Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zones for Gardening

It's already the last day of April and the last day of the A to Z Challenge. I can't believe I managed to post every day and most of the posts were actually on target! I imagine you are as surprised as I am. I truly hope that out of the 26 days you learned one new thing, or added something to your list or managed to plant something awesome. Our Garden season is just getting ready to swing into gear here and we hope that you wander back our way for updated and new ideas as the season progresses. If your interested in crafts be sure to check out my other blog Everything But a Moose. It's fallen a bit behind but I'll be picking back up on both blogs in the week to come!

So for the last day of the Challenge and the Letter Z I'm talking about Zones. Yep plant hardiness zones. Here's a great map up the states to help you understand what I mean by zones, I feel sure there are ones for Canada also and other countries.

The Hardiness Zone is a representation of the average winter lows for a region. Plants are often listed with a hardiness in a certain zone. Want to know if it will do well where you live, find your zone and see. It doesn't mean that you can't have that Banana tree in North Carolina, just make sure that you plant it in a pot, it'll need to come in during the winter.

You often see the same zones on seed packages telling you when to plant seeds. This relates to the first and last frosts for an area.

I promote buying local a lot and I'm going to do it again here. If you are looking for a bush for your yard it's best to check with a local nursery. They know more about what is native to your area, what has become adapted to your area and what just won't work. Large box stores don't mean to sell things that might become invasive in your yard, they just might not know. Don't take chances, spend your money in your area and end up with something you love and that loves your climate too! You might be surprised at what you find.

Image from USDA- Plant Hardiness Zone Map

According to the Zones we were not in an area to have lilacs, yeah they might grow here but they couldn't take the heat, literally! Chris is the one who wanted them, being from Michigan and all, he really missed them. But we kept bugging our friends at the Nursery and they came up two great varieties that can grow here. They are blooming now and I wish I could send you a sample of how great they smell, but I'll have to settle for just sharing a picture.

If you are in our Zone I can tell you that Lil' Kim and Korean Lilacs do great!

Thanks for taking this crazy journey with me and for popping in every now and again. Thanks for the support, the comments and just for stopping by. I appreciate it! Check in again, there are tons of updates to be done and some info on a few DYI projects. We are always coming up with
 Have a great May!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Year Round gardening

Wow the month and the Alphabet is almost over. We are down to Y in the A to Z Challenge for Bloggers.

Today I'm using Y to talk about year around gardening. It might not be possible every where to have a garden all year but there are tricks and tips for lots of areas to extend your season.

Want to get a jump on the season. Start your seeds indoors, before the ground is ready and you'll have a good plant stock to start the season with. We start peppers, notoriously slow growers, in January. We also start them from seeds about now but this gives us a longer season of pepper availability. It doesn't take much . We have a green house but we don't use it for the small stuff, we use the extra bathroom to start with. We bring in shelving and some under-counter lights with daylight or grow bulbs the room is warm but we'll use rope lights under the pots for the first week or so to help warm the soil.

Another way to extend your harvest goes along with this. Plant your seeds in batches days or even a week apart. And as long as the weather is holding out continue to reseed. This helps with the problem of everything coming on at once and you have a glut. This way you'll have lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers for your salad ripening each week!

Another way to start early or run late is to build a cold frame. These can be very easy or very complex. They can be a permanent fixture or something that gets put up every year. A simple one could be a old shower door that you picked up at a salvage yard, laid over straw bales. 
Image from Mother Earth News
It can be a permanent structure. I would expect these to work best in colder climates.
a completed cold frame
Image from This Old House

Row Covers are another way to go for plants that are winter crops, but that might need a bit more protection if the weather turns icy or very cold. These are nice in the fact that they can be used at night but taken off during the day so that they can get the sun and water that they need. Or if you need a bit more warmth they can be left on to increase the inside temperature by 5 to 8 degrees. Sometimes that's all that's needed to get through a storm.

image credit

Hopefully these ideas will help you get a bit more out of your garden season with out a lot of money being expended. Most of these ideas can be made with things that just might be in your shed or that can be made out of things you can recycle that are laying around.

Thanks for stopping by. Tomorrow is the last day of April and the last day of the A to Z Challenge. 
For Z I'll be writing about one last important part of planning your garden. Zones! What zone are you in? We'll find out on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X Marks the Garden Spot

The A to Z Blogging Challenge is drawing to a close but we have a few letters left. Today is X and I was thinking that it would be a real stretch to find something to write about.  When I think about X for some reason I think X games and generation X but I'll stretch a bit and use it for X marks the Garden Spot.

I think the reason I thought about that was that we have a local summer festival in the next town over called Garden Spot Festival, not to be confused with the festival a few counties over that is a Spot Festival only those are fish.. Ok enough of that, on to the garden stuff..

Customers tell me all the time that they would love to have a garden but for this reason or another they can't. I say it is possible.

 Do you have bad soil? Check out my post on Strawbale Gardening. You'll only need a bit of space and you can grow all kinds of things.

Not much space but okay soil? Try Growing Up^. There are all kinds of plants that need a small amount of ground to grow in but can be trained to grow up and leave you space for the kids and the dog. Have about 6 square foot. Check out Square Foot Gardening.

Only have a balcony? I still have ideas for you. We have friends that have a local nursery and they have gotten smart about helping the apartment dwellers in the area. They are planting cucumbers and squash in hanging baskets. Then there are those Topsy Turvey tomato planters, I haven't had much luck with them because like any other hanging basket they dry out quickly. You can also do great things with vegetables in pots. My mom plants all of her "winter" crops, like butternut squash and spinach in pots. Let them trail out, just watch your step.  Window sills too make great places for herbs and micro greens!

Clever idea: gutter veggie garden
You can make horizontal gardens with Gutters.

fresh vegetables bottle garden :: vertical gardening ::
Make Vertical Gardens inside or out by recycling plastic bottles.

There are tons of ideas out there for growing your own foods but I'll finish with a project that my daughter and I are working on for her. She's vegan and wants to grow her own food but doesn't have a ton of time to take care of a garden. We are making pallet gardens for her deck. They don't require weeding, are easy to water, easy to harvest and you can get a big variety in a small space. Plus she's counting on us to supplement her during the winter with canned and frozen
We're working on an A frame type, that will have herbs and vegetables. Ours is in the works
but we are taking pointers  from friends of ours who own a nursery. I've been taking pictures as we go so check back soon to see how ours is working out!

This is Carolina Seasons Garden Center's idea of a Herb Garden

When it comes to gardens, you can say where there is a will there is a way. It doesn't matter what level of green or brown thumb you happen to have, you can have some sort of garden to be proud of. Vegetables always taste better straight from the garden. Thanks for hanging in there with me for this crazy month of blogging from A to Z. I'll be back Tuesday with "Y" and how to have a year-round garden!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Water Barrels

Following the idea of gardening on a budget and doing for yourself, brings me to the Letter W in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Today I'm going to show you a great idea for your garden no matter the size you are working with.

Water Barrels or Rain Barrels as they are sometimes called, are a great way to collect free water for your garden or flower bed. We have a few all around our house. Out by the chicken coop and up in the front flower beds too. They are large barrels but they don't stick out like a sore thumb the way you think they would. Once is behind a bush, one is in a constant battle with vines and chickens aren't concerned about something they can hide behind. It's also a great perch for cats. 

Other than being a great sleeping spot for cats they are used for collecting rain water from a down spout or just off of your eaves. Lots of water runs off of your roof every year, why not make some use of it! I'd say that we have collected and used more than a thousand gallons each summer from our barrels. You can buy them from the large box stores, they run close to 100.00 each or you can make your own with just a few supplies and you don't even have to be handy.

We are lucky enough to live near a large pickle company, not too close a couple of counties away but there are always pickle barrels to be found for cheap, so that's what we used. You can use trash cans or any other kind of barrel that will hold water. There are plenty of video's on You Tube showing step by step and here's a great resource with step by step pictures. I'll show you ours and run you through the steps.

  • First You'll pick a container and an area either under a down spout or at an eave that gets a good water runoff. 
  • Then take your lid and drill or cut holes in the top so that can be cover with a screen or mess to keep the leaves and other items out.

This is the top of our pickle barrel we randomly drilled large holes in the top for rain to drain into the barrel. We use a window screen mess to cover the top. It looks like it needs to be replaced!
  • Your next step is to create an over flow near the top. It's not always necessary but we can get a lot of rain quickly and it keeps it from backing up. If you're really smart you can connect two barrels so the second can hold the overflow from the first. That's a project for us this year. We used a piece of PVC threaded so we can cap it off or attach a hose or another system into it. Make sure to not cut the hole too big, we used silicone to keep it in seal it.
  • Then near the bottom you'll want to place a metal spigot into your barrel. That's how you'll use all that great free water. We use this one for the front flower beds by attaching a soaker hose and running it around the bed. We run hoses off of the others for the garden and other uses. We used a larger washer on the inside of the hole to anchor the spigot and then silicone to seal it. 

You can see the overflow, we had a gully washer this afternoon. And the spigot on the bottom. We need to add another tank for the rainy spring so we'll have it available when it's hot and dry!

I have to add that while I was looking for a link I ran across a site or two that said that these are illegal in some areas. So  before you begin building check that out. Why collecting rainwater is against the law is beyond me, but some area won't let you dry laundry outside. But that's another soap box, I'll not get on today.

I hope you'll add these to your next weekend project list and come back for more great information on gardening and growing your own food!

Saturday, April 25, 2015


I can hear it now... What in the world are you talking about... Did you make up that word since you needed something for "V" in the A to Z Blogging Challenge..?!

Vermicomposting-Is the process of using worm, mainly red wigglers, to break down food scraps into compost. 

So why compost with with worms? They are great for small spaces, can be used indoors and have very little to no smell. Red wigglers are used generally because they stay near the top of the soil and can eat at last half of their weight every day. As they churn thru your veggie scraps they are producing castings which is a crumbly, granular organic matter that is full of nutrients. The end result is a mix of castings and decomposed organic matter. This matter is a mix that is easier for plants to use and has a higher ratio of beneficial microbes. This helps the plant fend off disease and bugs.
Interested in trying it yourself? We got lucky and found our first set of worms on freecycle! You just never know what you'll see on there! Even if you have to buy a few worms, chances are that you have everything else you'll need to get started. A simple worm bin can be created with a large plastic tote with a well fitting lid. Or it  you are in an apartment a very small bin can be used, but be sure you have a way to drain the moisture off.

  • Find a spot that will get some sun but won't be too hot. If it is an area protected from the weather that is best. 
  • Take your bin and punch or drill small holes in the bottom about 1/4 in size evenly spaced all along the bottom. Then do the same to the top and a few on the sides for Ventilation. You don't want them to get too hot.
  • Place supports that will keep the bin up off of the ground to allow for drainage and circulation.
  • Place a tray under the bin to collect the compost tea that will drain.
  • For the bedding material, you can tear strips of newspaper and then dip them in water. this mimics their natural bedding of leaves. Fluff the paper and fill the bin about 2/3 the way full. It should be a bit damp to the touch.
  • Take a bit of dried leaves and a cup garden topsoil to the top of the paper to add a bit of grit for the digestion process of the worms.
  • Now you're ready to add worms to the bin. Sprinkle them in and cover. 
  • Bury your vegetable scraps in the paper. Don't put in meat, dairy or cooked items. if you are adding citrus only do so in small quantities because of the acidity of the peels.
There is great information on all kinds of worm composters on

Okay the worms are working away, when do you get compost and how do I get it out with out losing my worms?  It should take the worms about 3 to 4 months to go thru their original supply of paper. You can push the material in the bin to one side and fill the other side with fresh materials. Only place food on the new side. In a week or so all the worms should have moved over to the new side and the old can be taken out to use in house plants, around garden plants and for an extra boost when planting! Be sure to share with your friends so they know how smart and green your being!

Do you seem to ave more veggies scraps than your bin can handle? Start another one or check out the advanced bins available for sale. We started with a normal bin but we have a large amount of garden peels and waste when we are canning. The chickens are very spoiled but they have to share with the worms too. We graduated to a  leveled container like the "Worm Factory". It has removable bins and a section on the bottom that collects the "Tea". To start the food and paper or placed in the lowest bin and as it fills we place the paper and food into the next bin and they will travel up to it. Then it's easier to harvest your compost.

This is one of our Worm Composters, I love the spigot it makes taking the tea out so much easier. It's about to be surrounded by Tiger Lilies. Spring is definitely here.

Either way you have a great process for creating your own compost. I started the A to Z Challenge with Alpaca poop and now I've worked my way around to worm poop. I'm afraid I'm seeing a trend here. Check back next week and I'll have another DIY for the garden!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Umbrella Market

So I'm using today's letter "U" for something that's coming up soon for us! It's that time of year again, Markets are getting started all over and we'll be attending an Umbrella Market in Uptown Greenville again this year. Sorry I had all kinds of ideas for the letter U but I keep coming back to the Umbrella Market thing. I guess it's just what's taking up so much of my brain space

What's an Umbrella Market? It's in the same category as farmer's markets but it's open to more than just farms. The one we attend has all kinds of vendors, from handcrafted items to plant sales and frozen treats. They also have local talent and kid's events. It's like a small festival downtown every Wednesday night for during late spring and summer.

We set up in a parking lot in a revitalized down town area, and this year there could be as many as 70 vendors! We sell a large variety of items, from canned goods to homemade puppy cookies, from crocheted items and veggies from our farm. And of course I can't forget the farm fresh eggs, they are always a huge hit.

This Market is getting ready to start and I've been busy, promoting it on facebook and other mediums. I've ordered bags this year for our favorite customers..and we'll have some to sell too. I wish I had a picture to show of the proof but my graphics department is running a bit slow..( I'm really not complaining since he works with me and does it for free..) They should be here soon so I'll be able to use them for another post. See he really is helping me out!

Our weather has been really great lately warm days and cooler nights so it's getting everyone in the mood to visit the markets. Head out this weekend, I know our local farmers markets are opening this weekend, and we plan on stopping by a couple to visit and browse.

Not sure where to find out about your local market? Check out Local Harvest and Soil Mate, hopefully you'll find more than one in your area. I always enjoy visiting new markets and seeing how they set up and I can always find something that I just can't live with out!

Here's our Puppy Cookie Display at a fundraiser for a local animal organization. 

This isn't the Umbrella Market but it was our First Festival of 2015. I'm getting geared up and ready to go. I hope you guys have a great weekend and have a chance to get out and meet a local farmer!

Between your travels, check back in on Saturday for the letter V and we'll talk abut something dirty!
This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Check out the listing of participating Bloggers, there is something for everyone!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trellis and other ideas to get your garden off of the ground

I'm back with the letter of the day for the A to Z challenge. Today's letter is T. While you may have noticed that we do a bit of farming we have a small amount of available land to actually work, so we have to get creative to make the most of the space we have. That is where today's letter comes in.

I'm going to talk about "growing Up" as in growing upwards by using Trellises. Make the most of your space by using it for more than one thing. Many veggies can be trained to grow up instead of out giving you more plants in the same spaces. Or growing plants together or underneath each other.

Grouping plants together to made the most of your space has been around for a very long time. The Native Americans used the Three Sister ideal for gardening. This involves, Corn, Beans and squash. The corn grows up and the beans use the corn as a trellis, then the ground is available for the squash. The Beans add nitrogen to the soil and help anchor the corn, so it won't blow over so easy. The squash acts as a ground cover and keeps the roots cool, helps prevent evaporation and the leaves are prickly so it would keep predators away from the corn.

Use what you have, it doesn't have to be fancy. Already have a fence, grow beans, peas or cucumbers on it. They are easier to reach and won't rot as easily as if they were on the ground. Tree limbs, especially willow make great trellis designs, since the are easily bent.

Want to lure your kids to the garden, try a bean teepee. Take 6 to 8 lightweight wooden poles and in a circle push the ends into the ground a few inches. Make sure you leave an opening large enough to enter along the perimeter. Tie them at the top to complete your structure. Plant your beans every two inches and train them to run up the poles. In no time you'll have a great mystical hiding place in the garden. I always wanted one of these personally but I was lucky enough to have a very old grape vine to hide in as a child. Just a bit of time can build a love for the garden that will last a life time.


You know how fast lettuce wilts in the heat, try growing it with cucumbers. Plant your lettuce in a square patch and on one end plant your cucumbers. Build  a slanted trellis that covers the lettuce area. Once the vines grow up over the trellis you'll have instant shade for your shade loving greens. And you get two crops that work great together in small space. We have tried with cucumbers, and squash, both worked out very well. We plan on having a few in a new garden space that we are using this year. 
Cucumber Trellis
Credit to Gardeners Supply for the picture. It's no longer available but you can see how easy it is to make
It's time to start breaking out the tools and scrounging around in the shed all of those bits and pieces that you have held on to. Now you can some great ideas for trellises in your garden. Make the most of your small spaces and branch out to new ideas! Then come back on Friday and I'll be talking about markets and selling. Thanks for stopping by. Wander around a bit you might just find something you'll love!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Straw Bale Gardening

Today's letter in the A to Z Challenge is S and I'm using it for something we are working on here this year. Straw Bale Gardening, Never heard of it? I'm not surprised, while it's a great idea I'm not really sure it's caught on yet. There is a great book,that you can get, and it's been updated just this year.

It's available on Amazon or maybe at your local Library.

The concept is that you plant directly in to a Straw bale that has been conditioned with fertilizer to compost inside by feeding the bacteria that is already present in the bales. So this is a method that is great for those that want to garden but don't have much space or no yard at all. It is also for those who want a garden but just have clay or rocky soil. The straw bales are like a self contained raised bed with out the hassle of tilling and digging, They are also great for those of us with back problems as the bales are up off of the ground and easier to access for planting and harvesting. And the best part, after a season or two you have a great mulch. The reason we did this was due to the state of the soil we had available. It had been part of a tobacco/cotton field and we just didn't want to plant in that with out a bit of conditioning first. 

The conditioning takes any where from 10 days to two weeks. If you're in a cooler climate you can even use them with row covers to create your own mini green houses. If you have plenty of time you can just keep your bales moist and nature will run it's course or you can speed up the process by adding fertilizer every other day to the top of the bale and then watering it in. The second process will still need to be watered every day. Once you are ready to plant top your bale with a couple of inches of compost or garden soil or using a trowel you can spread the hay and plant directly into the bale with a bit of compost. Once the bales are working well you will be able to plant in the sides as well. There are instructions for using organic fertilizers as well as commercial lawn fertilizers. 

Since they are above the ground they will have a tendency in the beginning to dry out quickly. Drip hoses or soaker hoses work great in this situation. Once the bale is decomposing it will hold a good amount of water, and you can water less often. It is important for the whole process that you don't let them dry out. A word of warning, make sure the bales are where you want them, once they get wet they are very heavy and hard to move,
We've started 300 Tomato Plants!

You can see how the decomp is working in the bales.

And of course you always need a helper in the garden. Bales are great because they keep the dogs out of trouble since they can't step in the and it's above the chickens so they leave the plants alone too. 

Along with the book there are lots of sites dedicated to talking about how easy and great these gardens are. Wither you want to grow tomatoes, herbs or greens they work wonders for all kinds of plants. Plant early crops and then reuse them for fall crops. Once they have totally given all they have either rake it up and use it in another garden or leave it in place to nourish the soil underneath.

If you are sourcing your bales it is cheaper and easier to buy directly from the grower, Around here bales can go from 1.00 in the field to 4 or 5.00 from a garden supplier. Still it's much cheaper than building a raised bed and in all reality not everyone who wants to garden has that ability.

Check back in a month or so and we'll update the progress. This is our second year and we couldn't be happier. Let me know if you give it a try we'd love ot hear about other success stories!

Thursday's letter is T and I'll be talking about another option for growing "up"! Thanks for stopping in!