Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day

 Here are a few photos from the garden in honor of Earth Day

... and in honor of me finally getting a few lessons on how to use my real camera

... and in honor of photos from a real camera as opposed to the iPhone. Enjoy.
 The Zephirine Drouhins are blooming.  I wish I could share the fragrance with you somehow.
 The Autumn fern
 Heuchera buds
 New growth on the camellia
 Mustard greens
 Onion blossoms.  Sometimes the vegetable garden is an unexpected source of blossomed beauty.
Arugula blooms

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Beat the Peat -- Why I've Changed My Mind About Sprouting in Natural Fiber Containers

Remember how I was so proud of sprouting my veggies and flowers this year in cardboard egg cartons, peat pots, and modified toilet paper rolls?  I felt so organic and sustainable and natural.  Well, a recent observation has made me swear I'll never repeat that mistake.

What could be wrong with growing in natural fibers? They break down over time, adding organic matter to feed the seedling's roots, and seem so much "greener" than conventional plastic pots.  But we're 6 weeks in, and my tomatoes and peppers are still tiny - we're talking less than 2" tall - all of them, that is, except for one.  My daughter started a tomato from seed (from the same packet I used) over a week after I started my seeds, and now hers is about 6" tall and full of beautiful, healthy leaves.  I was struck by the difference between her plant and mine, and realized the only difference was the container material; she chose to reuse a black plastic 4" pot from a nursery plant.

Why would the plants in the natural fiber containers be so stunted, so much smaller than the plant in the plastic container?  Because cardboard and peat wick moisture away from the soil, and the roots of these plants then dry out far faster than if they were in plastic pots.  I watered them once a day, but apparently I would need to water them more often to counteract the wicking action of the peat (and that's more time than this mama can devote to organisms with cell walls!). This includes the seedlings I kept in my little greenhouse outside, which does a pretty good job of containing moisture and creating a humid environment.  Even there, my plants needed watering about 8 times more often, if not more, than her plant.

So while natural fibers are...well, more natural, I think from here out I will be sticking to plastic for seed starting containers.  In this situation, plastic produced more growth in seedlings, required less watering, and could be used over and over, as the plastic planters are still usable after the seedling is transplanted.  My cardboard products will instead go straight to the compost.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

“I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work” - Thomas Edison

Monday, April 7, 2014

April Blooms in the Garden

Here's a little tour of my garden and what is blooming there today.  The azalea blooms were beaten pretty badly by hail this weekend, but these have survived beautifully.
creeping phlox
garlic chives
common thyme

Monday, March 31, 2014

Guest House Bathroom Big Reveal

 White tile, dark gray grout, and bright white trim.  It all adds up to a 2000% improvement.  Or more.
 We decided to use the same paint we used on our shed on the walls above the wainscoting.  It's crazy how dark green it looks in here.
 Laminate self-adhesive floor tiles with a lifetime warranty? Uh, yes. Please. With grout.  Looking forward to doing the rest of the floors in this.
This is a piece of old fence wood from our yard.  Our new tenants picked out some beautiful knobs and we made it into a towel rack.  Hopefully they really enjoy this place!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest House Bathroom Reno: More Progress

 I spy...A new window, board and batten wainscoting, and tile prep board.
 I spy...shower area trim and window framing.
 I spy...a pretty sweet window trim, crown molding, and a switch plate (it's the little things, people).
I spy...paint!

Now let's have a little chat.  How many readers are screaming, "NO! Don't paint it!! Let the wood be naked and free!"?  I can appreciate you hipster naturalists. We actually bought gray opaque stain to allow the wood grain to show through, but alas the squiggles of adhesive around the shower area would have been painfully accentuated.  So we are painting it, then sanding down in places to reveal the wood's beauty.  And if that looks crappy, we'll paint over it again.

Just keepin' it real.

Remember to come back Monday for what will hopefully be the big reveal!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest House Bathroom Renovation: Before Photos

I'd say this could be called a "surprise!" renovation.  By that I mean that we did not expect to have to do this until we found out we had water damage a few weeks ago.  We are still recovering from this, the Year of the Water Heater, so this scale of renovation was not elective.  But isn't that how life is?  We keep saying, "At least it will be finished!" And that is always good for resale!
 Welcome to the guest house bathroom.  This photo doesn't look quite so bad, but if you were physically there you would see that the cheap false-tile board that had been glued up around the tub was warping, cracked, and molding.  I had caulked those offending areas so the last few days of our previous tenant's stay could be mold-free.  But we had to see how far back the damage went, so we gutted it.  That tenant and I gutted it mostly - which was very empowering and a great experience for me. 
 Yes, that is 3/4" tongue-in-groove behind two layers of water-damaged Masonite.  Solid wood on every wall, and in the ceiling.  That's why it's so peaceful over there!

 Look at that sweet wallpaper up top.  Man, this bathroom has seen its fair share of trends.  The gas heater in the wall still worked, but that space can be better used with it gone.
And here is progress: My very handy husband has installed new lighting, a new switch, and an additional plug.  We've hammered in the countless nails, removed tub caulk, and cleaned debris out.  We're basically doing this when he gets home from work each evening, and I put in 3 or so hours a day while he's at work.  Some friends have helped us too, which is just like our community here.  We never bear a burden alone; there's always someone willing to help.

Tune in Friday for more progress photos, and Monday for the big reveal...hopefully!

Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Love a Gardener: 5 Gift Ideas

I have recently been receiving some very thoughtful and creative gifts from a fellow gardener that have made me feel especially loved and appreciated. I decided to share them and a few other ideas, in case someone -- some would-be gift-giver -- can benefit.  Knowing how to love others well is an art, and we're always learning.

1. Order Plants or Seeds
Receiving a gift in the mail is exciting! Even a gift certificate to a reputable mail-order plant or seed company can send a gardener right to the door of paradise.  The thrill of picking out a new variety to showcase in the garden is a gift itself.  That said, a trip to a local nursery can be just as fun!  Here are a few very reputable companies I have ordered from and enjoyed:
Mountain Valley Growers
Plant Delights
Renee's Garden Seeds
My most recent order from Renee's Garden.

My order last Fall from Mountain Valley - very carefully packaged, and in perfect condition!

2. Gift From Your Own Garden
Learning to propagate the plants from your own garden is one of the many joys of gardening.  Why not share your extra plants with a friend?  I love to trade plants with my friends, so that our gardens can be friendship gardens -- with something to remind us of each other.  This is a very eco-friendly and frugal choice.
Cuttings from some of my favorite plants.  If I can get them to root, I will have dozens of little plants from my garden to share with friends.

You can even divide your houseplants and put them into repurposed containers, like these cowboy boots.  Some gardeners don't have yards, and this is the perfect gift for them.

Seeds saved from a friend's garden for me.  Priceless gifts!
3. MAIL a Gift From Your Own Garden
This, my friends, is a special delight.  Imagine receiving a gift in the mail that is from a friend's garden! My friend sends seeds collected from her spent flowers, and even seedlings and divisions from her garden.  Remember to use some sort of insulation, be it paper mulch, additional layers of cardboard or other, as the shipping process will expose the contents of a box to extreme temperatures.  Suitable stabilization and proper labeling of the package is also necessary to ensure its safe delivery.  All that trouble is certainly appreciated by a gardener recipient!

Clearly, receiving these plants in the mail didn't excite me in the least.

4. Let the Gardener Give You a Tour
For some gardeners, gifts are not as appreciated as words of affirmation or quality time.  Ask a gardener to give you a tour of his or her collection, and listen and ask questions.  If you are not a gardener yourself, this is the perfect choice -- no need to worry about finding a plant or keeping it alive.  And your gardener friend will feel loved!

5. Deliver Mulch
Just before we left NC, my suite-mate from college and her son and husband came and helped me spread a huge load of mulch at our house there so we could rent it.  We were in a huge hurry, so I was doing it myself while my husband was at work, but these people came and did a very large portion of the work with me and FOR me when I had to run an errand.  I will never forget that sweet act of kindness.

Is anyone here an "acts of service" kind of person?  Delivering or helping to spread mulch is a practical and tangible way to express love to a gardener.  Yes, it might smell funny, and you might not look pretty while working, but consider this: mulch is both a beautifier of the garden and a protector of plants.  Mulch helps keep varying moisture and temperature levels from damaging plants, as well as keeps weeds from forming and insulates the earthen environment for worms and microbes (so necessary for soil-building!).  Mulch also eventually breaks down into food for plants.  And you don't have to have a "green thumb" to be able to haul mulch from Point A to Point B!  Now do you see how great this is?

Now go out there and show some love! Do you have any other ideas on how to love a gardener?  Share them!