Posts Tagged ‘Gardening Tips’

MB: Barbara and I always talk about things we’ve found, or rediscovered, that we are in love with. So we decided to create a page where we can share and discuss with you the things that have helped us with our gardening. It might be garden photography tips, tools, design ideas, books, new plants — anything that makes us stop for a moment and say, “How did I ever live without this?”  We are happy to share the love.

Fertilizer Siphon

I just ordered a fertilizer siphon that I’ve always wanted and I’m pretty sure it will be worth recommending. The siphon attaches to a hose and pulls fertilizer out of a container, mixing it with water running through the hose and onto the soil. I finally broke down and ordered it because I’m so tired of replacing clogged sprayer ends. I inevitably end up with stinky fish emulsion splattered all over me and I just couldn’t stand getting that messy and smelly any more. It should be delivered this week and I’ll let you know how it works. I’m sure I’m going to love it.


Barbara recently planted an Earthbox and she’s really loving it. I’m going to let her tell you about it.

B: I’ve been thinking about getting an Earthbox for a while because I keep hearing great things about how well they work for growing vegetables, especially tomatoes.

I’ve had miserable luck growing tomatoes in my yard. The plants that I put in the ground really couldn’t compete with the tree roots and our clay soil is just too dense. Those plants never even got started before they gave up. Then I planted in pots for a couple of years, but they dried out so quickly that I missed a couple of crucial waterings and the plants failed again.

The Earthbox seemed like a great solution for my situation. Planting in the box provides the tomatoes with the loose, rich soil they love. The Earthbox has a water well in the bottom that keeps the soil consistently moist and it has wheels that let me roll it around so the plants get enough sun. (I don’t have to go far which is good because with soil and water combined it’s about 80 pounds.)

My tomato plants are going like gangbusters. The plants are growing really fast and there are many more blossoms than I’ve ever had. I’m happily anticipating quite a crop this year. Finally!

We’ll be posting more reviews, thoughts, information, etc under the new tab “We Love This!” at the top of the page. Please visit often for ideas and products that can help you become a happier, more productive organic gardener.

We also want to share what you are loving these days. It can be anything garden-related —  tools, recipes, growing or photography tips. Please share it with us and the rest of our Bees and Chicks community.


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The gardening season is winding down for many of us and even if you live in warmer climes like I do (Southern California), you’re probably looking around your garden and thinking about what worked well this past season and what didn’t work. And that’s exactly what Mary Beth and I talked about this morning. So of course we’re going to share — even if it means a couple of slightly embarrassing confessions.

Mary Beth:

My waterfall pond was one of my big successes this summer. I’d been wanting to expand my little pond for long time and I finally got around to it. This little oasis has been a constant source of wonder and entertainment for me. The pond is visited by all sorts of wildlife and I never get tired of watching them. Even the raccoons’ habit of rearranging plants and rocks every once in a while is funny — as long as they don’t get out of control. That’s when I start fantasizing about traps and dart guns.

Another project that worked for me was planting peppers and tomatoes in pots. This actually worked better than I thought it would. I planted 2 Black Krim tomatoes and 2 Hatch Chili peppers in containers to keep wildlife, especially the raccoons, from stealing my precious veggies. The plan was to cage the pots, or if that failed I was going to bring the pots into the house at night. Turns out neither was necessary. I was especially pleased with the Krims. They were big and juicy — best BLT’s ever!

As for failures, for some reason anything that I planted in the squash family didn’t do well. I got practically no harvest from these plants. Even the zucchini were a bust (embarrassing as it is to admit it). I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe they weren’t in a sunny enough spot, or it could have been any one of a hundred other things. Gardening can be unpredictable like that. Hopefully next year will be better.


I’m going to start out with things that didn’t work for me: I’ve complained about them before and I’m still doing it. My California Natives are still not doing well. There are a host of possible reasons to explain why they aren’t thriving. The simplest is that I’m not patient enough, but I really think it has more to do with where they are planted. All of them are under eucalyptus trees where they are probably not getting quite enough sun and where they have heavy competition from the tree roots for nutrients and water. On the other hand, it might be because they are getting too much water.

The natives are planted in beds that surround what is left of my lawn, which is also suffering under the eucalyptus. I’m still watering it though and that might be too much water for the natives. Time will tell if this is the problem because my next big project is to rip out the lawn and install pathways and native grasses, or maybe a little meadow. Either will use much less water. I’ve been threatening to do this for a long time, but with the lawn in such bad shape and the fabulous new John Greenlee book, The American Meadow Garden (thank you, MB!) on my reading table I’m on my way.

Planting tomatoes in pots worked out just so-so for me. Our summer was cloudy, overcast and very cool making for a lousy tomato harvest for everyone this year. I’ll give it a try again next year.

And now I’m going to completely embarrass myself by telling you the secret of my biggest success. As you know I am a fairly haphazard gardener and I’ve never been good about tending to my plants. Becoming a Master Gardener this year changed my bad habits and put me on the path to garden success!

What was it that so improved my plants’ health and bloom production? Regular watering and feeding with fish emulsion. There’s my confession and it’s pathetic! But my teachers made a convert out of me after I learned in-depth about plant growth and development. I could practically hear the poor things begging me for food and water. So this year I was very diligent. And surprise, surprise, it really paid off and the results were a pleasure to behold all season long.

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Barbara: I just bought Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening: Month By Month. What an amazing resource this is! A month-by-month guide to organic gardening, it’s full-to-bursting with everything you need to know about growing beautiful, healthy plants.

Even though this guide is written for my region, I would encourage the rest of you to consider it for the advice Pat gives on plant cultivation. Our climate and gardening calendars may be different, but the tips and organic recipes for feeding your plants are well worth the price of admission. Her catalog of organic fertilizer ingredients and how to use them is the best I’ve ever seen.

A little plug for organic gardening — the most important thing to understand is that if you grow plants in the right place, give them the right amount of water (neither too much, nor too little), and feed them well you will have gorgeous plants that can shrug off most pests. (We’re talking bugs here. I make no such claims for rabbits, deer, gophers, etc.)

Here’s a grab bag of tips from Pat’s book.

Pat Welsh’s Quick Tip #1 — Use Paint Buckets for Garden Tasks

Pat recommends keeping several small, plastic paint buckets around your garden for measuring, mixing and carrying fertilizer. She also points out that they’re great for carrying kitchen peelings to the compost bin and birdseed to the feeder. I find them useful for catching the random prunings and deadheading that I inevitably do as I walk through the garden in the morning.

Pat Welsh’s Quick Tip #2 — Protect Bean and Corn Sprouts from Birds

Save those little green berry baskets (the ones strawberries come in) and put one over each planted seed. This will keep the birds from eating your seeds. By the time the sprouts have grown to touch the top of the basket the birds will have lost interest.

Pat Welsh’s Tip Quick Tip # 3 — Encourage Ladybugs to Stay Put

When you buy ladybugs to release into the garden, they more often than not fly away. Pat says to put them in the fridge for a couple of hours to slow their metabolism. Time their stay in the cold so that you are releasing them at dusk. Place them low on the plants and, if it’s dry, provide dishes of water at the base of the plant with a little rock in the bowl for the ladybugs to perch on while they drink. This, plus some yummy pests will encourage then to stay in your garden.

Here’s a link to Pat’s website.

Happy Gardening!

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Mary Beth and I were talking about a comment we ran across on a Garden Rant post wherein the commenter was critical of many garden blogs that “contain too many personal anecdotes…and not a lot of useful gardening information.”  Now, in case you didn’t notice, we love our personal anecdotes. It’s one of the reasons we do this blog and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, but we also realized that we’re probably guilty of not providing enough in the way of gardening information. And if there’s anything we have in abundance, it’s gardening information, advice, tips, etc. Whatever you want to call it, between the two of us, we have about a bajillion years worth of it. So we decided to add a new element to our blog. Starting today we’re going to do a regular post (every week or two) of gardening and beekeeping tips. We hope you find them useful.

Garden Gift Tip

In keeping with the holiday season, our very first tip is about where to find a great gift for the gardener on your list. And, you probably won’t be surprised to hear this has a little story attached to it. When I was feeling very down in the dumps (and I mean loooow down) one day last spring, the UPS truck pulled up to my house. I thought that surely the driver had the wrong address, but no that package was for me. I opened it up to find the most beautiful set of green Vermont slate garden markers for my newly planted herb garden from my very best and oldest friend, Liz. Those markers‚ and the thought behind them, really lifted my spirits and they’ll do the same for whomever you give them to.

Liz and her husband make laser-etched Vermont slate garden markers (and other useful stuff). You’ll be amazed at the finely-etched details of the herbs, vegetables and perennials on the markers — really lovely.  Aside from being beautiful, the markers are very sturdy and hold up to any kind of weather. So if you’re looking for a great gift for a gardener, or anyone else on your list, Vermont Slate Images is the ticket. Check out their website.

Beekeeping Tip

This goes under the heading of “slightly weird things you probably didn’t know, but should.” Never, and we mean NEVER, go near your beehive while eating, or just after eating a banana.

It turns out that when bees detect an intruder and sting it, they release an alarm pheromone that contains a chemical that calls other bees to the defense of the hive. This same chemical is found in bananas (and pears, too). Three guesses as to what happens to you with your banana breath!

Two tips — and that’s just the beginning. Check back in a week or so for more.

And wrapping up on yet another personal note: blogging has many rewards and one of the best so far revealed itself this week. We were thrilled to receive a comment (we love comments) on our last post from Christine. She also mentioned that, by the way, she might be our cousin and, amazingly, she is!

Not to air the family laundry, but there was a bit of some people not talking to other people going on for years and years. But now, luck and good fortune have connected us once again and we couldn’t be happier. You just never know!

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