Monthly Garden Chores for April – East Coast Edition

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This is a guest post written by my buddy Heather from Massachusetts.  I thought it would be fun this year to post Monthly Garden Chores from both the West Coast and East Coast. You can see my April garden plans for my Seattle, Washington garden HERE.

garden chores east coast april

Springtime in New England means about six weeks of rain, which I always think of a ‘waking up nature’. Today alone it must have rained six inches! Soon all the trees and bushes will start to bud, have you ever noticed that buds are different colors depending on the trees and the leaf color?

tomato plants

Seeds I’m Starting Indoors this Month

April 1st begins the 7-week count-down to planting day {May 20th around these parts}. So this month I’ll begin the seeds, that I haven’t already started to get the garden started come planting day.

~Garlic & Onions were planted last fall and beginning to come up with little green sprouts

~Tomatoes were started in February, and already about 6” tall {I added soil last month to the stems to deepen the root system}

~Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, Kale, Eggplant, Jalapenos & Broccoli were started in March and are now little seedlings happily growing under my grow lights

~Beets, Beans, Carrots, Corn & Peas I’ll start in a hoop-greenhouse this month because they don’t transplant well. Note to self: build three hoop greenhouses.

~Start Basil, Pumpkins, Cilantro, Dill, Thyme, Oregano and Echinacea under the grow lights.

seedlingsWhat I Plan to Transplant Outside this Month

Can I get an aaaaah-men! It’s rainy and windy which means it’s officially spring! In fact, my teenager wore shorts and a t-shirt to school today because “mom, *eye roll* it’s warmer than 40*, and we have the ‘40* rule”. It’s true; I had to put a cut-off temperature on the shorts! Essentially, it’s now shorts-weather here in New England, so although we can’t transplant anything this month I will spend the month sighing longingly at the garden.

baby chicksPlants and/or Bulbs I Plan to Purchase this Month

Ya know how you pop into the feed store with the kids for some pine shavings for your flock and bring home two Barred Rock chicks? HA! Just Kidding! We actually had a plan. Because we have a small coop and only want a few chickens {and there is a 6 chick minimum purchase law in MA} we all agreed to get two Barred Rocks and coordinated with a few friends to make a 6-chick order. Now we have two Black Sex-links, two Rode Island Reds and two Barred Rocks – a whopping 6 chicken flock J All these breeds are cold hardy and heavy layers, so perfect for our area and needs. These two-week-old chicks are super energetic and are constantly running around and JUMPING in their brooder-box.

garlic shootsWhat I plan to Harvest This Month

Although I could clip some lettuce for a salad, I think I need to transplant them to larger pots or move them out to the greenhouses {I have yet to build} and let them get a little larger before I make a nice big, fat salad.

houseplant

Houseplants and Indoor Bulbs

Good News! The oil and soap solution reader Mari suggested in the comments of my March post worked like a charm on the scale infestation my lemon tree had gotten. The scale infestation was really, really bad. I mean dis-gus-ting. The scales were multiplying, hanging off the leaves and branches, sticky stuff all over the plant and floor, and there were little bugs flying all over. {In full 80’s fashion} it was totally groady.

Mari suggested mixing 1 tsp ordinary liquid kitchen soap plus 1 tsp {any} cooking oil plus 1-quart water. Then shake and spray the entire plant. Make sure to spray the stem, top and bottom of the leaves and the soil at least every two-three days to eradicate all the various stages of the bugs. The best part? It’s homemade, and safe for plants, including veggies and is perfectly safe to use around pets and chickens.

Every day it has been above 30* I’ve wheeled my lemon out to the south-facing front steps and hosed it down with the mixture. I’m happy to report I’ve seen a drastic difference and I’ve even got a half-dozen or so lemon buds growing. Thanks Mari!!

chicken tractor

Weed and Pest Control

The chicken tractor is a huge hit! I can’t help but wonder what the heck they’re eating so greedily in my perfectly normal looking yard, but I’m lovin’ it.

Lawn Care Projects

I have a confession to make. There is a giant pile of rubber mulch from when my garden was the site of a kid’s play set. I’ve donated the majority to a pre-school and have the rest to bag up for sale, but it’s a mammoth labor-heavy job.

Anyone else have an ugly, you-don’t-want-to-do job waiting for you in the yard this spring?

~ Heather

**These garden chores are based on my Zone 5b Southeast/Boston MA location. Find your garden zone HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Mavis Garden Blog – Planting Herbs in the Garden

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planting a herb garden

Yesterday was such a  gorgeous day. The Puggle love and I spent a good 3 hours outside planting seeds, pulling weeds and playing with her new ball. {You can see a short video of Lucy in action HERE}. botanical Interests herb seeds

I cleaned up the mini herb garden we have growing alongside the greenhouse and planted 6 packets of Cilantro, Dill and Parsley seeds. Weeeee!growing herbs seeds planting

Now all that’s left is to plant my basil transplants in the greenhouse and then I’ll be officially done planting herbs for this year. {Basil seeds need higher temps that is why I am waiting}. mavis butterfield garden

Hey Mavis, wasn’t it like 70 degrees up in Seattle yesterday?

mavis butterfield

Are you really that pale? Why aren’t you wearing a tank top and shorts like everyone else on the planet?mavis

Ummm. That would be because I am a total freak that’s why. ;) Oh, and because I only own one pair of shorts. And one tank top. And anyway, the colonial peeps in Williamsburg would probably not approve of me walking around in a tank top and shorts, so there. That is my excuse. I am conditioning myself for the colonial life of sun bonnets and dresses. Plus, being a Washington native, I melt at 70 degrees so I have to either garden really early in the morning, or at dusk.

mavis butterfield one hundred dollars a month

How about you? Do you have a melting point? Or am I just a total weirdo?

~Mavis

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Maintain a Healthy Flower Garden

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How to Maintain a Healthy Flower Garden

When I first started gardening, I did not really get the importance of integrating flowers.  I mean, I like them because they were pretty, they added curb appeal, etc.  Now, though, I see them as an important part of my garden.  When they are healthy and thriving, so is the rest of my garden.  They do most of the work in keeping a healthy, balanced garden by attracting bees and other beneficial insects to the yard.

I like to imagine they have little whistles to call in the pollinators {it’s possible I spend too much time with my plants}.

Here’s the 411 on maintaining a healthy flower garden:

  1. Soil.  Make sure to provide the right soil for however you plan on planting your flowers.  Potted flowers will suffocate in regular old dirt.  I usually make my own potting soil with my compost.  Flowers planted in flower beds also need a little TLC.  Laying down compost before you plant can provide much needed nutrients throughout the growing season.
  2. Give ‘em a little wiggle room.  Whenever I see those pre-potted flowers in the stores in the spring, I wonder what they will look like in a month or so.  They are so over-crowded.  They have a lot of initial appeal {probably to entice you into buying them}, but pretty soon, they start suffocating each other out.  Plants are like humans that way–in over-crowded conditions, they start to become diseased, fight for nutrients, and die back.  Not good.
  3. Fertilize.  I usually let my chickens do most of the fertilizing, but if you don’t have that option, a good organic fertilizer will help you maintain those bright blooms.
  4. Deadhead.  Pinching back faded blooms encourages new growth and makes your flowers the envy of your neighbors.  It’s win-win.
  5. Water.  Flowers will need you to adjust their watering schedule frequently throughout the growing season.  Water when the first 2″ of soil is dry.  I feel like flowers always hang their heads when they are dry, so you can usually tell by looking at them.  Like all plants, do not let them sit in water.  Their feet {roots} get soggy and it makes them very grumpy.
  6. Do a little research.  Some flowers offer a little more bang for their buck.  For example, Marigolds repel a lot of pests.  Companion planting with flowers is a great way to maintain an organic garden.

Any more tips you can think of for keeping your flowers looking and performing their best?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Get Urban Farm Magazine Subscription for Only $8.99 a Year

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urban farm magazine

If you missed this deal last time, it’s baaaack!

DiscountMags is offering a 1 year subscription to Urban Farm Magazine for only $8.99 a year when you use code MAVIS at checkout. I love this magazine! Learn how to grow your own food in the space you have.

mavis butterfiled

Urban Farm Magazine is guide for those in cities or suburbs looking to become more self-sufficient by growing some of their own food and treading lightly on the environment in the space they have. Articles include how-to projects, gardening basics, composting, beekeeping, roof-top gardening, preserving and freezing, and time and money-saving ideas.

Go HERE to order Urban Farm Magazine.

*This special rate will be live through midnight 4/7/2014 {EST}. You can purchase this deal as a new subscription or to renew your existing subscription. Plus you can also purchase additional subscriptions as gifts! Giddy up!

cherry tomatoes

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Butterfield | Backyard Garden Pictures 4/6/14

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raised garden bedsThe ground was still a wee bit wet this morning when I snapped a few pictures of our garden, and by the looks of the sky right now we might get a little more rain here in a bit. But I’m not complaining {not today anyways} because we finally have some GREEN in those garden boxes!!

carrot seedlings

The carrots we started in early winter are on the right and if you squint real hard you can see some carrot seedlings popping up on the left. We planted those a few weeks ago.
growing peas broccoli

Snap peas, radishes and broccoli.
radish seedlings

I think Lucy the puggle trouble may have stepped in my row of perfectly aligned radish seeds. Now the question is, should I try and fix them? ;)  grow garlic and leeks

Leeks and cabbage plants on the left, and oodles of garlic plants on the right. Have you tried garlic scape pesto? It’s the best! Elephant garlic is in the center.
lasagna garden bed

Ahh the lasagna garden.  I am sill undecided about this area. Should I plant a little of everything? A pumpkin patch? Sunflowers? Decisions decisions. poppies and rhubarb

Poppies and rhubarb. One of our 5 rhubarb plants is beginning to flower already. Sheesh! magnum glass greenhouse

The greenhouse is bursting with lettuce. I plan on continuing to grow lettuce in the tubs until the weather warms up. I’ll try and remember to get some close up pics later this week. backyard garden

Check out all those shasta daisies coming back to life near the old stump. This is one of my favorite areas in the garden to watch every year. As for that giant patch of dirt… I’m still undecided about what I’m going to do with that area this year.

western washington raspberries

And guess who finally cleaned up the raspberry patch? ;) I still need to get the poles lined up and hammered in to the ground but the hard part is done.

Sweet diggity! Gardening season has finally arrived. :)

~Mavis

This years garden is being sponsored by the folks at Botanical Interests Seed Company. You can check out their website HERE, order their new 2014 Garden Seed Catalog HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY – How to Make a Compost Tumbler

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How to Make a Compost Tumbler

My friend Heather recently made a compost tumbler from scratch and I wanted to share this easy peasy tutorial with you. Here are the directions, photos and even a video of the tumbler in action.

**********************

Composting.Is.Awesome. Nature takes useless bits of food, grass, dead leaves and other natural pieces of organic material and turns it into a garden superfood. And it’s free. And we all looooove free.

However, the wildlife in my yard kept stealing my free snipits before they could even begin to turn into the garden boosting superfood I wanted so badly to add to my garden. What I needed was a contained compost bin. What my DIYer personality didn’t want was to buy one from a big box store. So I made one.

There are a million different versions of compost bins you could make, but the main ingredients to make a successful compost bin are air, the combination of ingredients, and turning your pile. After looking at my needs and some ideas online, I decided I’d like a container {to keep the critters away}. I knew it would have to be turned since I can’t get in there with a pitch fork to turn it, so I had to take that into consideration. But with household scraps and chicken manure, I’d have the correct ingredients just waiting for me to build one sweet compost bin.

Materials:

  • 50 gallon food-grade plastic barrel
  • drill
  • skill saw
  • permanent marker
  • (2) small hinges
  • (2) latches
  • (3) ½”x4’ PVC pipes
  • (4) small/med rolling casters
  • scrap wood (remember to hit that 70% pile at the back of HD!) or a pallet
  • deck screws

How many compost barrels do I need? How long will one barrel last?

Good questions, but there are lots of variables. The two 50 gallon food-grade containers I use will hold a little more than a year of household scraps for a family of four {assuming you don’t give any scraps to the chickens}. Now that we have chickens, one barrel would have been plenty. My suggestion? Start with one barrel and make another if you need it.

Where can I get a 50-gallon barrel?

Before you spend money on a barrel, check out these options:

The DPW in your town or surrounding towns
Companies that transport liquid in barrels, ie. syrup, molasses, etc.
Pepsi or similar soda distributor or local bottler
Cheese factory
City water plant
Feed stores
Craigslist
eBay
Freecycle
Recycling companies

If you find a place that has some, ask for a few. If you can’t use it now, odds are you know someone who can.

Composting How To

What do I put in my composting barrel?

I stick to the vegetable/fruit/plant material/tea bag/coffee/bread/pasta combo. Despite my best efforts, I’m still training the HH that no meats or cheeses can go in the compost bucket. It’s a work in progress.

We collect our kitchen scraps in a small kitchen composter  {I have this one}. I’ve had it for over a year and LOVE it. And, get this, it totally doesn’t even smell. At all. Then I have the kids take it out to the big compost barrel once or twice a week {depending on how much the chickens get}. Remember to add some brown {chicken coop gold or leaves} to your green kitchen scraps!

Where should I put the composter in my yard?

Remember how sometimes we learn things the hard way? Yeah… DO NOT keep your compost bin anywhere near the garden as it turns into a slug magnet. The first year the compost bin turned my garden into slugopalooza. It will be a general bug magnet anyway {my chickens run toward it every time I let them out to see what lovely treats they can find}, but that’s okay; it’s part of the breaking down process. The composting process is an ongoing process so you should be prepared for the stuff in the barrel to drip. I wouldn’t suggest putting it on your deck {unless you make a drip tray of some sort}. Also, keeping it in the shade is a good idea, as it will not dry out as fast.

diy compost tumbler instructionsHow do I build the composter?

Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple.

Door: Grab a shovel to measure the door so you know you can shovel the coop droppings into it without spilling {I wish I had made mine a bit wider}. To cut the door, use your drill and a fairly big drill bit to make a hole in each corner. This will make it easier to get the skill saw started. Next, follow the lines you made with your marker with the skill saw to cut your door – this part is pretty fun! Then get your hinges and your marker, and mark out where the hinge screws will go. Then attach them. Follow this same process to line up and attach the latch.

DIY - How to Make a Compost TumblerVentilation: Grab your handy dandy drill again {isn’t a good drill worth it’s weight in gold?}. You’ll want to use a drill bit that will leave holes bigger than a pea but smaller than a dime. The goal here is to allow air flow and drainage but prevent food and your precious garden-super-food from falling out when you turn the barrel. Experiment with a small bit and work your way up to an appropriate size. Once you get the size you think will work best, make holes all over the barrel. My OCD would only allow neatly spaced holes in tidy little rows – but it’s your project so, heck, get creative!

Tumblers: Just like the wings on the inside of the clothes dryer toss the clothes, you’ll need tumblers to break up and toss the ingredients in barrel. Three ½” PVC pipes will fit perfectly. Grab your drill again and using a ½ inch drill bit, make three holes in each end. Then thread the PVC through from one end to the other.

DIY - How to Make a Compost TumblerStand: The stand is not fancy – just a stand to attach the coasters so the barrel can be rolled on it. You could even use a pallet. To figure out where the coasters go, grab the nearest teenager and have them hold the barrel while you place the coasters, marking them with your marker. Do one end and then the other. You’ll notice they aren’t symmetrical because of the barrel shape.

TAAA-DAAAH! You did it!

diy compost tumbler

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Friday Night at the Movies – Grow!

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Tonight I am going to check out Grow!  It’s a documentary about the next generation of farmers–and how they have come to choose farming as a career path.  I’m pretty much a sucker for these kinds of films, so I am sure I won’t be disappointed.

 grow

Let me know what you think if you decide to watch it–or if you have already seen it.

Peace out Girl Scouts & have yourself a great weekend,

~Mavis

PicMonkey Collage

Looking for more movies?

Check out the full list of my Friday Night at the Movies Selections or click on over & look at all the movies on Amazon Instant Video. There are a ton of videos to choose from that will cost you absolutely nothing {nada, zilch, free-o} with Amazon Prime; like thousands of regular movies & TV shows & hundreds of documentaries {Wahoo!}. Get all the details HERE!

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Ask Mavis Your Gardening Questions – How to Grow Potatoes

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potatoes in wheelbarrowThe gardening questions have been pouring in lately, so I thought I would try out a question/answer series for some of the questions.   So, if you have any questions about gardening mishaps or how-to’s, send them my way.  I’ll try to answer them the best I can.

Recently a reader asked:

I went to the store and got several types of potatoes to plant, but then I look at the sites and they are being harvested in September, so why do the country farm stores sell them so early in the spring? when should they be planted, I live in Anacortes, WA, , my potatoes are Yukon gold, Russian red fingerlings, russet, white fingerlings and some I didn’t find in the ground until two weeks ago, they all have different sized eyes or sprouts, I don’t know how long to grow the eyes before planting them.

I am still an experimental gardener but love it. last year I experimented with squash, none got big but they were fun to grow. I had a weird success with corn, the husks turned a beautiful dark red, then pink, the corn was small but each stalk got one ear.

blue seed potatoes

First, the stores are selling the seed potatoes because it is actually time here in Washington to start thinking about planting them. Ideally, you would put them in the ground 2-3 weeks before the last frost {but if for some reason it did frost after they had sprouted, they would most likely just die back and re-sprout}.

seed-potato-chitting

Having different sized eyes on different potatoes doesn’t really matter too much.  As long as they have “eyes” they are ready to plant.  If you decide to cut your larger seed potatoes into smaller bits, cut with a clean knife, making sure each bit has at least two eyes.

Then, allow them to sit in a cool dark place for 24 hours so that they can callous {which helps prevent them from being susceptible to disease once you put them in the ground}.  Also, if you aren’t ready to plant quite yet, just store your seed potatoes in the fridge until you are.

blue potato leaves

Most likely the September harvest date you are seeing on varying websites is confusing you because it isn’t actually when you put the potatoes in the ground that you start the countdown to harvest, it’s when you see the plants emerge from the soil.  Harvest dates vary, but I think around these parts, September is pretty accurate.  You will know it’s time to harvest when the plants die back and start to yellow.

potatoes

Hopefully, that answers your question.  If you have any more questions about how to grow potatoes, check out my detailed Potato Grow Guide.

~Mavis

the complete book of potatoes

Want to get the full low-down on growing potatoes?  Check out The Complete Book of Potatoes:  What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Pallet Gardening – Growing Lettuce and Strawberries Together in Pallets

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strawberry pallet gardenWhile I was working in the garden yesterday I snapped a few photos of our pallet gardens.

strawberry pallet garden

The strawberries we transplanted last fall have begun to come back to life and are leafing out really well now. So much so that I may need to divide them again here pretty soon. pallet garden lettuce

The buttercrunch lettuce we transplanted a few weeks ago are beginning to take off as well. pallet gardening lettuce

I know it’s hard to believe, but in about 60 days this pallet will be filled with 16 heads of lettuce. And that my friends is the best part about gardening if you ask me. Watching things grow. It always amazes me how something so small can turn into a full sized plant in just a short period of time. I LOVE it!!lucy the puggle dog

And so does inspector Lucy. ;)

Okay, so maybe she just loves being outside. pallet gardens

This year I think I’m going to stick to growing lettuce and strawberries in our 6 pallet gardens. Last year I grew chard, celery, beans and a few other odds and ends but the strawberries and the lettuce did the best overall… so that’s what I’ll be growing in our pallet garden this year.

Keepin’ it simple. That’s my motto for this summer.

~Mavis

heat treated wood pallet

Want to learn more about wood pallet gardening and how I put mine together? Click on the pallets above and it will take you to my first pallet garden post of the year. You’ll also learn what to look for when choosing a pallet.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Spring Vegetables in My Garden

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mavis butterfield garden lucy the puggle dog

I’m hoping the rain will hold off until this afternoon so Lucy the puggle dog and I can finish cleaning up the raspberry patch. Clipping dead canes and pulling weeds takes a surprising long time when you have a dog helping you out.  But I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way. :) raspberry canes

Have your raspberry plants started to leaf out yet? Our are looking really healthy this year. weeds in garlic

The garlic I planted last fall is doing really well too. Just a few weeds here and there but nothing I can’t keep up with. beet seedling

Beets! I planted beets seeds about a month ago and they finally decided to make their appearance. I planted 4 kinds of beets this year and let me tell you Bob, I can’t wait to harvest them this summer. brussels sprouts

I can however wait for the Brussel sprouts. ;)

mavis garden blog onions

While Lucy checked looked for hidden treasures I thinned the radish seedlings.radish seedlings

I suppose I could replant them somewhere else in the garden if I wanted to, but with only 10 garden boxes this year I’m already running low on space so I just tossed them onto the compost heap.

raised garden beds seattle garden

Now, if we could just get the weather to warm up {and stay warm} I could really get some work done. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to for heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil.

Ahhh summer… we need you.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Recipes Garden Frugal Canning Chickens Travel