Ahhhh, the Coleus….with it’s beautiful, vibrant color combinations, and intricately shaped leaf edgings, it’s no wonder we all wish they could last forever!
If you live in an area that freezes, you know that your coleus plants will not likely make it through the winter outside. One way to preserve them, would be to build a greenhouse, and heat it all winter, to maintain the tropical climate, that Coleus Plants love.
Not many of us have that kind of cash laying around, so another way to enjoy Coleus a little longer, is to take cuttings and root them. Coleus stems make beautiful, long lasting accents to end of summer bouquets. As an added bonus, if you change the water in the vase once or twice a week, you might even get your Coleus stems to take root!
Down below, is a video demonstration that shows where to cut the stems, and what to do with them to get them to take root! Hope you enjoy!
In May of 2018, my mom and I hosted our 4th #diggingfordiabetes plant sale to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes research. The sale was a success, and curly willow branches were one of our biggest sellers!
Mom and I divide up perennials from our gardens for the sale, with 100% of the proceeds going to JDRF. This normally works really well, but this year, spring seemed to take FOR….EEEEEVER to, well, spring! With a looming deadline of May 3 to have all of our plants ready to sell, we were really sweating it.
So this year, my husband, the other horticulturist in the family, helped me prune back our two curly willow trees, and I saved some of the curliest branches, bundled them, and put them in a bucket of water. I posted the pictures on Facebook for the plant sale, and had a lot of interest! I was so thankful, as my perennials were taking their time emerging, and were not as sales worthy as they were for past plant sales.
It’s been about 5 weeks since I cut those branches. I saved some for myself, just to play around with, and make sure that they do root well. They did root, and finally, last Memorial Weekend, I was able to shoot this video and plant the branches in one of my favorite terra- cotta containers on my front porch.
If you purchased some branches from us at the plant sale, I hope you had good luck getting yours to root!
By now, they should be ready to plant in some soil. To plant them without damaging their delicate new roots:
Suspend the branches in the middle of the pot, not quite touching the bottom.
Then pour potting soil in with your free hand, gently filling in around the roots.
Once the container is filled with soil, gently apply pressure to firm the soil around the branches so they are well supported and won’t fall over in the pot.
You can plant the branches as deep as you need to in order to get them to stand up securely, as they will eventually root any place that has surface contact with the soil.
Water in the branches thoroughly, and maintain even moisture for a week or so, until the branches are adjusted to their new home.
Once they are acclimated to the pot, just water it to keep the soil evenly moist, or whenever you water your other annual flower containers.
These branches can over winter in their container if you keep the container in the garage or a protected area outside. My mom had some that were left out in a small courtyard all winter 2017/18….a very cold one…..and they still survived!
Side note: If you choose to plant them in the ground be sure to give them enough space to grow into a big tree! They grow very quickly…to maturity in less than 10 years. Mine are about 25 feet tall with multiple branches that spread about 15 feet.
When they get older, they are known to drop lots of little branches, so it’s best to thin them out each year by removing 2 -5 of the larger branches.
My public service announcement for today is: “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their lilacs and trim, shear, thin, and prune them. ” Always prune your lilacs, if they need it, right after they bloom, because if you wait too long after they bloom, you will be removing next years buds.
So if it needs it, do it now! It’s also a good idea to remove a few of the really old branches from within the center of the plant. Below is a link to an article by Fine Gardening Magazine on how and when to prune your lilacs. How to Prune Lilacs by Fine Gardening Magazine
Here’s another free gardening tip for the month of April or in the fall! Want to have the greenest lawn on the block? Here’s how:
Find a pickup truck.
Find your local compost facility
Order up a truckload of compost
Haul it back home and spread it evenly over your yard, about a 1/2 inch thick layer over the lawn.
Rake it in.
Enjoy all the compliments you’ll be getting over the next few weeks as your neighbors oo and ahhh over how lush your grass looks!
This is great to do once a year or every couple of years.
Why does it work? It supplements your lawn with much needed organic matter and nutrients.
WARNING: You might have to mow a lot more often!
If you’d rather not deal with the compost method, milorganite is a natural alternative. Milorganite releases nitrogen slowly to your lawn and ornamentals in a form readily available to plants. There is no need to water it in either! What is Milorganite?
Purchase a bag of pelletized milorganite from your local garden center or home center.
Put it in your fertilizer spreader, and set it according to the instructions on the bag.
Apply on lawn and in your flower beds
It’s a nice slow releasing fertilizer.
Apply once in the spring and fall.
I am not claiming to be any kind of lawn expert by any means, but I have seen the difference first hand in our own lawn since my husband has begun doing this. My brothers also have used the compost application method, and have had the same success. That’s it for today! Happy gardening, and mowing! Have you broken down yet and got out the mower, or are you at a standoff with your neighbor to see who mows first?
NOTE: Works best if you wisk dry ingredients together first, then add wet ingredients and wisk again to avoid lumps of spices.
Meat: 3 to 4 lbs of Boneless Beef Short Ribs from Fareway or your favorite butcher. Only about $4.99/lb, and tastes delicious, like a flat iron steak but in roast form.
This recipe is for 3 to 3.5 lbs of meat.
Preheat oven to 500.
Put meat in a foil lined baking dish, I use a ceramic roasting pan…a deep one.
Arrange the ribs side by side, standing on the skinny side, and nestle in the pan as close together as you can. I put the fat side facing up so it can baste the meat as it cooks.
After you mixed all the spices and oil and vinegar, rub it evenly all over the meat on all sides.
If you want the flavor to go down into the meat, you can pierce the meat on top but don’t go all the way through.
Put the meat in the oven at 500 for about 15 minutes,
then turn down the heat to 325. Cook for half hour, then baste with the juices, then another half hour, baste, then maybe 20 or 30 more minutes until it reaches your desired level of done ness.
You can either just use the juice as is for an au jus sauce to dip meat in, or make gravy to go w/ mashed potatoes.
1 cup drippings
1 cup water, mix those together
Then put 1/4cup flower with 1/2 cup cold water in a container that seals, then shake or wisk
add to the drippings and water and wisk constantly until boiling
then turn down heat a bit and keep stirring until it thickens.
I use the Betty Crocker Recipe for my mashed potatoes, and use the gigantic individually sold potatoes, because they are much faster and easier to peel. 4 large potatoes makes enough for our family of 4 and we still have a few leftovers. I usually roast carrots and other veggies in a separate dish, so they don’t get too soggy or too much fat from the beef on them. Usually roast about 10 whole carrots in the oven too. Let me know if you have any other questions. NOTE: If you want the meat super evenly cooked, it’s a little extra work, but you can cook it for 7-10 minutes at 500 and the flip it over and do another 7 minutes or so, but it’s a lot of work and sometimes you burn yourself doing it! It’s kind of hard to do with the beef ribs vs. a whole roast.
Update October 19, 2014: My family and I were able to enjoy some of our fall harvest…together! I knew I missed having my hubs around on the weekends, but having experienced life without him every Saturday and Sunday over the past 7 months, has really made me appreciate the time we had around the table as a family today. And, we got to try our purple potatoes!
The Recipe : I had a small amount of little baby potatoes, enough for 2 adults and 2 kids, so I boiled them until tender, added about 1/4 cup milk, about a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 tsp real salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill weed, and finally about 1 or 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. I mashed them all together, skins and all, and they were deelish!
Regrets: Just wish I had more of these yummy potatoes! I planted them…
The Zone 4 and 5 Gardener’s To Do List for August/September
As you are about to see, late August/September is all about cutting back.
1. Remove Dead Flower Stalks from Perennials As Daylilies and Irises begin to die back, you can yank out the brown flower stalks, just give them a tug and they should pop right out.
2. Daylilies and Irises: Remove dead and dying leaves with brown tips. With both, you can just grab the leaves at the base of the plant and give a downward and outward tug, and they will come right off. If it’s the end of August, and you can’t stand the way they look anymore, you can remove all or most of the leaves, as these plants are beginning their dormancy anyway. I just removed all the leaves from some of my day lilies 2 weeks ago, Aug 18, and they are starting to get a few new leaves, and looking much happier.
3. Deadhead, Deadhead, Deadhead: Deadheading is the term used for removing spent flowers from your plants. If you have not been doing it all summer, it’s not too late to start. Just cut off the spent flowers just above a set of leaves, or down to a set of leaves where it will make the plant have a nice shape. Why deadhead? This will cause the plant to spend less energy making seeds, and more energy on producing more flowers. We could always use more flowers, right?
4. Peonies: If your peony bushes are covered with white powdery mildew, now would be an okay time to cut all the leaves off to the ground. I do this every year, and my peony bush thrives every season. Spare yourself from having to look at those icky leaves and just cut them down, right at ground level.
5. Hydrangeas: You can begin pruning back the blooms as they die back, or thin them out so that they don’t sag so much after a rain. My Limelight Hydrangea was so top heavy with blooms, that the last time it rained, it looked like someone had jumped the fence and landed right on top of the bush! After they dried off, I thinned out the largest blooms, and the whole bush, sprung back up, as if saying “Thanks, momma, my branches were getting so tired.” If you like to dry your Hydrangeas, wait until the florets begin to feel papery, and then cut them, and place the stems in buckets of water in your garage until they are completely dry. They make lovely wreaths and floral arrangements. If you are wanting to reshape your Hydrangea bushes, now is the time to do it, after they bloom. Pruning it in the spring will result in no flowers the next summer.
6. Asiatic and Oriental Lilies: If you haven’t already done so, you can cut back the stems to about 1/2 or 1/3 their original height to remove the seed heads where the flowers once were. As the stalks begin to brown all the way down…later in September, you can cut them back.
7. Purple Coneflowers: Remove the spent flower stalks, if you don’t like the looks of them. You might get a few more blooms, but at a much slower rate of growth as the season is winding down. If you don’t mind the looks of the seed heads, leave them on, as Goldfinches love to snack on them. Also, they will reseed and your coneflower patch will expand for next season.
8. Hostas: Remove leaves as they turn brown or start to look bad, and cut spent flower stalks down to the base of the plant.
9. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? This time of year is all about thinning out and cutting back whatever is driving you insane because it’s so over grown. Grab those pruners and a bucket, put a tarp in the bed of your pickup, and start filling it up with everything that is beginning to make you want to pull out your own hair. Just remember, your garden might look a little “shocked” at first when you step back to take a look. Don’t worry, garden pruning is just like haircuts for plants. As my father-in-law always says, “The difference between a good one and a bad one is about 2 weeks.” It will be fine, and you will feel much more under control…..and maybe a bit sweaty.
does not exist to me, but this photo, taken several years ago, reminds me of the times when I was about as close as I would ever be, to experiencing complete silence.
This field, though far from the bustling sounds of any city, at least a half a mile away from any other neighbor, and nestled in one of the most beautiful countrysides west of the Mississippi River, was anything but quiet.
Mother Nature’s Super Expressway
I spent countless hours right along side Mother Nature out in this space. Picking flowers in what passers by might perceive as solitude, but I was never alone, and it was never quiet. Instead of hearing cars whizzing by on the Edens Expressway in the suburbs north of Chicago, where we had previously lived, I was now accustomed to the sounds of another form of traffic. Nature. Bees, flies, dragonflies, humming birds, and every other kind of bug and bird that calls an Iowa field home, were constantly buzzing by like speeders on the expressway. If I wore bright orange, or if my husband drank out of a bright orange cup, we had to be wary of hummingbirds that might mistake us for a giant flower and attempt to steal nectar from our ears! Every morning, I battled with barn swallows who tried to attack me as I attempted to open the door to my old flower shop. To them, I was an intruder, as they had made their nest directly above the door. Sounds of tiny wings swooping down with bat like speed so close to me, I could have reached out and grabbed them.
Bees that never stopped working…except for this
The birds were noisy, but they always seemed to take a break from their busy schedules every now and then. The bees, on the other hand, were workaholics. Never did they stop buzzing from flower to flower, working tirelessly, never taking a break, except for when the sun decided to hide sheepishly behind the clouds.
It never failed, no matter how busy those bees were, the minute, the second, the sun hid itself, all work came to an end, and silence wrapped it’s cloak around me.
It’s August. It’s Iowa. It’s hotter than a monkey’s pattoot. Why do my Iris and Daylilies look like crap?
Yes, we are in a bit of a drought right now, but even though you are watering, your Iris and Daylilies still might look a little worn out….and you know what? That is okay. Stop worrying, cuz every little thing is gonna be all right.
While Irises and Daylilies give us great blooms in May and June, they too, have a life cycle.
You don’t look perfect all the time, and neither do Irises and Daylilies….and that’s ok!
This is normal. At this time of year, these plants start going dormant, so they will start slowly having their leaves dry up.
All you need to do is grab the yucky leaves, and with a downward and out tug, pull them off of the plant.
Voila, your plant just got a facelift, and all is right again.
Remove the leaves as they appear, and your garden will look more fixy, and manicured.
If you don’t remove them, it won’t hurt the plant, it will just not look as pretty.
Yesterday morning, I spent about 10 minutes yanking dead leaves off my Iris and Daylily plants, and it made a huge difference in how my front flower bed looked. Now it’s not tired and saggy, like me in the morning. It got a face lift, and it looks much better….now I need to do that for the rest of the collection.
If after reading this poem, which is almost a disclaimer stating that gardening is not glam, you still want to give it a try this year, then I found a collection of seed at a decent price to get you started! I read a little bit about the company, and it warmed my heart! Take a peek and see for yourself when you click the pic!
The “I Garden Because I Can” Gift Collection, by Marie Stephens Art
Below, is a link to a small collection of “I Garden Because I Can” items that I created as gifts for gardeners and home grown food preservation fanatics! They can all be personalized and shipped directly to you or to the person you’d like to send the gift to!
So far, I have designed a
kitchen floor mat with funny canning puns and phrases,
a tshirt that can be ordered in multiple styles and colors,
a bandana to hold your hair back on canning day,
and a mason jar mug with the graphics I designed to make your fellow gardener/canner smile, especially if they hate bunnies…even though they really are so cute!
I hope you will get a chuckle, and if you do order something, thanks so very much! I earn a royalty for the items purchased with my art on them!
It was March of 2012 and I had some time on my hands, or so I thought…
This was me and my old velvet love seat in 2012. The love seat was purchased in
1994 by my first college roomie and me, before we moved into the dorms at Iowa State University. It was the coolest couch on the 4th floor, and I loved every fiber of it! It wasn’t the most comfortable piece of furniture, but it looked awesome! Everyone on our floor loved it. In fact, somebody once tried to steal it from us and we had to go back and reclaim what was rightfully ours! As old as it was, I could never part with it, because I loved it! Unfortunately, my cat had other ideas. He thought this lovely piece would make a nice litter box. I tried to clean it, but was never able to get the cat aroma out of it.
The time had come to make a decision, either get rid of the beloved love seat, or do the one big thing that had been on my horticultural bucket list for the past 10 years..Turn the love seat into a live Topiary sculpture. I was up to the challenge. After all, how hard could it be? I had a 16 month old baby, and a first grader. I needed something to do in between naps, diaper changes, school pick ups and drop offs anyway right? So why not?
I wasn’t new to topiary.
I studied horticulture in college, and had the opportunity to work as an intern at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, one of the most amazing public gardens in the United States. I spent 6 months there, and learned quite a bit about how to prune, and maintain topiary. After graduating with a B.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State University, I spent 2 years working with topiary as a horticulturist at Chicago Botanic Garden. I guess what I am trying to say, is that this whole, living couch thing, didn’t just happen on a whim. I had plenty of time to think about it, and practice on other sculptures, learning what might or might not work for this project!
So, yep, I did it. And I still can’t believe it.
Each photo is captioned with info on how I went through the process of creating a living sculpture for my garden from this old victorian love seat. In all, it took me about a month before it was ready to set out in the garden, and about 2 or more months for the cuttings to get established and start to green up and grow. Lots of pinning, sewing, pinching, and watering went into this neighborhood landmark.
The couch from 1994 and the lady who covered it with plants.
The giant upholstery needle that started it all.
The wildlife netting sewn onto the couch by the lady.
The compressed bale of New Zealand Long Fibered Sphagnum Peat Moss that the plants would root into.
Soaking the peat moss in warm water, getting ready to cover a couch!
The lady using a staple gun to attach the wildlife netting to the couch.
The start of shaping. The netting is attached. Time to start stuffing with the peat moss!
Shaping with the moss, and sewing it in place, one section at a time with heavy fishing line for thread.
First layer of moss is sewn in place!
Sedum cuttings trimmed from the garden, and ready to place under the netting and on top of the peat moss.
First layer of cuttings placed! Laid horizontally, the cuttings will root themselves in a few weeks.
Underside view of the soon to be topiary.
The seat was the easiest part! I still sewed it in place to try to keep the tufted look of the original love seat.
Tucking in the sides to maintain authentic shape of the love seat.
A bucket of cuttings onto the seat and all tucked in.
Note, how the cuttings are laying horizonatally. Sedum cuttings will naturally curve on their own to make contact with their substrate and generate new roots.
Time to flip over the love seat. This made doing the back much easier, so as not to have to fight with falling peat moss when trying to sew the tufts of moss in place.
Getting ready for a lot of tedious work!
Each area where there was a button, was sewn in to recreate the quilted look of the back of the love seat.
The back was tough, but the vertical sides were even harder! Sometimes, I wonder how I ever pulled this off!
Lots of fishing line and lots of pulling tight, to hold up all of that heavy sphagnum moss! When the moss gets wet, it can hold a huge amount of water, so I really needed to reinforce the sides to stand up to the weight.
I think I was probably wishing I had about 100 hands at this point.
Closing in on the end of the sewing! Hooray!!!
With the help of our neighbors, we hoisted the piece right out to the front garden, where it became a neighborhood landmark.
This is what it looked like after all of the cuttings were placed.
The cuttings take a few months to really take off.
After a month or two, they start to grow.
The scene a few months after installation in our garden.
A sea of sedums, all taking off!
With a lot of tlc, frequent waterings until they start to root, and regular fertilizing every few weeks, it looked like this! My living love seat has survived 6 harsh Iowa winters and is still alive to this day!
Wanna know how to give your couch a hair cut?
This has been my weapon of choice for tackling the job of trimming my topiary couch for the last 6 years. It was a Mothers Day gift to me from my husband, Tim, also a horticulturist, and my two boys. They know me so well! It sure beat having to pinch all of those sedum tips by hand! Although, my youngest son sure enjoyed pinching the tips and seeing how high he could throw them at the window behind the couch! Ahhhh…..memories.
If you want to be able to attach the wildlife netting to the couch, you need a heavy duty needle. Luckily, I found one of my mom’s old upholstery needles from an old sewing kit. It was essential in shaping the netting around the couch to duplicate the victorian look. Had I not done this, the couch would have looked much more like a big blob!
Fishing line is your friend when it comes to topiary. It is see through, so it is invisible, which makes your project look nicer, especially in the beginning stages when all your little cuttings are just getting started. The only thing you have to worry about, if it’s a long term project meant to last for multiple seasons, is that any fishing line exposed to direct sunlight, can break down over time and lose strength.
So this is what I mean by wildlife netting. It comes in a seven feet by 100 feet long roll. It was the perfect width for my love seat. Easy to cut into pieces for smaller projects too! If you click the link, you will see there are many brands at different prices…I just chose this one because it had the best picture to explain what it looks like.
So to the right, you see a giant straw colored blobby bale?This is long fibered sphagnum moss. It is the key ingredient for most topiary projects. I used a bale this size, 22 lbs, to cover my couch with a 4 inch thick layer of it. It has the ability to soak up a hunormous amount of water, which makes it ideal for getting plant cuttings established…like a few pounds of sedum spread out over a couch!
This glob of silver shiny stuff is a glob of what we topiary folks call greening pins. I used them to place cuttings in the vertical sections of the couch. I could only sew in so much of the netting with the fishing line, so this is what I use in between! I would lay the sedum cutting horizontally underneath the wildlife netting, and then carefully pin it in place with one of these. Using the pins helped the cutting to maintain contact with the moss…essential for getting roots started. Once the topiary got to growing, I was able to lay cuttings over the top of the netting, and use these pins to hold them in place too.
It’s now 2017, and I have a problem…
The living love seat has survived 6 harsh Iowa winters. It’s about to go through it’s 7th, but there is a bit of a problem. Some how, during the last month of dry weather, I think that some honey bees have decided to set up shop in the back side of the love seat! I found out the hard way one afternoon, as I was giving the couch a shower. A swarm of about 100 bees started coming from behind the couch! I quickly ran away, and stopped watering. Even though I was super careful, I still ended up getting stung by one that snuck in on my clothing. Ouch!!!!!
What should I do?
Consider it a good ride, and call it the end of an era? Try to harvest some honey? I wonder if we would have some tasty honey as we have so many varieties of flowers in our garden. Spray the poor bees and keep the couch? Spray the bees and send the couch to the landfill? Just wait till a frost freezes out the bees and then decide?
Update: October 9, 2017
Holy cow, there is a honey thief among us! Something broke into the back side of my topiary couch to get to the honey! There is now a 10 inch diameter hole in the back side, and the remnants of a bee hive! Yikes! I feel sorry for whatever creature stirred up that bees’ nest. I am slightly jealous though, because I bet that honey was deeeeeeevine!
Felco Prunersare by far the best pruners I have ever had. They are Swiss made, and last forever! I have had the same pair of pruners last for 14 years. They have replaceable parts, so if one part wears out, you don’t have to buy a whole new pair of pruners. They are tough and sturdy and I don’t go anywhere without them…just ask my husband.
Wilcox Pro Trowelsare the nicest trowels on the market in my opinion. They are made from stainless steel from one solid piece from the tip of the blade all the way through the tip of the handle. Even in the hardest soil, you will have a tough time bending this handle. Also, they are made in the USA right here in my home state of Iowa.
Garden SpadeI prefer Ames brand. After many years of breaking my back and planting on my hands and knees, I have gone to using a spade more often than using a trowel to plant my annuals and perennials. You don’t have to bend as much, and you can still get a fairly precise hole dug out for smaller plants. Also, using a spade has reduced the amount of work I have to do with my hands and wrists.
Sedum Couch: This is a real couch that I stuffed and covered with sedum. It survived a zone 4 winter, and is still looking good for the 2nd season! My cat, Uno, was being a good sport by posing for me. Now that’s what I call a topiary. Find Sedum Cuttings for your own projects
This is the book I bought to learn about how to grow microgreens, available on Amazon.
Why the Sudden Interest in Microgreens?
A few years ago, when my boys were ages 2 and 7, I discovered microgreens. It had been a long winter, and I was aching to be outside. January and February are the months when my family gets a new seed catalog in the mail at least once a week! This may be from my last 17 years of mail ordering seeds and bulbs!
The first time I heard the term, microgreens, was at a “Grow Your Small Market Farm” class my husband Tim and I took at Iowa State University during our days as cut flower growers. I had no interest in microgreens at the time, because I was deeply invested in growing cut flowers. I was always curious about what they were and how to grow them, but never made the time to learn more, until that long, cold winter a few years ago.
I must have seen something about microgreens in one of our seed catalogs, and decided to learn more that winter. It was a fun project that I could do with my 2 year old in one arm, while planting seeds with the other hand, and hopefully, providing my kids a tiny learning experience at the same time
7 Reasons to Grow Your Own Microgreens
1. Microgreens taste great: They give your salads a kick in the pants by adding a little bit of spice but not too much. Radish microgreens, for example, have a kick, but are not nearly as strong as eating an actual radish. I would say they have about 1/3 or less of the spice of the actual full grown radish. The same principle holds true with other plants.
2. Microgreens are super easy to grow: Most of my favorite microgreen varieties will sprout from seed in 7 days or less.
3. Fun and Easy Project to do with the kids: Since the seeds germinate so quickly, and large quantities of seed are broadcasted over the seed tray, kids will enjoy it.
4. Microgreens are packed with nutrients.
5. Microgreens take very little space to grow.
6. Microgreens take very little supplies to grow.
7. Microgreens can be grown year round in your home.
The picture below is what full grown arugula looks like. Arugula is a fun one for beginners, because the seeds sprout really quickly and easily. Arugula at this stage is very strong tasting, and sometimes, a little bit too intense in flavor, but if you just eat the little microgreen seedlings, the flavor is subtle, sophisticated, and delicious as a garnish, salad accent, or atop a beautiful panini, burger, or cold cut sandwich!
Arugula seed is really inexpensive, quick to germinate, and very rewarding in terms of flavor when harvested as a microgreen! Click the photo on the right, if you want to get some of your own seed to try.
Below is a packet of Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale. It sprouts very quickly, so it’s really rewarding to plant these with kids! It’s packed with nutrients, because, well, it’s Kale! It can be harvested as a microgreen, or allowed to get a little bigger for baby salad greens. But let me tell you, even though it is Kale, it tastes so much milder when you harvest it when it’s only 2 or 3 inches tall with cute little baby leaves! I have waited until the leaves are about 1inch by 1inch, and then pinch them at the base of the stem without removing the center of the tiny plant, and gotten several cuttings throughout the summer this way. I suppose letting it get this big, probably makes it less of a microgreen and more of a baby salad green, but regardless, it’s a great addition to salads, and it also holds up in soups…think potato soup with Italian sausage.
Radish seeds are super easy to sprout, and they will pop up in a week or less! And these little cuties are purple! Don’t let their cuteness fool you though; they pack a spicy punch in that tiny little seedling, making them perfect for spicing up your burgers and sandwiches! This variety is called Rambo.
Below are Bull’s Blood Beets! Quite a bit different from what we all normally think of when we think of beets. They are so fresh and colorful, and would be so beautiful and nutritious as a garnish to just about anything! Well, maybe not with cereal.
Japanese Mizuna is another easy to sprout seed that is packed with flavorful punch! Plant these little guys if you are a fan of the spicy mustard flavor of wasabi.
The tray to the above is a tray of peas sprouting just 3 days after we planted them. The tray to the right is all Arugula about a week after we seeded them. The trays are re-used take out containers from a local restaurant. No drainage is required. I would recommend using a shallow container no more than 2 inches deep to prevent excess moisture and seed rot.
We used regular Miracle Grow Seed Starting Soil.
Let’s Play in the Dirt!
We poured some soil in a 2 gallon bucket, brought it to the kitchen sink, and used the sprayer to wet it down. Potting mix takes a while to absorb water, so you get to squirt water on it a lot…bonus for my little guy. Then you get to stir it up with a big spoon until it is just right. Not sopping wet with water standing in it, but wet enough that if you picked up a handful, and squeezed it, you could form a ball.
How to Plant the Seeds
1. Once the soil was moist, we put it in our cleaned take out trays, pat it down a little bit, and then scratched the surface so it was rough and not totally smooth.
2.Then we took our seeds and scattered them just as if you would be sprinkling salt on a steak. About 1 seed every half centimeter or so. Not precise, just scatter and have fun!
3.After we spread the seeds, we scratched the soil a little bit again gave it a love pat, and covered up the tray with the clear lid. A perfect moist environment to get them going.
4. Once you get them planted, you can put the tray on top of the fridge, so they get some bottom heat, which speeds up sprouting(germination).
NOTE: If you keep the lid on your trays, you should not need to water them until after they have sprouted. I kept a mister on hand, and misted the seeds right after we gave them their love pat, and then left them alone.
How Do I Care for Microgreens Once They Sprout?
We checked our seedling trays daily for signs of life, and after about 3 days, the peas began to sprout.
KEEP THEM COOL AND BRIGHT!Once they all sprouted, I removed them from above the fridge and place them in a cool, yet sunny window, and away from heat vents. An ideal temperature average would be between 60-70 degrees F. once they sprout. Microgreens can also be grown in a cool place like your basement with fluorescent lights overhead.
How do I water them?
In order to not disturb the soil too much, I usually would turn the kitchen faucet on the lowest pressure possible, and directed the water along the side of the container to let it seep down to the bottom, so as to water the roots from the bottom up. I might have used about 1 cup or less of water per tray, let it soak up, and then poured the excess off by tipping the tray gently to one side. Not a lot of water is needed.
Once the lid is removed, it is important to maintain even soil moisture for your microgreens…but not have the sprouts sitting in water. If you think you put too much water in the tray, just gently tip it at an angle to allow the excess water to drain over the edge of the tray.
After about a week and a half, we had a crop. I just left them in the container, with the lid off, and snipped as needed to put in my salads or on sandwiches and burgers. The kids actually loved eating the pea shoots. Peas shoots are sweet, tender and delicious. They also make a beautiful garnish if you like things fancy.
That’s it on microgreens for now. I hope you learned something and that you’ll consider giving this fun little project a try! Stay warm!
I just got a question from Shaina about how to start basil so she could have fresh herbs in her kitchen. Basil is an easy one to germinate, or start from seed. And fresh basil tastes wonderful in so many dishes. So this one is for you, Shaina, hope this helps:)
First and foremost, you’ll need some seeds! Below are links to where you can order some of my favorite varieties! And there are tons of different kinds of Basil!
As I was hunting for links for Basil seeds and looking at pictures of this delicious herb, I began smelling Basil! I told my family, “Man, all of this talk about Basil is making me so hungry, I am starting to smell it!!!” Then I walked into the kitchen and realized that my son, Harrison, was eating his breakfast, leftover angel hair pasta with basil pesto mixed in!
Potting Soil Prep:
One thing that nobody seems to tell you is that potting mix is hard to moisten in the beginning. It usually has peat moss in it, which can hold a ton of water….but because of that, it takes a while to soak up! I would advise that prior to planting any seeds………
grab an old bucket
grab an old large spoon or trowel
pour the amount of soil you need into the bucket
turn on some warm water in your kitchen sink
turn the spray nozzle on
gently spray some water into the bucket, being careful not to spray directly onto the soil, because if it’s really dried out, the soil particles might poof into your face and make you sneeze:)
start mixing the soil, to work in the water
add squirts of water until the soil feels moist, and will clump together when you squeeze it…kind of like shortbread cookie dough, or pie crust…still crumbly, but will hold together if you squeeze it.
Once it has enough water, put the soil in the pot
You are now ready to plant your yummy Basil seeds!
Doing this soil prep will make it much easier to water in your seeds after you plant them. Why? Really dry potting mix tends to float and repel water at first. If you are trying to get the soil to soak up the water after you have already planted the seeds….think flash flooding of baby seeds and drowning and suffocation of baby seeds…not good:)
What if you Don’t have time for soil prep as described above?
Here’s a cheat. In plant nerd terms, we call this process capillary action. Just set the pot that you planted your seed in, in a saucer and fill the saucer with water
Let the water soak in from the bottom, up through the soil, from the drainage hole in the pot.
refill the saucer until the soil appears to be moist on top. This may take a few hours.
Planting the Basil Seeds
1. Find a small 4 inch pot. I prefer clay pots, because they are cute, and because they allow the soil to dry out faster, which helps me to avoid rotting my seedlings from overwatering.
2. Get your favorite variety of Basil seed
3. Sprinkle the Basil seeds right on top of the soil
4. Gently scratch the soil surface to let the Basil seeds fall into place
5. Water in the Basil seeds with a gentle shower from your kitchen sprayer
6. Make a mini greenhouse environment for your newly sown basil seeds by
a. covering the soil with a clear baggy dome, or
b. you could set the whole pot inside one of those clear plastic lidded spinach
boxes from the grocery store that acts as a saucer to catch the drips and
keeps the air humid which will make the seeds germinate faster.
7. Place your mini greenhouse with your newly sown basil seeds on the top of your refrigerator, as the bottom heating of the soil from the fridge will stimulate them to sprout.
8. After they sprout, take the baggy off or remove the salad container lid and keep them in a bright place. Away from heat vents and scorching sunlight. A foot or 2 away from a sunny window would be good to start out.
9. Once the sprouts get 4 leaves, pinch off the top 2 to get the plant to branch, each place you pinch, you should get 2 new branches right below the pinch. Once those get big enough, pinch and use for cooking, and you’ll then have 4, then 8 then 16 branches and so on. Feed at least once or twice/month and don’t let it flower, so you can get more greens off it. mmmm, now I want to try it! I think I will be trying spicy globe basil, because it branches so easily and is a nice looking plant, plus, it should have great flavor too.
After all of this talk about planting seeds, I think I am ready to start some of my own for this year. It seems quite appropriate given this weeks weather of snow, snow and more snow! Thank goodness we don’t have to wait until spring to start gardening!!! Check back for updates and maybe even some pics of our planting day. Or follow along on @gardenshapers on Instagram!
8 Things to Remember When Bringing Houseplants Inside for Winter
One of my followers asked me for some tips on how to make her patio tropicals stay happy after she brings them indoors for the winter. My recommendation would be to:
1. Slowly reaclimate your plant to your indoor environment at least 2 weeks prior to bringing them in. 2. Start bringing them in at night to begin with.
3. Also, you should plan not to leave it outside at night if temps drop below 60 degrees F.
4. Avoiding the stress of cold temps is the best way to give your patio tropical a head start for happy house living for the winter.
5. Be sure to remove any bugs or pests by cleaning or spraying the plant, or physically pruning away leaves and stems with bugs on them.
6. Lastly, be sure to repot the plant to give it a fresh start with some new soil full of nutrients for the long winter ahead.
7. Once it’s in and acclimated to your house, be sure to feed it at least once or twice a month,
8. and when you water, be sure that you water until the water has drained out of the bottom of the pot and the plant feels heavy like the soil is completely saturated.
In this article, I will give you some simple guidelines that will help you turn that brown thumb into a green thumb. This one’s for you CourtneeCC :
How often should I water?
Here is the rule of thumb I use: plants with thick,tough, juicy leaves and a waxy covering don’t need as much water…allow them to dry out completely between waterings. For example, an Aloe Vera plant really only needs to be watered about once or twice a month, depending on how hot and dry the room is that you keep it in. Plants with very thin, non juicy, non waxy leaves, need to be watered about once a week.
How often should I fertilize?
For most houseplants, if using a liquid fertilizer, you should fertilize at least once a month. If you are not one who remembers these sorts of things, you can incorporate a slow release fertilizer into your potting mix, or put some slow release fertilizer sticks into the soil, and then you will be good for about 3 months!
How often should I repot my houseplants?
Once a year is a good rule of thumb.
It’s always a good idea for house plants is to have a light, soil that has good drainage. Good ingredients to find in it would be fir bark, perlite, milled peat moss, a little charcoal, and possibly a slow release fertilizer, so you can get by without having to remember to fertilize for a few months. Of course, you can get really specific on your potting mix recipe depending on the type of plant you are growing. Just remember, the less water a plant needs, the lighter the potting soil(lighter meaning increased drainage and dries out quickly)
Always just repot into the next size up which is usually an increase in 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Repotting is a good thing to do if you had your plant outside all summer, to get rid of any bugs that might have made a nest in the pot.
How deep do I plant my houseplants when repotting?
Always make sure that the new soil does not bury the top of the old soil of the rootball, to avoid rotting out the main stem of the plant.
What kind of soil or growing media should I use?
This is a toughy, but to simplify, you can go to your local garden center, and find a bag of potting mix specific to what you are repotting…for example, you can buy cacti and succulent potting mix, african violet potting mix, orchid bark, general tropical plant potting mix, and so on.
What are some unique, but easy to grow houseplants?
My favorites are the ones that look cool, don’t need lots of light, and don’t need lots of water. Yes, they do exist! I love pepperomias, sanseverias, aglaeonemas, and hoyas for tropical house plants.
How do I prune my houseplants?
This depends on the type of plant. I think this might have to be a separate article.
One thing I do recommend before you do before you prune your houseplants, would be to invest in a decent pair of pruners. I have been using Felco pruners for more than 20 years, in fact, I still have some that are at least 15 years old! I like them because they are well made, the springs and blades are replaceable, and they even make a pair for lefties like me! Pictured here are the Felco# 9 for left handers. If you are a righty, you would go with the Felco#2 pruner.
These are the Felco #2 pruners for right handed gardeners. My husband is also a professional horticulturist and has used this model for more than 20 years!
How do I winterize my patio tropicals?
Before bringing them in for the season, ideally, you should repot and spray them with a mild insecticidal soap.
If you can, try to use an organic spray to kill those little buggers after you repot your plants and before bringing them indoors.
If you don’t want to mess with spraying, you could just grab an old pair of panty hose, wadd them up into a ball, and dunk them into some warm soapy water. Gently scrub the upper and undersides of the leaves to physically remove any little mites or other critters and their eggs. Trouble with this is, that you might not get them off the stems. Give them a good shower with your water wand. If your plant does show any signs of a bug problem prior to bringing it in, you could spray it once or twice at intervals recommended on the instructions of the spray bottle, to be sure you got rid of all the life stages of the bugs. Pruning the plant back is another way to physically remove those problem bugs.
Recently, my family and I visited some old college friends back at Iowa State University, and one of them asked for recommendations for perennials that would do well in Ames, Iowa on the north side of her home. Here’s what I came up with. I could provide a much longer list, but these were the plants at the top. I tried to provide her with some structural specimens to provide year round interest, followed by some foliage perennials which would provide interesting leaf color and texture throughout the entire growing season.
The Right Plant for the Right Place:
It is important to have the right plant for the right place, not only for asthetics, but to protect your investment. After all, you work hard for your money, right? Perennials and shrubs don’t come cheap, unless you have a great friend like myself who knows how to propagate them and is willing to share.
10 Perennial Plants for North Side of House, Zone 4 Climate:
Hydrangea lime light and Hydrangea Annabelle are larger shrubby plants that get huge…as big as your head ball shaped clusters of white flowers that fade to lime green and then brown in winter, adding months of large flowers for a huge impact in your landscape
Variegated Red Twig dogwood: multi stemmed shrub w/ multiple stems coming up from the base…bark on new growth turns bright red, so when the leaves die back in winter, you have beautiful bright red twigs to look at. foliage is silver green w/ white edges in spring and summer. excellent focal plant
Japanese Painted Fern: beautiful fern silver fronds w/ purple veins and purple under side. Great plant for front of the border along with the burgundy Heuchera mentioned above.
Hmmm ground cover: this is a low growing plant for the very front of the border that grows only a few inches tall: Lamium Beacons Silver: silver tiny leaves with green edge. great spreading hardy ground cover that gets cute pale pink or white little flowers off and on throughout the summer.
Hostas, any kind of hosta that you like the looks of will do well on the north side of a house. my favorite varieties are “June” which has smaller leaves, “Sum and Substance” giant lime green leaves, “Halcyon” is cool and all blue leaves, and “Guardian Angel” larger blue leaves.
Heuchera many varieties available in lots of funky foliage colors…it’s a nice low moundy plant with neat leaves and sends up cute little spikes of flowers in spring.
Virginia Blue Bells
Lily of the Valley
5 Ingredients for an Interesting Winter Garden:
Interesting bark: I would definitely start with 1 variegated red twig dogwood in the middle, flanked by 2 smaller evergreen shrubs on either side of the dogwood…
Evergreens: such as boxwood, Bowling ball juniper, Skyrocket Juniper
Interesting Shapes: Spheres, cones, cylinders, can create beautiful winter scenes when they are dusted with snow. These shapes can be achieved by choosing the right plant with the right growth habit. Always read your plant labels, they will tell you the mature shape and size of the plant you are buying.
Use “Dwarf” conifers: Again, make sure you read the label for the Mature size, as those cute little shrubs can sometimes turn into obnoxious giants;)
Dried Flowers: Next, for the more bang for your buck high impact flowering shrub, I’d go with the Hydrangea, one or 2, depending on how large you make your border. You can leave a few flowers on, and they will dry on the shrub to leave winter interest, long after summer has passed.
3 Guidelines for Plant Spacing:
For those larger shrubs, you should probably plant them 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on how you arrange them in your landscape…if you read the labels there are directions for that on there, all about how deep to plant, what the mature size is, and how far apart to space them. Just make sure you read that so you don’t jam things up too close to the house.
You should try to always plant shrubs at least 2 to 3 feet away from the foundation of your house, depending on what the mature size is. Planting shrubs too close to the foundation will cause them to grow crooked away from the house within a few years after planting, rendering them ugly and useless.
Short in front, tall in back. If it’s 12 inches tall or less, plant towards the front of the border. If it’s 12 to 24 inches tall, plant in the middle of the border. If it’s 24 inches or taller plant towards the back.
How to Choose the Size of your Border: As for the width of your border, use the rule of thumb…it can be at least as wide as 3/4 the height of your house. Curvy borders are easier than straight lines and much more fun to work with. Don’t be afraid to be bold, baby:)
Creating a Garden Border:
10 Steps to Getting That Garden Started:
Be sure to have all your utility lines flagged before you start!
Lay out the flower bed with a garden hose to achieve the shape.
Then spray Roundup on the grass now to kill it off. Or, if you don’t want to mess w/Roundup, lay out the bed w/garden hose…spraypaint the border,
Rent a sod cutter from Home Depot and cut the sod. It only costs about $50 for the whole day, and will save you a lot of time from picking up little chunks of sod out of the flower bed later on.
Roll sod into rolls.
Get a tiller and break up the soil. Till down 6-8 inches deep.
Add the 4 inches of black compost.
Add Turfus if you have poorly drained soil. If it is really poorly drained, you may want to consider adding a drainage tile.
Till it in compost down 6-8 inches.
Plant any fall bulbs you would like, and let your new garden it over winter, and you will be totally ready to plant in April!
Why Good Soil is Key in Protecting Your Investment: If you don’t have good soil, you might as well just throw your money out the window and watch it blow away. Plants living in good soil with lots of organic matter and good drainage will grow twice as big as plants planted in clay, or backfill from when the builders built your home.
3 Ways to Make Healthy Garden Soil for Healthy Plants
Add Compost: If you have poor soil that is hard, or sandy, or clay like, and poorly drained amend the soil with about 4 inches or more of composted compost (the black compost) or topsoil, and then till it in down to 6 or 8 inches deep. Compost is filled with nutrients your plants need to grow big and strong and to have lots of blooms. Not only is it nutrient rich, but it also makes your soil more spongy to hold more moisture after a rain.
Add Epsom Salts: Epsom salt has Magnesium in it in the form of Magnesium Sulfate. Magnesium is one of the main parts of the chlorophyll molecule, which is what makes plants green. Apply to the soil about once a month, as if you were lightly salting a steak, and you will have nice green plants.
Add Turfus: Turfus is a product that can be added to the soil to help break it up and improve drainage. It looks like pea sized or smaller chips of rock. Contact your local garden center or home center to find it. Why do we need good drainage? Because most plants do not like to have wet feet all the time. Soil that stays constantly soaking wet or standing in water will cause plant roots to suffocate, resulting in poor plant health, disease, and eventually, death.
5 Reasons to Mulch Your Garden, the Next Step to Protecting Your Investment:
After you finish planting next spring, be sure to mulch everything with 3 inches of shredded bark mulch. So you ask, “Why mulch?” Here’s why:
Mulching reduces erosion.
Mulching reduces plant disease.
Mulching reduces the amount of watering you will have to do.
Mulching reduces weed populations.
Mulch looks a heck of a lot nicer than bare soil, and is much easier to work with if you want to rearrange plants later on.
Find out if your city has a compost facility. You can usually get great deals on mulch and compost. In Davenport, Iowa, we can get a truckload of shredded bark mulch for $30! Lots cheaper than spending $3 to $4 per bag, eh? Compost only costs us about $15 per truckload. We are even able to have it delivered to our home, for a fee. So don’t forget to find out. You could save a ton of money.
My husband, Tim, also a horticulturist, has always been fascinated with the Cardinal Climber Vine, the pentagonal shaped flower with an embossed star shape of sorts shown sitting in the palm of my hand in the photo on the above left.
I have always been intrigued by the beautiful red Scarlet Runner Bean, above right. This year, Tim, who is so awesome at remembering to plant seeds, got them planted by our front porch step this spring!
Now that I have seen these plants in action, I love them even more! Each flower shape is so unique and intricately detailed! I cannot fathom how such small flowers, each smaller than a quarter, can house such fascinating floral architecture! They are truly miraculous specimens to behold! Especially, if you stop for a moment, to examine them up close, and even dissect them.
I hope to one day, get my hands on a macro lens, so that I can capture the intricate details of flowers. Until then, you’ll just have to plant some yourself, or take my word for it!
Both of these vine type plants can be started from seed, and sown directly into the ground once the soil warms up in the spring. If you are living in the midwest, mid to late May would be a safe bet.
We used some wood blocks, and twine spaced evenly along the block, so that each side of our porch had about 6 strings spaced about 6 inches apart going from the ground up to the balcony above.
The vines quickly germinate, and once the heat and humidity take hold, they grow very quickly, especially, if you water the soil around them regularly.
Keep the soil evenly moist until they germinate, and then once they sprout, water every few days, if rain is not in the near forecast.
I almost lost mine, during extreme heat and drought, but luckily, a good drink of water revived them!
The Zone 4 and 5 Gardener’s To Do List for August/September
As you are about to see, late August/September is all about cutting back.
1. Remove Dead Flower Stalks from Perennials As Daylilies and Irises begin to die back, you can yank out the brown flower stalks, just give them a tug and they should pop right out.
2. Daylilies and Irises: Remove dead and dying leaves with brown tips. With both, you can just grab the leaves at the base of the plant and give a downward and outward tug, and they will come right off. If it’s the end of August, and you can’t stand the way they look anymore, you can remove all or most of the leaves, as these plants are beginning their dormancy anyway. I just removed all the leaves from some of my day lilies 2 weeks ago, Aug 18, and they are…
As I enjoy these last few weeks in my garden, I am reminded of this poem I wrote in 2013. Much has changed in my life since then, but the way I enjoy my flowers the most at this stage in the season, remains unchanged.
Hope you enjoy the little floral photo shoot I did this morning instead of organizing my house after a few busy weeks here at casa de Stephens! How can one not ignore chores when there is such beauty to behold right at her fingertips?
I was so excited to see my 4’Oclocks, blooming! They are the Morning Glory shaped flowers that are blue with the yellow and white throat pictured below.
I started them late, like, in June or later, from seed, and they had a rough beginning, and were almost devoured by caterpillars, suffered drought, extreme heat, and neglect while we were on vacation, but they persevered! So excited to see these colors together!
If you have made it this far, you might be wondering what to do next to keep your basil babies alive. Here’s a short list of things to do to keep them going.
Remove your seedlings from the top of the fridge once they begin to sprout
Reduce the number of times you spritz your seedlings to once a day, and gradually taper down to every other day, and then just start watering them with a watering can as the soil starts to dry on the surface. Why?Seeds need to be kept moist constantly until they sprout, then you want to gradually reduce the amount of water you give them to avoid causing them to rot or suffocate. This could be another separate article!
Take the set up to a warm, sunny room, away from heat vents(at least 5 feet away) I have mine sitting on the top shelf of a bakers rack that sits in my sunny foyer.
Begin removing the clear lid from the seedlings. Why?
To prevent your seedlings from getting to long and spindly (leggy)
To prevent mold from growing that can cause a disease called (dampening off) that causes your seedlings to die off right at the base of the stem.
To begin getting your seedlings acclimated to air movement. (air movement will ultimately help your seedlings get stronger, sturdier stems.
Rotate your seedlings once a day to prevent them from bending too much in one direction towards the sunlight.
You can now leave the clear dome off permanently
Reduce watering to once every 2 or 3 days. Just make sure that you water deeply so the soil gets wet all the way to the bottom of the container to stimulate deep rooting down into the soil.
At this point you can still water with a mister, but you can adjust the nozzle from mist to more of a heavy spray and eventually a small stream.
Avoid blasting the delicate seedlings with hard streams of water.
Teach little ones to wet the soil surface rather than aiming directly at the seedlings.
Teach little ones that the seedlings will get their water from their roots which are buried in the soil. This is why we aim at the soil instead of the leaves.
You could even gently pull one seedling out and show your kids the little white root! Tell them that the root is kind of like a paper straw! It can suck up water through the tip and can absorb through the sides kind of like a wick.
If you use a magnifying glass, you will also see root hairs which also help your plants get a drink.
Make sure your container is not standing in a saucer full of water. Standing water causes the roots to be deprived of air and will cause suffocation and rot which ultimately results in death of your seedling.
Finally, after talking about it, we made some time to plant a few basil seeds. It’s so easy to put it off, and then 3 weeks have passed by and still no seeds planted! I try not to stress too much about it, because I know I can always buy a plant at the garden center if I get behind. The point of all of this is to have fun and learn something anyway right?
The Case of the Missing Basil Seed
So I was all ready to get started. I went to the basement, found the wooden box that we keep all of our seed packets in. I began digging, and digging…..and digging some more. I am now the proverbial squirrel in search of the nut!No luck. No basil seed to be found! “I could have sworn I still had some of that basil seed!” I did find about 3 packages of Arugula seed, and a bazillion packages of Zinnias and other garden flowers, tomato, pepper, and other seeds, but no basil. And this is how a gardener ends up with an entire box of seeds with multiple packages of the same kind! It’s the squirrel syndrome!
I picked up Harrison from school, and we headed over to Wallace’s Garden Center to buy some seed. It was so dreary yesterday, so seeing some green life forms was good for all of us. My boys love to look at all the cute little cacti and succulents in the tiny pots there.
I was quite proud of myself, as I only spent $7 on seeds. I purchased some Italian Genovese Basil and some Thai Basil. The first packet cost $5! I thought that seemed a little high, but then I looked at the seed count on the packet. There were about 1000 seeds in the packet, compared to about 200 in the others that cost around $2. Since I am planning to replant the basil more than once, as I am going to use it more as a microgreen and get a shorter lifespan out of it.
We got home, and settled in, and a light bulb went on in my mind. The spice cabinet! “I think I saved some seed heads in a baggy and put them in the spice cabinet!” Sure enough, there was the suspicious baggy. A bunch of dried up leaves that smelled like basil! I noted there were a few seed heads in the bag, so I decided to try to collect a few seeds from them. It took some time and patience, and now I realize why seeds cost what they cost! It’s all about the time it takes! If you want to learn how and maybe work in a little life lesson for your kids with during the seed collecting activity, click the link below to see!
I say why not? Isn’t it kind of cool to save a buck or two and learn something with your kids at the same time? Plus, you can use those saved bucks to go buy some ice cream or a cup of coffee for $3 and not feel so guilty!
“I think it’s important for us and our children to know that it is possible to find something that looks dead and worthless, and know that underneath that withered exterior, lies the key to something beautiful and full of life that is fragrant, nourishing, and even if you don’t like to eat it, is still fun to scratch and sniff! ” – Marie Stephens
Aside from the idea that you can eventually eat the basil that emerges from these adorable little onyx colored seeds, do you see the beautiful metaphor about life that you can teach to your little ones? Collecting seeds and being able to grow them on is a great lesson for that old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” That’s one of the things I love most about gardening! So many life lessons are hidden amongst all of the leaves, dust, and dirt!
So here is how to get started on your seed collecting adventure
Allow your basil plants to form flowers
leave the flower stems on the plant
let the flowers form and wither leaving them on the plant
wait until the flowers die away, and little seed heads start to swell on the stem
allow the seed heads to get brown and crunchy
cut the dried flower stems with seed heads away from the plant
Get ready to harvest your tiny seeds!
Once You Have Your Flower Stems
Find the dried flower stem ( if you are like me, you might be like the squirrel who knows they burried the nut some place, but you just can’t seem to remember where!)
pluck off the seed heads
use a small white dish to crumble the seed heads into
crumble the seed heads over a strainer so all the chaff doesn’t fall onto the plate
you should get 3-5 tiny black seeds per seed head
roll the seed heads between your fingers, crushing the dried capsule, until the seeds fall out. They are about the size of a small caterpillar turd.
When you have crumbled all the seed heads, ever so gently blow over the plate and the rest of the dust will blow away, leaving the seeds on the plate!
Ideally all seeds should be stored in a cooler or climate controlled environment.
My hand harvested basil seeds may or may not sprout, as I didn’t store them properly, but I am willing to try….because they are from my Spicy Globe Basil Plant, and they didn’t have that seed at the store!
Valentines Day has come and gone, but you might still be hanging on to a few fresh flowers from your special someone! ” What’s the trick to making my fresh flower bouquet last longer?”, is a question I used to get from lots of clients at the Farmers Market, so many years ago.
The Big V-Day Surprise
This surprise, from my Tim, is what got me on the whole subject of keeping your bouquets fresher longer. He got me something tall, black, sleek and slender and shiny with wheels! Care to make a guess as to what it is? He also bought me some fresh flowers that he found on sale at Aldi. That wasn’t the surprise, but they did need some sprucing up, which led to this article.
So What are You Supposed to Do With Fresh Flowers?
Before You Put the Flowers Into Your Vase
Remove dead leaves
Remove all leaves that will be below the water when you put the flowers in your vase
Wash your vase with soap and water
Put the floral preservative powder in the vase
Add a little warm water in the bottom and swirl to dissolve the powder
Add the rest of the warm water
Cut the stems to the length you prefer UNDER RUNNING WATER
Place freshly cut stems in the vase!
Flowers can now be purchased and shipped directly to you from flower farms all over the country! If you order flowers in this way, it is very important that you cut at least 1 or 2 inches from the stems under running water prior to arranging them. This will allow them to more quickly absorb water and last longer in the vase
Throughout the Week
Make sure no leaves are in the water (doing this will prevent that stinky sewer smell, which is a result of decaying leaves)
rinse out the vase to remove dead debris(prevents bacterial growth)
Change the water once every 2 or 3 days (prevents bacterial growth that can clog up stems and prevent them from being able to absorb water)
Re-cut the stems under running water once every 2 or 3 days so your stems can more easily slurp up water to stay hydrated and fresh)
Trim away dead flowers and buds
remove yellowing leaves
Make it a goal to throw out before the water gets stinky, and it will make it easier for others to buy flowers for you! It’s ok to let them go! I have a hard time letting my cut flowers go too. But over the years, I am getting better. If there are still one or 2 good flowers left, I will cut them from the bouquet, throw the rest out, and put the short stemmed survivors in a shot glass or a bud vase.
Some flowers just have shorter vase life than others, so it’s ok to throw them out before the rest (roses do not last nearly as long as carnations)
Some flowers can last up to a month in the vase!
Keep flowers away from fresh fruit to help them last longer(fruit releases ethylene gas as it ripens, which makes flowers ripen or age more quickly)
keeping your bouquet out of direct sunlight will increase vase life
keeping your bouquet in a cool spot in your house will increase vase life
keeping your bouquet away from heat sources will increase vase life
So What was my Big Surprise?
Something every flower loving girl needs! A new bouquet rack on wheels! It holds 6 french style black flower buckets, and can be easily set up anywhere. It’s something I always wished we had when we sold flowers at the farmers market, but they were so expensive! We were driving home from church a few weeks ago, and I saw the rack at the resale shop on the way home from church! I was joking around about buying it, as we drove by. I never did because I thought Tim would blow a gasket for sure, if I came home with something like that! To say that I was surprised he bought it is quite an understatement!