Friday, March 8, 2013

Overwintering Tropicals

Mammoth Elephant Ears getting showered
Zone 6 gardeners understand my plight!

We want to grow beautiful tropicals and struggle with keeping them alive over the winter months.

I don't do well with houseplants and I don't have much interest in them, but after year, in September, I begin to bring in all my heat-loving tropical plants.

Where many people dig out the elephant ears and replant in the spring, I decided to see if I could just overwinter the foolish things and get bigger, more robust ears the following season.
Brugmansia in need of bigger pots

I also have Brugmansias which are not faring as well as I had hoped, but I will be repotting these thinking that maybe they're pot bound and this is contributing to their struggle.

Elephant ears and brugmansias are heavy, heavy feeders and require a ton of light and a ton of water. During the summer months, I feed them with Plant Tone fertilizer (a cup a month on the elephant ears and 1/2 cup a month on the brugmansias) and I water every day if it doesn't rain.  In the winter, I stop feeding them and water them deeply once a week.

Because I have hardwood floors throughout the entire house, and am deathly afraid of water damage, I keep these in my bathrooms and haul them into the walk-in shower when it's time to water.  I use false-bottoms in all my large pots so these aren't as heavy as they may appear.  I also have east-facing and west-facing windows in the bathroom so I know they are getting plenty of light.

I don't know if the elephant ears will come back to all their glory, but I felt it was worthy a try to overwinter them.  If nothing else, I've learned something and can go back to the old way of digging up the bulb and storing it for the winter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Progress in the Fresca Jug

 The arugula and Buttercrunch lettuce have sprouted in my soda bottles, on my back deck, outdoors in the dead of winter.

So my Winter Sowing efforts have paid off!

If you want to know more about winter sowing, how to do it, why to do it, visit Trudi her explain it all.  You can even get seeds from her for FREE if want!

I had read about this in Gina's blog a while ago but pushed it to the back of my mind as one of those things I would do someday.  The day came when I was completely fed up with winter, short days, cold nights, snow, wind, and the promise of spring still months away.  I bought a few seed packets of those vegetables that are considered "cold weather crops" and off I went.

You can winter sow vegetables or flowers, and you can start in December (December 21 is the Winter Solstice and many people begin on this day, specifically) and sow all the way through April in my Zone 6 garden.  There are a million reasons for doing this:  no lights, shelving, hardening off, damping off, space issues.  Containers are abundant (I use milk jugs, soda bottles, fruit packages, yogurt containers... anything that will hold dirt and let light in), and the price of seeds is a lot less than the price of plants, not to mention the selection.

These seeds were planted on January 19 and these photos were taken on March 4.  Because these are cool crop lettuces, they can go into the garden relatively soon.  I'll probably move them to their permanent spot at the end of the month.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Plant Markers

As I've begun growing vegetables from seeds, I needed to get plant markers.

Burpee's sells 20 for $2.00 at Home Depot.  That's $.10 a marker or stupid money.  I wasn't going to pay ten cents for one marker.

So I went back to the window treatment department of Home Depot and bought a 27 x 30 white mini-blind.  I took it apart when I got home and cut each slat into four pieces.

I paid $2.97 for the mini-blind and got 120 markers out of it.

That came to $.02475 a marker.  Less than three cents a marker is more my style.  And a Sharpie is all you need to write on them, although a regular lead pencil works very well, too.

If I ever find any in the trash or at the dump or offered as give-aways, I'll grab them because plant markers are one thing a vegetable gardener or seed starter can always use.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cold Frames

Three years ago, when we were still building the house, my husband told me he had found ten windows on the curbside for garbage pickup.

I told him to grab the windows and we stored them outdoors, against a tree, for three years.

They are perfect for cold frames.

They measure 30 inches square and they were free.

There is loose, peeling paint on these windows so I will have to scrape that off, but other than that, there is nothing wrong with using these windows.  I've also laid a black garbage bag underneath the frame to keep things warmer.

Total cost for each cold frame came to about $25 for lumber, handles, and hinges.  I added handles to the sides of the cold frame so that I could easily move them off the deck when the weather turns.

I have one thermometer, and this morning, while the weather outside was registering 30 degrees, the temperature in the cold frame was reading 50 degrees.

And this is a very, very good thing!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

As I expected, the surge in our temperature (50 degrees this morning) has thawed out the ice around the spitter and we now have a good-sized hole in the pond to allow the gasses to escape.

I have seen no signs of fish but am hopeful.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oh Sow Winter

Winter sowing is all about planting seeds outdoors in the dead of winter and saving yourself the hassle of growing them indoors, under lights, and dealing with all the issues that are part of seed growing.

I'd heard about it on another blog two years ago and said it was something I would do "some day".

The day has come.

I've started saving every plastic container I think will work for this and use Miracle Gro potting mix as my planting medium.  The potting mix I have is from last year and I'm hoping that the fertilizer in it that's supposed to last six months is pretty much dead, since fertilizing seeds is not a good idea.

I've set the bottles and containers on the back deck where they get afternoon sun.  I may have to move this to the front deck where they'll get only morning sun as I've read that afternoon sun can really cook seedlings.

The tape I used on the containers is plain duct tape and I've marked the number on the duct tape with a Sharpie.  The tape with the number is on the bottom of each container so that the sun won't bleach it out, but to play it safe, I've also inserted a plant tag inside each container, deep in the medium, where the sun can't get to it.

A lead pencil is probably the best thing to use to make sure your writing never fades, but I didn't think of that until all these markers were done.

The store was selling markers at $2.00 for 20.  I thought ten cents a marker was too much to pay, so I went and bought a mini-blind (23 x 37) and cut the slats to make 148 markers.  Total cost was $2.90.

I'll keep adding containers to the collection and will let you know, come spring, if it was a good move or not!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Frozen Water Will Not Move

Houston, we have a problem!

The cold has been too much and I think what happened is that the spitter froze and the water is no longer able to come out.

I tried to break through the ice with no luck.  And I was scared of falling in the foolish thing and breaking the ice that way.

I have 26 fish in this pond that I want to save and I'm afraid that the gasses being trapped will kill them.

This pond is approximately 3,500 gallons and 4.5 feet deep so I'm not concerned about ice; just gas.

Weather is supposed to climb to the low 40's in two days and I'm hoping it will be enough of a climb to dislodge the spitter from the Ice Queen and get the water running again.

This is the fourth day of Trapped Fish.  I hope they can last another two.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Moving Water Will Not Freeze


To keep the koi pond from freezing over, I have let the spitter keep running through the winter.

So far, so good.

I have 26 fish in this pond, which is about 4.5 deep in the center, and although I do not worry about the fish being stuck in ice, I do worry about gasses getting trapped beneath the ice.

These gasses can and will kill fish, so best to keep the spitter spitting.


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