Mavis Butterfield | Backyard Garden Pictures 4/21/14

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backyard gardens

Last week we had a ton of rain here in the Pacific Northwest and it’s in the forecast for this week as well.

After a heavy rain I always find myself raking the barktopia we’ve got going on in the backyard and it makes me tired. Why couldn’t we have just planted grass all over the place like all the other neighbors? It’s pretty much the only time I feel silly for having a bunch of garden beds and vegetable patches scattered throughout our property.

carrot seedlings

Carrots. Seedlings to the left, winter carrots to the right. pea plants

Sugar snap peas and broccoli. growing strawberries in pallets

Strawberries growing in pallets. Have you tried this yet? If there is one thing I like growing in pallets, it’s strawberry plants. Not only do the pallet gardens help keep the berries off the ground, it helps deter the slugs as well. poppies and rhubarb

Poppies and rhubarb. The rhubarb should be ready to pick in a couple of weeks! :) greenhouse garden

Ahh the greenhouse garden. I love it! If you look closely you can see the cabbage plants growing in the bed to the right of the greenhouse. I plan on transplanting my gutter lettuce out to the garden this week to make room for some other seedlings.shasta daisy

The shasta daisies are growing like bonkers! They’ll reach about 5 feet tall by the end of summer.

cascadia raspberry plants

And take a look at our raspberry patch. The seven rows of raspberries we planted back in 2009 are coming back in full force this year. I wonder how many pounds we will harvest?

terra cotta pots with a patina

And last but not least, our extra terracotta pots. I can never decide if I want to scrub the green patina off them or leave them as they are.

What do you think? Keep the patina, or clean them?

~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.



Foraging for Dinner in the Lettuce Jungle

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growing lettuce in a greenhouse garden

Last night during a ridiculously epic rain storm, I went foraging in the lettuce jungle for some salad fixin’s. Not having to go to the store is pretty high on my list pretty much everyday of the week. The crowds, the noises, the dirty shopping carts and baskets that never get washed {unless rain counts} are a big deterrent for me.

cutting lettuce leaves

But walking to the backyard in the rain to find something for dinner? No problem, they’ve got these things called umbrellas and let me tell you Bob, they are one of the coolest inventions ever.

giant bowl of homegrown lettuce

BYOS. Bring your own scissors and go home with a giant bowl of gourmet greens. :) planting tomatoes in a greenhouse

Ahh but what’s a trip to the garden if you can’t get a little sidetracked… right?planting tomatoes in a ginat tub

Last night before dinner I clean up the lettuce bed and transplanted my first 2 tomato plants {Sun Gold} to our greenhouse garden. It’s still a little too chilly to transplant the tomatoes directly into the garden beds, but they should be find in the greenhouse.

using tomato cages

Hot diggety dog, can you believe it? Tomato season is right around the corner.

Let’s get this party started!

~ 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 Make a Hoop House – Picture Tutorial

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how to make a hoop house

My buddy Heather made this hoop house . Check out her easy peasy directions.

I’ve made a few hoop houses in my day – some prettier, long lasting, and easier to use than others. But, as temporary hoop-houses go, I think I’ve nailed it. And better yet, for the low-low price of about $22 from your friendly Home Depot guys, you too can make your own Fancy-Schmancy hoop-house too! {I may have missed my calling as an infomercial queen!} ;)

Hoop House Supplies

how to make a hoop house

The first steps to making your hoop house are to make the end parts, which are waaaaay easier than you think it’s going to be. First measure the distance of where you will place the end pieces and, by screwing in two pipe ends to an extra piece of wood, you can create a jig.

making a hoop house from scratch

Then lay out the plastic (I did this in my living room because even a small breeze would be the equivalent to trying to do this with half a dozen toddlers).  Now, cut out around the pvc pipe and leave a 4”-5” border so you can wrap the plastic around the pipe and tape it down. Don’t worry about it being too tight, the plastic will fluctuate with the temperature anyway. Ta-daaaaah. Looks sweet huh? Now slide it out of your jig and make another.

building a hoop house

Grab that old hose and a sharp pair of scissors, pat yourself on the back for up-cycling, and get to work cutting that hose into sections of 12” or so. Then cut them down the middle like a hot dog bun. These hose pieces will act like grips to hold the plastic in place, I made 13.

making a hoop house

Now it’s time to screw the pipe ends to your wood boxes and put up your two end pieces that you made inside and add another pvc pipe in the middle for support (my boxes are 4’x8’). Oh heck ya, it’s looking awesome already.

tomato plants

At this point I skipped inside to get the tomato plants I seeded in January – whoo-hoo! – to plant in my hoop house.  They had way over grown their pots and unless I wanted to re-pot them again, I had to move them outside.  Normally, this is about 6 weeks too early, but with my handy-dandy-fancy-schmancy hoop house I can move them out into the garden now.

hoop house directions pictures

To add the last 9’x12’ plastic sheet on top, you’ll need a helper to hold it in place, and wedge the hose pieces on to secure them. (If the plastic touches the sharp tops of the tomato cages, like mine do in a few pieces, just put a bit of duct tape on the metal cages to buffer it and protect the plastic.)

The goal is to open the one side of the hoop house for watering and weeding without having to un-do the whole thing (my main gripe with previous hoop houses that I’d made/used) or try to water and weed from one of the ends (which is almost impossible).

hoop house polytunnel directions

For the back side, add several rocks or a heavy pieces of wood on the back end to hold the plastic in place and secure it to the ground.  On the front side tape the last ½” piece of pvc pipe to the plastic so you can roll it up and secure it on top for weeding in the garden box.

Now step back, do a little dance, and let’s kick off this gardening season early!

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.

What Is Compost and Why Is Compost So Important?

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What Is Compost and Why Is Compost So Important

I get questions about compost all of the time, and since I am itching to start really get going in the garden, I thought now would be the perfect time to give you the 411 on all things compost.

First, compost is the product of the natural decomposition of organic materials.  In an nutshell, it’s the dirt-like substance that comes from waste that is allowed to follow its natural process of breaking down to re-feed the earth.  It will happen whether you composts yourself or not–but having your own compost pile really only helps you in the long run.

How to Make Compost

Compost is nature’s way of making sure the earth doesn’t pile up with waste.  {As humans, we have, of course, managed to figure out how to make things that simply to not break down, but that’s a whole other topic.}  The decomposition, by design, feeds the plants that grow from the earth, which feed the animals.  It’s all part of the great cycle of nature.

Creating a compost pile or buying a composter helps to reduce the amount of stuff that ends up shoved into plastic bags and sent to the landfills.  It also results in what most gardeners refer to as “black gold” for your garden.  Compost is a nutrient rich amendment for your soil that is literally free to make.

how to compost kitchen scraps

Making your own compost is basically a no-brainer.  It’s easiest to start with kitchen scraps.  {Click HERE to see a full list of kitchen scraps that can be composted.}  Just get a bucket or composting collector of some sort, and toss in your kitchen scraps.  When it is full, take it outside to the compost pile and dump it.  Layer your kitchen scraps with grass clippings, leaves, and other yard waste {sticks need to be put through a wood chipper, otherwise they take FOREVER to break down}.  As a general rule of thumb, if it came from nature, you can usually send it back to nature.

Composting Chicken Manure

Compost will need to “cook” before it breaks down into a dirt like substance.  In order for your compost to break down, you will need microbe activity.  This happens pretty naturally, and while there are ways to help it along {by adding nitrogen}, I don’t think you need to.  The microbe activity is what causes the heat {maybe you have seen a compost pile steaming in the middle of winter?} which is needed to cook the compost.  It’s important to keep constant moisture {but don’t over do it} and turn your compost pile frequently in order to get the fastest results.

How to Build a Compost Bin Out of Wood Pallets

If your compost is complete in the spring, make sure to allow it to sit for up to 3 months before applying it directly to your beds. See how I made a compost bin out of wood pallets HERE.  Compost can be “hot”, which means it is high in nitrogen, and it can burn your plants.  Allowing it to sit can prevent that.  If you compost is done in the fall {which I think is ideal}, you can spread it over the top of your garden when you put it to bed and allow it to sit over the winter.  Come spring, you will be ready to turn it into the soil and plant.  {Store bought compost can be used any time}.

That’s about it.  Do you have anything to add about compost?

~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 Plant, Grow and Care for Wisteria

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How to Plant, Grow and Care for Wisteria

I don’t know about you, but I could grow Wisteria over just about everything–it’s like outdoor crepe paper, only prettier.  I have it growing over the top of my arbor on my garden gate.  I love it.  It makes me want a porch swing and iced tea.

wisteria growing arbor

Planting  and growing Wisteria is stupid easy.  {In fact, I hear in the south it’s more of an invasive nightmare than a dripping vine.  Here in the Northwest, though, it makes a just right addition to an arbor.}  To plant it, start with a healthy vine.  Most nurseries will have them come early spring.  While it will grow in part shade, it won’t flower, so if you want the purple blooms, make sure to choose a sunny location to plant it.

how to plant a fruit tree in your backyard

Dig a hole 2-3 times the size of the root ball or roots.  Place the vine in the soil, cover with a mixture of soil and compost.  A 2″-4″ layer of mulch will help the vines retain moisture.  Water it in and you are done.  {You don’t need to continue regular watering unless you live in an area that receives less than 1″ of rain a year.}

wisteria over garden gate

To care for Wisteria, pruning is key.  Don’t prune in the winter or early spring, because you will deter flowering.  It is best to prune heavily after the spring blooming.  That will encourage another flowering in late summer/fall.  A heavy pruning in late summer can also help to keep the fast growing vine tame.  Wisteria does not need fertilizer, and once established, past keeping the growth under control, it needs almost no maintenance.

As a side note, last time I planted my Wisteria, several readers advised me not to plant Wisteria close to any trees, as it will choke them out eventually.  So, when you are deciding where to plant your vines, make sure to keep that in mind.

Now get out there and plant something,

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 Prevent Potato Scab

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How to Prevent Potato Scab

After growing potatoes in the same location for several years, last year a couple of my potatoes had potato scab. It’s a good thing I decided to rotate the crops this year or I’d probably end up with a whole bunch of them this time around.

In case you don’t know, potato scab is basically a bacteria that builds up in the soil and then causes your taters to have gross lesions.  The worst part about potato scab is that usually you don’t even know your potatoes have it until you go to dig them up.   The good thing, is that preventing potato scab is pretty easy to do if you’re paying attention {unlike someone I know, ahem}.

Testing the pH Level of Soil

The bacteria really only thrives in a pH level above 5.5, and taters like it between 5.0 and 5.5–so, while I’m not a mathmagician, keeping your pH level at about 5.0-5.2 will go along way in making a really inhospitable environment for the bacteria.  Testing the pH level of your soil will help you to know how to ammend it to achieve the perfect balance.

Another way to naturally manage potato scab is moisture.  The bacteria thrives in dry conditions, so a weekly irrigation of your potatoes really ticks off the bacteria.  (Just make sure not to go overboard, or you will have rotten potatoes.}

Why Crop Rotation is Important for Healthy Soil

If you do get potato scab, it is essential that you rotate your crops.  It can survive in the soil for years, and without a host plant, it obviously can’t do any harm.  Your best bet is to plant a cover crop that will replenish the soil while the bacteria dies off–corn, rye and alfalfa are not susceptible to the bacteria, so they make good cover crop choices.

If you really want healthy dirt, plant a cover crop in the location for at least 3 years while you wait out the storm.

I know a lot of people don’t reuse their potato dirt at all once it has shown signs of disease, but I think with the cover crops I planted last fall and by simply rotating my crops I’ll be able to nurse my soil back to good health.

What have you done in the past to prevent potato scab?

~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.

Mavis Butterfield | Backyard Garden Pictures 4/13/14

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pallet garden

Happy Sunday everyone, how is the weather where you are? This past week has been spectacular up here in the Pacific Northwest and as a result our backyard garden is really starting to take off.

The potatoes we planted a few weeks ago are starting to pop through the soil {second garden box from the front on the left} and before too long it will be time to set tomato plants outside {my favorite thing to grow}.

pallet gardening

The pallet garden is coming along nicely. Later this week I hope to transplant a few more lettuce starts to our pallet garden. {I’ll be sure and take some close up photos when I do}.

espalier pear tree

Check out our espalier pear tree we having growing alongside the house.

pear flowers

Aren’t the blooms gorgeous? I wonder if we’ll get pears this year? This particular tree has 6 different varieties grafted to it, how cool is that? raised garden beds

The garlic is really beginning to fill out the boxes.
lasagna garden beds

I think I’ll turn the lasagna garden into a sunflower and pumpkin patch. Now all I need to do is wait another 6 weeks to plant the seeds.
rhubarb and poppies

Poppies and rhubarb. flowering rhubarb plant

Two of my rhubarb plants have giant flowers coming out of the center. I think this happened last year as well so I’m not too worried. Once the rhubarb stalks get a little bigger I’m going to pick a few and make a batch of Vanilla Rhubarb Jam.magnum glass greenhouse

The greenhouse is still pumping out gourmet lettuce leaves by the bowlful. daffodils and raspberries

Daffodils and raspberries. You probably can’t see it {unless you squint real hard} but the first round of tulips are beginning to pop up. The daffodils are dying a slow death and should be done blooming by next week, but the tiny grape hyacinth are still hanging in there.

periwinkle in bloom

And last but not least, the backyard is bursting with tiny vinca {periwinkle} flowers. These bloom twice a year, in the spring and fall, and are great plant for growing on a hillside.

Ahh Spring, I love you.

~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.

Be a Hipster – Plant Perennial Fruits and Vegetables

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how-to-harvest-rhubarb-mavis

Not only is growing your own food kind of the hipster thing to do these days, but the pure satisfaction that comes with getting a little dirt under your nails and being able to grow something yourself instead of buying it, is kind of a big deal. At least I think it is.

Find out what perennial fruits and vegetables are at the top of my list in my latest eHow article.

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.

What Does Days to Maturity Mean on a Seed Packet or Vegetable Starts?

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What Does Days to Maturity Mean on a Seed Packet or Vegetable StartsI just got a question from reader, Emily, about how to read the days to maturity number on vegetable starts.  I decided to answer both her question and throw in a bit about starting from seeds, just in case you’ve ever wondered.

Emily asked,

“Quick question you might know the answer to: are the “days to maturity” on the tags for vegetable starts counting from the day I buy the plant or the day it’s seed was planted?”

What Does Days to Maturity Mean on a Seed Packet or Vegetable Starts

On starts that you buy at your local nursery, there is some contention about when to start the days to maturity count.  The most widely accepted answer is to start the count the day you plant it in the ground.  So, if it says 60 days to maturity, count forward 60 days from planting, and that is a rough estimate of when you can expect to have a harvest.  The same goes for any transplants you started from seeds indoors.

botanical interests seed packet

If you direct sow seeds into your garden, start the days to maturity count when the first true set of leaves emerge.  The reason for the difference is that all plants go through a little bit of a transition process when you transplant them.  It takes them a minute to acclimate to your soil, etc. and slows down the maturity process for a bit.  Directly sowed seeds will not have that issue.

In pretty much all the cases, remember that the days to maturity are just a guideline–it doesn’t mean you go out and pick the cantaloupe on the 110th day exactly.  It really just helps you choose the appropriate plant for you climate–if you know you only have a 3 month growing season, you will want to stick to plants with around a 90 days to maturity tag.

I hope that helps!

~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 Care for Geraniums

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How to Care for Geraniums

I saw a whole row of brightly colored Geraniums when I drove passed Home Depot the other day.

Wahoo!  That must mean spring has sprung.  If you are planting Geraniums this year, here’s a quick guide on caring for them {remember, you can over-winter them, so they’re more like an investment}:

Geraniums basically need three things to thrive:  water, sun, and nutrients.  If you provide those three things regularly, your Geraniums will reward you with lots of bright flowers.

First, water.  Geraniums don’t love being left to dry out for long periods of time.  While no plant really loves soggy soil {it’s like have wet feet all of the time–no bueno}, Geraniums do prefer to have consistently moist soil.  In the hotter months, consistently moist soil translates to daily watering.  If you can poke your finger into the soil and it is dry 2″ down, they need watered.

pink geranium flowers

Second, sun.  Geraniums will give you brighter fuller blooms when they have full sun.  They will tolerate some shade, as they become more well established, but at first, they will need lots of blistering sun and warmer overnight temperatures.

Third, nutrients.  A good organic fertilizer will go a long way.  Ideally, they would love a feeding once per week.  They are needy that way.  If you don’t want to buy commercial fertilizers, you can add in some homemade compost.  The compost is a good idea, irregardless, if you are planting them in pots.  Work compost into your potting soil before planting.

DIY - How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

Make sure to deadhead the fading flowers to encourage new growth throughout the season.  If you plan on over-wintering your geraniums {i.e. plucking them out of the ground and into the house or garage to save them for next year}, snip them back about 2/3 of the way when the night time temperatures hit 45 degrees, and put the pots indoors in a location where they will get at least 4 hours of light.

You can water much, much more sparingly throughout the winter {once a week}.  When new growth begins to appear in the spring, it is time for the Geraniums first fertilization.  When it is time to put them back outside, make sure to harden them off by exposing them to the out of doors gradually.

Do you have any tried and true tips for caring for Geraniums?

~Mavis

Don’t forget to check out my DIY Potting Soil Recipe. It’s awesome.

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.

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