Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Keeping Chickens Cool when it’s HOT!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The past few days at our new house have been super hot.  We haven’t built the permanent chicken run yet, so my girls have a make-shift run in the back of the yard where there isn’t a lot of shade in the heat of the afternoon.

I think most people don’t realize chickens handle the cold much better than they handle the heat. Here in Pennsylvania it gets really humid when it’s hot, so my poor girls really pant in the afternoon.  Here are a few ideas I have come up with to keep them cool.

  1. This is the most important, and almost a duh: they must always have access to water. In intense heat, a chicken can go downhill really fast if they don’t have access to clean water.
  2. Secondly, they should have some shade that isn’t the chicken coop. I’ve found that coops get super hot because of a lack of circulation.  Even well ventilated coops can get really hot on the hottest days.  If your birds aren’t situated under trees or some other shade, get them a tarp or a shade umbrella.
  3. Try freezing a cup of water in a disposable plastic cup.  On hot days around noon, I replace their water, and drop this huge chunk of ice in.  It only stays cold for about an hour, but they drink up the cold water gratefully.
  4. Refrigerated watermelon is also a nice afternoon treat.  It’s cold, and full of water and should help them beat the heat.
  5. Frozen berries are also a great treat. They take some time for them to get into so it’s also a good boredom buster.  Cold, sweet yummy treats on a hot day.  Yes, please?
During really hot days, chicken stool may be more lose than usual.  This is possibly due to all the extra water they are drinking.  When chickens are working on staying cool, they will pant, and pull their wings away from their body.  This is all healthy behavior, but be on the look out for droopy behavior, or pale comb and wattles.  If you see this, give your chicken a dip in a cool bucket of water.  
What are your ideas to keep your chickens cool on these hot summer days?

Ten Reasons to grow a Vegetable Garden

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I look forward each year to growing my own vegetables.  Here’s a few reasons to give it a go if you haven’t already.

  1.  It’s eco-friendly.  The food you grew in your back yard didn’t travel 100 miles (or more) to get to your table. It’s local food at it’s finest, and is just a few steps away from your kitchen.
  2. It’s healthy.  You know what you’ve put into your vegetables, what you have or haven’t sprayed on them.  It will also encourage you to eat your own vegetables because you worked hard to get them!
  3. It’s exercise.  Ever dig a hole?  What about digging up a hole garden? It’s a work out! Weeding is too.  Gardening gets you outside, enjoy the fresh air. If you live in a hot climate like I do, make sure you do your digging and weeding first thing in the morning before the heat hits, and feel the benefits of a good work out the rest of your day.
  4. It’s educational. I homeschool so I find the educational value in everything. We’re beginning a botany unit study and it’s perfect to start our own seeds in and watch them grow.  Great timing, too.
  5. It’s cheap. This should have been #1 right? Done right with proper planning gardening can be cheap. It can be expensive, too. Ever read the $64 tomato?  If you’re looking to stretch your budget, get your seeds, and get moving.  Seeds can be as cheap as $1 a packet, and you can get so much food for that dollar.
  6. It’s delicious. Any food you grow yourself is going to taste better than the bland stuff they sell at the store.  The kinds of vegetables they sell at the grocery store are usually varieties created to have a long shelf life so they can survive their trek to you.  Try new varieties or even old heirlooms that were created to taste good. Imagine… a red tomato. It’s a marvelous thing.
  7. It’s a silent protest. I have lot’s of issues with the FDA, and food in American in general.  When I grow my own food I don’t buy it from someone else. Period. Don’t like what’s going on with food politics?  Stick it to the man, and grow it yourself.
  8. It’s therapeutic.  Kids been yelling all day?  Boss get on your nerves at work?  Go outside, and pick at your garden. Listen to the birds, the kids playing in the neighborhood and unwind.  I always feel better after I get my evening pickins in.
  9. It’s beautiful. I love gardens of all kinds.  I have seen some breathtaking vegetable gardens.  Don’t forget to mix in flowers and herbs in your garden.  Marigolds to keep the rabbits gone, some nasturtiums because they’re yummy, and any other small little flower to attract bees and other pollinators to your back yard grocery store.
  10. It’s communal. I have swapped seeds with neighbors on both sides, and across the street.  We trade heirloom seeds, garlic, whatever we have on hand just to help each other have a beautiful variety of things to grow.  We also talk about solutions to problems we all might have.  Bottom line, it gets us talking and builds community.
Do you have a horrid brown thumb?  Next best solution to a back yard vegetable garden is joining a CSA.  Find a farmer, and keep it local!

Humble Beginnings

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Finally, I’ve decided I can start planning my vegetable garden this year and get started. This year’s garden will be different than years before. I rent now, so any additions I put in the ground this year have to be cheap, and temporary. I don’t know if I’ll be here next season, so it doesn’t make sense for me to invest money in garden space. Up until about a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be here this season. And while I think I will be, it’s still not settled in it’s entirety. I hate living this way.

Anyway, my preferred method of gardening is raised bed gardening. It’s where I’ve had the best success, but this year I don’t have raised beds, and it doesn’t make sense for me to build them.
So here’s where I started. It’s been rainy here in Maryland for, oh..ever. This bed was difficult to maintain last year. We moved in May, and everything had already started growing, weeds, and whatever else was in this bed. Now was the perfect time to pull out everything while the ground is wet, and things haven’t popped back to life.

This bed at one point I’ve been told was a Koi pond. I think the plastic base of the pond has been removed, and this area was just filled in with dirt. I’m not sure why anyone would do that, I guess from a landlord’s point of view it makes sense. I guess. There are small trees growing in the bushes, and last year I tried to pull stuff out but ended up with a rash from the hemlock that was growing in there.  It was awesome.

I haven’t fully decided how to best use this space.  The sunlight here isn’t great because it’s so close to the house.  It will get a few hours of direct sunlight in the summer, it gets almost none right now in the winter.

This is the pile of weeds I pulled out of the koi pond bed.  It’s next to another bed that needs help, but it’s not as bad as the koi pond was.  Hey look, there’s a tree there.

So, for now, I will hoe out the rest of the stuff, transplant the flowering bulbs and probably put them in the front yard.  Fertilize the soil, and very possibly cover it with a weed block.  I’m starting some of my cold weather crop seeds this week.  Give them a few extra weeks to grow before putting them in the ground.  Things I’m going to start include, Kale, Cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.  I also will be starting carrots, but those go directly in the ground.

Anyone else really feeling the need to get out and play in the dirt?

Growing Garlic

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I could dwell on the problems in my life, and sometimes it’s incredibly hard not to.  So, my zen is usually out in the garden.  It’s the simple moments like this though that bring me joy and help me put everything aside.  I stole a moment the other day when a shipment of garlic arrived.

There’s so much garlic that I think if I planted it all I wouldn’t have room for anything else, so I’m giving some to some gardener friends to see how they do with it as well.  This is the first time I’ve grown garlic in Colorado, and I’ve done little bits in Virginia when I lived there.  This is the biggest haul I’ve tried, so hopefully it will winter well, and I’ll have garlic coming out of my ears next summer.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, I grabbed my girl, and we went planting.  She loves getting out there in the dirt, she always has.  I refreshed my memory on how to grow garlic on some links that I will provide.  I’m no expert at all, just a hobby gardener.

I still have some summer clearing out to do to make more room for garlic.  The garlic will stay in the garden until next July, so I have to choose my space carefully.  The bed we were working in wasn’t very successful with anything I planted this year, so I feel like anything is an improvement.  Anyway, here are some links to some bloggers who know more about growing garlic than I do.


2. (Colorado specific!)


Recycled seed container

Thursday, May 26th, 2011



I have the gardening bug, like two fold because I really didn’t get to garden last summer.  Lots of my spring posts are going to be how to stretch your buck in the garden.  I’ve been inspired by Gayla Trail the author of Grow Great Grub, and You Grow Girl.  I bought her book Grow Great Grub last year just for the eye candy, and now I’m putting some of her ideas and practices to use.

One of my weaknesses is the veggie dumplings from Whole Foods. This is the container said dumplings come in.  Perfect for lettuce because of it’s shallow root system.  It would also be good for some herbs, or sprouts.  If you have one of those pop out herb windows in your kitchen or a sun room, you could probably grow fresh spring lettuce all year long.

First things first, you need to cut holes in the bottom of your container for proper drainage.  Simple enough, a sharp knife, or scissors will do. Next fill it with some potting mix, or a seed starting mix. I used a blend of mesclun for my spring lettuce.  I love the variety, and to me variety means something will pop up, guaranteed.  It’s just yummy too.

Keep it moist for a few weeks in your spring weather.  The seeds like chilled nights, and don’t do too well when it gets super hot.  The Colorado weather right now is perfect for them because it still dips into the 40’s and 50’s at night.  Sometimes even the 30’s.In a few weeks you should have sprouts, and in about a month they should be ready for you to eat.  I did this container two weeks ago, and the sprouts are what I’m looking at today.  Two more weeks, and we should have our own home grown lettuce.  I have plenty of these containers too, so if I wanted to do another round of them, I could.  Then I could constantly have fresh lettuce to munch on.

Garden Update

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The garden is up and moving lately. It’s been fun this month seeing what will pop up, especially since this is my first spring here at this house.  Let me show you some of the things I’ve found and what I’m trying to identify.

This first lovely purple thing is a bush.  It’s directly next to the window that is next to my computer and I smell it ALL DAY.  It’s beautiful, and it makes my house smell lovely.  I don’t know what it is, but it has beautiful little purple trumpet shaped flowers all over it.  I’m in love with this one, I hope it blooms all summer long.
This one I did recognize as bleeding hearts.  I feel lucky to have one of these, I know in Virginia at least they are expensive and hard to get.  I’m delighted to have it growing in my garden.
A few weeks ago I posted pictures of a beautiful blooming tree.  Now said tree has fruits growing on it, and I’m not sure what they are.  I’m thinking they are pears.  I hope they are pears.  How nice would it be to be able to can pears this summer and fall.  This would be a real treat to us.
This is another flowering, fruiting tree.  I’m guessing it’s an apple tree, I should have tried to get a shot of the leaves too, but I”m pretty certain about this one.  I’m thrilled that I”ll have two fruit trees at my disposal, even if they are a little young and small.  Next week I”ll let you know how the veggies are coming along.  I don’t have anything to harvest yet, but I may be able to have some lettuce by next week.  Let’s hope so!

Garden Update

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Well, I haven’t done this in a while.  I’m in a new house, and I’m starting a new garden from scratch.  I’m even in a new growing zone, and I’ve heard that gardening here will be more difficult than anything I’ve ever experienced.  My previous homes have all had their challenges.  My townhouse way back when was situated so close to a stream that my back yard was a marsh for weeks after it rained.  My first single family home was in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  Surrounded by trees, I had a difficult time finding a sunny spot that was far enough away from the Black Walnut trees.

Now I’m in the high desert of Colorado.  The season begins later, and ends earlier.  There’s less natural water, and I may actually have to water my vegetables every day (gasp!).  Virginia I could almost forget about it.  I tended of course, and watered on a weekly basis.  Picked for slugs, and kept things healthy.  However now I”m in a territory I don’t know, so I’ll have to learn as I go I suppose.

Yesterday my daughter and I finally got around to planting some tomato seeds.  I tend to stick to heirlooms whenever possible, and yesterday we planted Brandywines.  I’ll do a couple of varieties of tomatoes throughout the season, and I’ll start canning them in either August, or September, depending on the season here.  In Virginia, tomatoes grow like weeds.  They’re hard to mess up.  I hear that in Colorado it’s not the same, and depending on the year they can grow great, or they can fail miserably.
My friend Salix recommended this wonderful man to make these boxes for me over the passed few weeks.  The previous owner of this house had rabbits, and had a little fenced in area for her rabbits.  I thought this area was perfect to keep the kids and dog, and *ahem* rabbits out of my garden.  This coming up weekend I should have a delivery of dirt, so I can actually start working the ground.  I’m excited to see what this barren space will look like in a few months.
Anyone else starting something new this season?

Inspiration needed

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I’m feeling blah today, and I need inspiration.  When we moved, we lost about a thousand square feet of living space.  I’m overwhelmed with the lack of space, and how much crap I still have even though I purged like a mad woman.  I have no garden, which was always my zen, so I found myself looking at green/garden blogs and I was inspired. It was this picture that inspired me the most, because I can still container garden.

Maybe I’m a kid, I don’t know but I was pulled in by this picture and the article it came from.  Around lunchtime, I took the kids out and let them ride their bikes and scooters while I planted some lettuce of my own.  Normally in Virginia I wouldn’t dream of planting lettuce this time of year, but I think out here in Colorado it might be ok.  The next two days it won’t get above 75 so hopefully they’ll have time to sprout.

I bought some basil last week, which is what you see already growing.  I plan on getting my money’s worth out of that sucker.  Maybe when it gets a bit bigger I’ll show you how easy it is to grow basil from a clipping.  It’s probably one of the easiest plants to get started that way.  Nothing needed but water.  Hopefully I’ll still get some container gardening in this season before it gets too cold.

Now back to my regularly scheduled unpacking, hair pulling schedule.

Garden Update

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
I feel like I haven’t done a garden update in a while.  I talked about strawberries briefly last week, but not a full blow update I suppose.  It’s been difficult coming to grips with leaving my beloved garden, and I’ve stopped adding things to it at this point.  I will continue to document it’s growth until I leave it, for you’re information, and mine.  Sadly I don’t think I”ll be able to reap the rewards of all my hard work.  Maybe I’ll get someone in here who will finish the work, who knows.
The first shot is of my potato tire.  I filled two tires with organic topsoil, and put about six little seed potatoes in there.  I guess it’s been about 10 days or so since I’ve done that.  This morning I noticed some growth popping through the soil.  I’m hoping to be here when they are ready for harvest.  I would have planted bush beans and marigolds in the tires too, but like I said, I’ve stopped adding to the garden.
Here is a shot of my broccoli/cauliflower patch.  They are doing extremely well, and I am hopeful I’ll be able to snip these buggers before we head out.  I plan on being in the house until the end of June, so it’s a highly a possibility.  This is my first time growing brassicas, so I’m reading and learning as I go.  I’ve been told to wrap the cauliflower in it’s own leaves about a week or two prior to harvesting.  Perhaps this is to make it white, or has something to do with flavor.  If I get the opportunity to do that, I will document it here.
My roses started blooming last week.  This particular bush is a monster, and has to be frequently cut back or it will be too heavy for itself and fall over.  I’ve tied it up in years passed but I’ve learned to just trim it.  I gave it a harsh snipping in March just as it started to wake up from winter.  It’s already huge again.  I’m not great with roses, there used to be two rose bushes here, and one died.  How I killed it I will never know, and honestly I think it was just weak stock.  To keep your roses blooming cut the dead heads immediately, you will have beautiful smelling roses all summer if you do.
This is my monstrous lavender bush.  I just got this last year while visiting my best friend, and it’s huge. I plan on selling the dried flower buds once they’re ready.  Going to keep a few for crafting, and then probably sell the rest on Etsy.  Hopefully lavender is a perennial in Colorado too.  It really does well in Virginia.
This organized chaos below is what I aim for in my garden.  Peas climbing up their trellis, lettuce that is ready for harvest, and complete pulling up.  Tomatoes growing in between said lettuce and kale,  and nasturtiums filling up the spaces.  Bare ground will invite weeds.  Of course you don’t want your jam packed garden to suffer because they’re fighting for nutrients, so you have to find the right balance.  

The last few days it’s been raining, and it wasn’t until I posted this picture did I notice the bane of my garden on the leaves.  SLUGS.  I hate them…and I fight them always.  Can you spot the creep in the picture above? My solution though is beer, and yes it works.  They are attracted to the yeast in beer, they go to it and drown, like this little f%$k is about to do (sorry, I told you I hate them).  If you don’t have beer on hand, then I suggest salt.  It isn’t great, and it feels like warfare if you have serious slug issues.  It’s so much nicer to set the beer trap and walk away.  I honestly buy cheap beer for this purpose.  I hate going out there with salt.

Die creep!  There he goes!

Anyway, enjoy your day.  Happy Gardening. 🙂

Garden Update

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This passed week or so the garden took off. Maybe it’s the warm weather, or the rain…who knows. Friday I harvested my first bit of lettuce for our Fish Tacos, it was definitely a nice touch. Today I think I have enough out there for an entire bowl of salad…but now I want tomatoes to go with it. Oh well.

I have the entire garden now fully planned out. I know where everything is going to go, so I went ahead and bought some perennial flowers over the weekend. I’m sticking to small flowers that attract beneficial insects, and some that spread. This is alyssum pictured here to the left. I found a yellow variety, which I thought would be nice. Cosmos, zinnias and calendulas are also a pretty and beneficial flower for your veggie garden. Who says veggies can’t be pretty??

Here is a shot of my cauliflower. It’s growing! It’s been in the ground about five weeks now, and this is the only one growing any food. I’m excited, this is the first time I’ve grown cauliflower. If I’m still living in this house come fall, I’m planting another crop. No brocolli yet, but I will let you know as soon as I see any growing. I’m getting worried that from here on out, it will be too warm to get any good stuff growing.

Here is a shot of my lettuce, onions, peas and kale. I think there is enough lettuce for salad now, but this is the only lettuce that managed to come up this year. I had another row that didn’t do anything. I blame it on the heat wave we had a few weeks back.

My next project will be with this tire here. I have some potatoes that are ready to be put in the ground, and probably should already be in the ground.

Easy and green way to reuse tires if you have some laying around. Taters like warmth, black tires absorb heat from the sun. I’ve read you’ll have tires full of taters if you try this method. I’ve also heard that brand new metal trashcans work well too. Tires are free though, so I’m sticking to the used tires. 🙂

Anyway, feel free to link you’re own gardens, I would love to see what other people are up to. Happy gardening!


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