or build a chicken wire or small gauge fence around and on top of the bed.  You can also buy bird netting that works well.

Choosing Grass Seed

If you plan to spread grass seed, there are a few considerations to explore in selecting which seed to use.

Kentucky Bluegrass – is recommended for Montana because of the hot summers and cold winters. It is a fine textured grass but is slow to germinate. It tolerates light shade and some drought. It is a good grass to use if the lawn gets a lot of use. It may go dormant and turn brown during times of drought and in winter.

Fine Fescue – this species includes creeping red, and hard fescue. They develop a deep root system and require less fertilizer. Often mixed with Kentucky Bluegrass. These are shorter grasses with medium germination time but good shade tolerance. Performs well where summers are too hot and winters too cold for other grasses. It likes to spread out and claim more territory rather than bunching together.

Buffalo Grass – this is a native grass that supported the Buffalos on the plains and provided sod for early settlers to build their houses. It tolerates extreme temperatures very well. It spreads by surface runners and forms a fine textured, somewhat thin turf with a soft blue-green color. It doesn’t work well for shade or heavy traffic areas. It is very drought tolerant and doesn’t mind heavy clay.

 

Need a New Grill? Which One Fits Your Needs?

Today there are exciting new developments in barbeque grills. Let’s explore some of the choices if you’re thinking of buying a new grill.

Charcoal Grill – maybe you just like to go into the backyard and fire up some charcoal briquets occasionally. If you don’t have charcoal or something to ignite it, you may have to run to the store before dinner. These grills are often small, bowl shaped pans with a lid and a small grill, limiting how much food you can cook at one time. They do, however, offer better flavor than a gas grill. Drawbacks include needing to keep them away from anything flammable and it takes time to get the fire up to temperature. But they work very well for the sometime griller.

Electric Grills – If it’s grill flavor you crave, the electric grill may not be for you as it provides the least flavor of the four grills here. It does have redeeming features though. It heats up quickly and doesn’t need any additional fuel, just plug it in. It also fits in small places like balconies or back stoops.

Gas Grills – This baby is what most people buy today, because it’s convenient, versatile, provides good flavor and heats very quickly. The gas grill comes with all kinds of additional conveniences like rotisserie kits, multiple burners and many other features.  There are some drawbacks here too, like needing to place them away from any structures and they can be clumsy to move around. Plus you have to use natural or bottled gas.  But, if you have plenty of space this grill may be for you.

Pellet Grills – If it’s a true hardwood flavor you love, then this grill is worth checking out. It burns hardwood pellets that come in lots of flavors. Pellet grills come in different designs from a capsule look to a smoker type with a chimney and there’s even a pig shaped grill. One advantage is that you can also use this grill as a smoker. The grill area is generous and the price is comparable to gas grills. This grill provides consistently even heat too. Depending on the model you select, just set the temperature and walk away.

Planting a Salsa Garden

If you like chips and salsa, hot or mild, or Mexican food, it’s great fun to have a garden plot right outside your kitchen door that contains all the ingredients for the best salsa. Fresh is always delicious and with these ingredients and a nifty food processor you can have salsa all the time and never spend much time making it.

Getting Started – Whether you build a raised bed or select a place in your garden, be sure to build in layers that will decompose and provide nutrients for your vegetables such as leaves if you have them, grass clippings, a sprinkle of coffee grounds, pulverized egg shells, top soil, and compost.

What to Plant – This is up to what you want in your salsa. Typically, tomatoes, jalapeno, red onions, white onions, cilantro and red bell pepper. There are so many salsa versions that you might want to consult your recipe before deciding what to plant.

Tomatoes – More common tomato varieties such as Roma, San Marzano, or Amish Paste are excellent for salsa because they have fewer seeds, a meaty texture, and not much juice. If making thick salsa use one of the paste tomatoes above. If making a juicier salsa try Big Mamma or Little Mama. Also try tomatillos for a Mexican flair. If you use tomatillos, plant at least two for cross pollination.

Hot Peppers – Jalapeno peppers are popular for salsas, but there are other varieties that give a little more heat such as Serrano (a little hotter than jalapeno), Tabasco, and Habanero (really hot). You can mitigate the heat by removing some or all of the seeds inside the peppers.

Red & White Onions – Provide color to salsas but not as tender as yellow onions and have a mild flavor.

Red Bell Peppers – Although your peppers will be green to begin with, just leave them on the vine and they will turn red. Peppers add color and flavor to the salsa.

Cilantro – This herb is very versatile and gives a distinct Mexican flavor, but it is used widely in many soups, stews, and other recipes. The leaves are most flavorful on the young plant, so clip them often. Cilantro doesn’t like hot weather, so plant in pots and bring indoors when weather heats up.

How Many to Plant – In a 4×4 ft bed, you can plant 4 tomatoes or 2 tomatoes and 2 tomatillos, 1 hot pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 4 cilantro plants, 22 red onions and 10 white onions.

 

Create Spots of Interest in Your Landscape

It’s all well and good to have a beautiful lawn, but it’s also nice to have some spots of interest in several places along your foundation and out in the yard. Yes, I know, the person mowing the grass will probably complain about beds in the middle of the lawn, but consider how pleasant it will be looking out your windows and seeing the flowers and shrubs in bloom.

The picture above shows a circle I built in my landscape. Of course, I got rid of all the grass because I hate mowing, so this is a circle within a circle. The outer circle, seen in the background here, is a ring of Hostas and Astilbe since this area is shaded most of the day by redbud trees along the property line. This yard is in the city and fairly small, but you can incorporate these practices anywhere.

Nandina

In the middle of the circle is a Nandina shrub, still in its first year, but it will grow to about 8 ft tall and 4 ft wide if I let it. However, since there isn’t that much space here, I will keep it pruned to fit the space. Other shrubs that would work are Spirea and Weigelia.

Day Lily

To the right and left of the Nandina are Stella de Oro daylilies getting ready to bloom. Stellas are great because they keep on blooming most of the season. As the name implies – daylilly – each bloom lasts only a day then dies and drops off. Daylilly flowers are edible. There are hundreds of kinds of daylilies.

Geranium

In front of the Nandina is a hardy geranium (cranesbill). This is different from the potted geraniums that only last one season. This one is perennial and comes back year after year. It comes in many colors, but Johnson’s Blue is probably the most popular.

Heuchera Coral Bells

On either side of the geranium are two Coral Bells – Purple Palace – and again, heuchera comes in many colors. While they do put out tiny flowers on thin stems, they are best known for their colorful foliage. They like shade, but can tolerate some morning sun.

Hosta

Behind the Nandina is a Hosta – name unknown – but it will get about as high and wide as the geranium up front. Hostas recede into the earth in the winter and you won’t see them again until the spring when little curled up shoots will peek out of the soil. This plant is almost care free. They put out flowers at the tips of sleek, slim stems and look quite messy. I like them mostly for the leaves, so those pesky flowers get cut back after a couple of weeks. A variety of different leafed hostas in a landscape looks wonderful, or you can use all of one kind.

Yep, I still need to pull some weeds and mulch!