Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Creatures In My Garden

 Two Worlds Collide

With one exception, I encourage critters in my garden. Creeping, jumping, slithering or flying — they are all welcomed!

You see, I am the intruder into their world where life, wonder, grace, purpose and  beauty abound.   Sure, there is struggle, even fierce conflict and death, but not senseless destruction, we humans accept as part of ours.

Yes, I experience conflicting emotions.   From youth my thinking has been guided toward  “If it is small, exceptionally large, or extraordinary, destroy it.”

IMG_0101The rationalization is this annihilation is done in the name of science ( study it), our protection and preservation (it might do harm ),  maybe boastful pride ( a trophy).

In my garden, I can be different.  There is no need to destroy simply because it is here;  the beauty of co-existence brings appreciation for the little things.    There is no need for two worlds to collide.


Gone Leaf Crazy

Leaf me no excuses

Raised bed garden from REARHave made halfhearted attempts to use compost over the years but have found the  piles more than I cared to deal with.

I have no doubt of the  benefits, just tend to lose  interest in the building, turning and time involved from garden waste to finished product.

Now, age has created an endurance factor that severely limits my ability to do these things, anyway.

My small property does not generate  enough by-product; I have to purchase nitrogenous materials to add to the small amount of brown waste I do produce; there is no source for animal manures readily available.

Interested in any more excuses for NOT?

Bag them leaves–I will come

After tearing down  two  small piles of waste and actually seeing what could be accomplished, my interest in composting was renewed.  This time I decided there might be a way to compost, even with my limited materials.

Effort number one:  call the city sanitation department  about getting some leaves delivered.    Well, seems that even though we must bag our leaves for street side pickup, delivery to my property was not possible.

The leaf bags are collected by machine and dumped into a garbage type truck which mixes everything into one big glob of mess.   Drats!

The sanitation supervisor suggested:  “Why don’t you  collect the bags ahead of us?”    Bingo!!

Effort number two: Homeowners  spend week ends cleaning leaves  from lawns, bagging them,  placing on the curb for pickup by the city on an irregular basis.   I can get all the leaves I want.A godsend, a common disposal site

Actually, I had done this on a limited basis under cover of darkness, but felt self-conscious.   Being granted permission to pick up another man’s trash,  freed me of off I go in the daylight with my little truck.

What luck,  one  neighborhood has chosen a common dump area to place its bags.   Their treasure!

Over a two week period I have all the leaves I can use for another year!

Well, actually, I have bags of leaves piled high against my fence.  I have a thick layer of leaves on beds I am determined to reclaim for flowers around my property.

 My problem?  They need shredding!

Effort number  three: Folks, except for shredding with a lawnmower, I have never shredded leaves.  Yep, I have preconceived naive ideas of how simple this is going to be.        Mower does a good job–but I have so many!

Heck, all those commercials make it look so easy using a leaf vac .   I try it.  A real pain in the butt!  Not any faster than the lawnmower–and a lot more work.

If I just had a  shredder chipper–now, surely,  all I have to do is dump ’em in and stand back!

A good friend loaned me a  one of those mini monsters that are suppose to chop 2 inch limbs; boy, I can visualize  my pulverized treasure piling up in front of that thing!

Was I ever educated to the fact that just because  it looks like it SHOULD be easy, it ain’t necessarily!   I have to hand feed this joker through that leaf shoot, one handful at a time!

I  found a  machine  designed as a leaf shredder that seems it would be heavy duty enough for what  I am doing ( leaf feed bin that could  accommodate a bag of leaves each dump)   almost $800 (on sale); I am sticking to  hand feeding that sucker I am using.

I think all this effort will pay

In the first photo you see my raised garden area where I plan to concentrate my efforts this year.     My flower beds will be receiving their share of my collected treasure.Lettuce and Cabbage in raised bed  4-20

 Realistically, greater benefit will come in 2014 when all this will be leaf mold, and real compost from the shredded materials I am preparing in a compost pile.

These leaves, originally destined for the dump, will  give me all the organic matter I didn’ t have before;  add the nitrogen I get from my few chicken’s manure; throw in a few thousand red worms I am feeding in my worm bin—I might ………………………………..dreams keep us alive!!

Worms—they ain’t all bad!

A new “farm” venture.

Going to raise worms.

Now, don’t worry.  I don’t have visions of overnight wealth  promised in some of the old worm farm ads; I don’t  look forward to stabbing some poor squirming creature onto a fishing hook.

My goal — raise plants using that magic potion marketed as worm tea!

First, I got to come up with worm castings; this skinflint is not going to spend ten dollars for a bag of dirt labeled “worm poop”.

No sir, I want to make sure my worm castings are teaming with creatures from that unseen world of  my own vermiculture bin (dig that fancy word for  raising worms).  That means I’ll spend a little more than the minimum to set up my farm.   If it works I got a continuous supply of  worm poop that might be more economical….then again, might not!

The squirm on worms

Let me take my tongue out of my cheek to speak seriously of  these amazing creatures.

Admittedly, I have no experience raising these simple guts of the earth that seem capable of helping me garden more naturally, contribute to a less polluting solution of  waste disposal, and appear to be fun to work with.

One thing is for sure, they will be one conversation starter!   When I, innocently, asked my wife “Can you smell my worms”  I got one  hell of a response.    (I’ll explain that question later).

Research has lead to some interesting discoveries.

Some variety of this seemingly simple form of animal life  is found on nearly every continent.

I want compost, so my interest is the Eisenia fetida, also known as the Tiger worm or Red Wiggler.     If publicity is reliable, I should be able to set up  a small operation to utilize my kitchen waste with relatively little expense or space.   We shall see.

Entering the Worm World

Commercially there are hundreds of dealers willing to sell  fancy bins, but I ain’t buying.      While I hope vermiculture will push me toward a green solution, I am willing to compromise when it comes to bins.    Plastic containers will work  just fine, I read.

Since my computer room will be my farm location, I need:

  • A shallow bin ( six to ten inch depth is ideal).  Needs cover for darkness and to preserve moisture.worm  bin
  • Bedding.    Interestingly seems anything organic can be used.   Plenty of shredded leaves available.
  •  Food.   I got kitchwaste aplenty
  • Worms.  These I will order
  • Understanding wife.   After all, this is her house too.

Ordered and patiently wait for 1000 red stock is on the way!   My farm is about to officially begin operations!

My worms are here!

Will I realize my dreams of   kitchen waste becoming black gold in 4 months? Will there be plenty of worm poop to feed my  plants?  Will my wife  kick  my farm or me out into the cold outside?

I guess that will depend on her reply to my question:   “Can you smell my worms”


Frugal Gardening: Lighted Plant Shelf

I Got The Fever

60 degrees two days in a row,  the sun shining brightly outside  brings this addict face to face with the irresistible  urge to put “just a few seeds” into tiny pots. In a couple weeks these “tiny pots” give way to multiple  larger pots, needing more light–MORE ROOM………….but it is too cold to put them outside.

Yep! I got to get a light shelf!

Never fails!!  Last year I promised myself, never again will I give into the late winter   urge to plant a few seeds in early February.   Spring weather will not settle until late March.   No tomato seeds will be planted till 2nd week in March, at least.

Yeah, right!  LIAR!

Check  catalogs.  Larger grow light units are not an item a frugal gardener (more honestly–a penny pinching old skinflint) is going to plunk down $150 -$600  (not including shipping and handling in many cases) for.

I subscribe to the theory:  economy is the mother of invention; if I want a grow light unit this is certainly going to have to be true.

Judicious shopping and a little time produce:

  • 48″ x 18″ x 64″ high unit with 3 shelves ;each with a  double light shop light fixture); each shelf will accommodate 4 standard 11″ x 22″ trays
  • top storage shelf
  • bottom area with a  covered 36″x21″x20″ high covered storage unit that pulls out serving as a work surface, plus an out of the way 9″x17″ trash can


Plant light advantage– baby plants on part of one shelf

Folks,  floor space less than 2′x4′–  18 square feet of growing space –  all that storage space priced about $200.

Considerable savings compared to commercially available units.     Check it out! 4 shelf unit — 74″x27″x23″ – 2 standard trays per shelf– no storage area.   The price tag–about $500!

My shopping list:

  • 1ea  74″x48″x18″ wire storage shelf unit (rated to support 350lbs/shelf)
  • 3ea  48″ double tube shop lights with reflector hoods  (for T-8 tubes)
  • 6ea  48″ fluorescent T-8  fluorescent tubes
  • 1ea  multiple outlet extension cord
  • 1 ea  indoor light timer single outlet
  • 1 ea 36 x 21 x 20 covered plastic storage container/wheels
  • 1 ea 9″x 17″ plastic trash can
  • 3ea 12″x12″x 8″ plastic pull out storage drawers
  • 1ea  7″ x10″x 8″  plastic 2 drawer storage  unit
  • 1 ea bag of plastic ties

Assembly could not be easier

1.  Remove shelf unit from carton and assemble using 4 of the shelves ( helper simplifies things, but I assembled without help)

Snap the support ring onto each post with top of ring 21″ from floor; slip first shelf onto  the 4 poles locking into position over rings;

Measure upward 16″ from top edge of this shelf locking support ring at 16″mark; Repeat step installing 2 more shelves.  Top shelf will be about 65″ from floor; leaving a space to put storage bins; or a 5th shelf.

2.   Unpack shop light fixtures; hang 1 fixture under each of 3 shelves using hooks and chain provided attaching to center bar of shelf;  make sure cord of each faces the same end of shelves.

For neat appearance pull electrical cord of top unit straight down and fasten to lower cord with a plastic tie, repeat with next 2 cords fastening against shelf with tie so the cords bundle hangs straight.

Use plastic ties to securely attach extension outlet strip to bottom shelf frame.

Plug light fixture cords into outlet extensions;  Extension plugs into the timer, set for 10 hours of light , then plug timer into  wall outlet.

Voila’!  For around $150  a fully functioning plant light unit

To add storage space add a 36″x21″x20 covered plastic wheeled storage container which fits neatly on the floor under first shelf  (easily pulls from under the unit for  use as  flat work surface); a small 9″x17″ trash can goes beside the storage container.  Above top shelf installed 3 plastic 12″x12″ drawer units plus one 2 drawer 7″x10″ unit (all these units are about 9″ high).  Secure  all units to shelf frame with plastic ties.

I will use pots and containers I already own to start garden plants,but should I want covered containers, aluminum roaster baking pans/covers from the grocery store  make excellent inexpensive terrarium type growing units.  They come in all sizes;   side by side 11  3/4″x 9 1/4″x 2 1/2″ roaster pans fit perfectly on 18″ wide shelves of my light unit.

This, of course, adds to cost of the home crafted unit but it is still a HUGE difference compared to commercial units and for my purposes works just a well.

Frugal Gardner: The eBucket Is a Winner!

Lianne Meilhac

When the idea of the 5 gallon eBucket began to be developed July 2009, Lianne was one of those who quietly began using the design, on faith–it was new, a lot of people felt it would not  work.    When she posted about her success last fall I was thrilled; when I learned she  had talked her husband into helping build several more this spring I could hardly wait to hear the results.  I asked her to share her impressions after using it; this article is the result of my request.



In early 2009, I decided to grow some tomatoes; I was tired of spending a fortune for store-bought tomatoes that tasted like nothing. 

I had no idea I would become obsessed with this new hobby; I think that a lot of “hobby” tomato gardeners would say the same thing!

Because I became obsessed, I got somewhat stressed  when my four plants developed issues over the course of the growing season.  All of them caught some sort of unknown foliage disease; I was never able to determine exactly what it was; I was worried  they would all succumb to it before I could harvest any edible fruit.

I decided to root some cuttings from three of my plants to see if I could manage to salvage the season and make all the work worthwhile.

Fortunately,about the time I was ready to start planting the rooted cuttings, some posts started appearing on the  one of my favorite websites about a new design for self-watering containers.

I was familiar with the commercial SWCs like Earthbox and Tomato Success Kit– they work wonderfully but are costly– at  least $30 or so apiece.

I was  also familiar with a homemade design called an EarthTainer, but for me (and apparently some other people) the cutting and assembling of all of the components seemed a bit daunting.

Some of the “regulars” were speculating as to what materials could be used, someone spoke up, asking about the possibility of using a plastic colander to  create the water reservoir in the bottom of the container.  In response, another poster nicknamed “Gessieviolet ” spoke up to say he would see if he could make it work.

I was looking forward to hearing how his efforts worked out, because if the colander worked it would eliminate  having to fabricate a wicking-chamber, which is usually packed with potting mix and sits in the water, wicking it up into the rest of the mix;   giving the plant a regular, consistent supply of water.

In the proposed design, the colander would sit at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket with the mix packed tightly around it.  A length of PVC pipe would be placed down through the colander before adding the mix so that the gardener could fill the reservoir from above.

A drinking straw or some plastic tubing would also be placed through a hole drilled in the side of the bucket and into the top of the reservoir area, acting as an overflow conduit and keeping the mix from becoming too saturated and overwatering the plant.

When I learned others had achieved success with his first efforts at this newly designed “EarthBucket” (which would later be shortened to eBucket or EB), I drafted my husband to help me assemble some of them to use for my newly rooted cuttings.

Cuttings in eBucket in 2 months outproduced parent plant growing 5 months

The eBucket went together fairly quickly ; I planted the cuttings into them fairly late in the season;  if I got any fruit  before first frost, I’d be happy.

I was thrilled when those cuttings just “took off” and started setting fruit as soon as they bloomed!

Each of these plants  yielded more tomatoes than each of the parent plants even though they grew  for about two months.  The parents grew and bore for about five months.

None of the fruit from the eBuckets showed  signs of blossom end rot,  a problem with the parent plants.  BER results from several factors, a major one being inconsistent watering.

The fact that none of the plants in the eBuckets showed this was proof to me that the EBs were working exactly as I had hoped they would, providing the plants a consistent and adequate supply of water.

My husband has helped me make several more eBuckets for this season and the plants have done well .

I have learned, however, that they seem to be better long-term for determinate plants, rather than indeterminate

Part of this years crop in eBuckets

ones– the determinate only grow to a certain height (maybe 2 or 3 feet in most cases)

More of this spring's tomatoes in eBuckets

then stop.  The indeterminate ones get much,  much taller over the course of a season;

developing a large root system; I feel  the eBucket  does not have  enough room for those roots.

The eBucket can  be used for other veggies– cucumbers would be good, as would beans, maybe even corn.

Others are  trying other veggies with apparent success,  I eagerly await their  input  so I’ll know what veggies to plant in the eBuckets next year!


Frugal Gardner–Eliminate the Big Farm Mentality

Click here to go to the new location for this post
Original was accidentally deleted from here.

The comments are still accessible—-you might enjoy what they had to say.

Frugal Gardening – Additional helpful Info for eBucket fans

Sadly, due to contract a dispute between owners of the forum on which this information was first posted and the new owners of his previous gardening forum, he has been ordered to cease and desist use of his  site effective May 28, 2010. This information should be shared so I am re-posting my information here.




Easy to follow instructions for CONSTRUCTING an eBucket. You need 4 items: a bucket, a colander, a length of pipe for a filler tube, and a drinking straw. That’s it!!…

A step by step pictorial instructions for planting a 24″ conversion planter (Sam’s Club/Costo brand, or any other large planter).


This discusses the construction of a large box type system but I think some of the ideas can be very well adopted to the our eBucket, especially good is the tomato support system.

From Sheila in Algonquin, IL
places to get Five Gallon BucketsColanders for very cheap or even FREE.
1) Garage Sales (colanders)
2) Good Will, Salvation Army or other thrift stores (mostly colanders or small containers)
3) Dairy Queen or other Ice Cream stores –
They use plain white 5-gallon buckets for things like their Strawberry Toppings. We’ve gotten them over the years for anywhere from Free to 50-cents each.


This article is a step by step set of instructions for PLANTING your eBucket.…


Gymgirl’s suggestions for FERTILIZING your eBucket.

If detailed discussion of this sort of thing rocks your boat, you will love these threads 



These articles discuss all aspects from container, soil content,fertilizer needs to plant population. I find eBuckets can out perform these study results, using less potting mix, and greater plant population.

Disclaimer:   Where reference is made to a business, I am not associated with  nor am I being compensated in any way by the companies.