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How Does Your Garden Grow?

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I kill everything.  I love plants, I just suck at them.  I've tried so many different types of plants in my yard that I've actually given up.  :(

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Serial Plant Killer here. 

 

Interestingly enough, I bought a small African Violet plant last fall but could not decide on a container for it.  It sat around on my window sill for way too long until I eventually decided to plant it in an old goldfish bowl we still had around.  I was expecting it to die, but it still lives!  No flowers anymore, but it is still nice and green with new leafs (is that the right plural?).

 

If it dies (or when), I'm going to have my nephew make me a Lego plant.

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I love plants, and got two green thumbs, from both of my grandmothers. Except for pansies -- I cannot grow them to save my life. And cactus never do well for me, either, but I had luck with aloe vera several years ago.

 

Sadly, ever since I became the caregiver for my parents and sister, I've let the yard go. Friends of ours have their own yard business and have done our mowing for a decade or so, ever since my dad's health started going down. We need to get them out here next week and so I've been digging up thistles so they won't have to mow over them -- some of those pesky weeds are almost a foot tall. They are such a pain to dig up, too, but apparently they are the "makeout spot" for ladybugs, so I guess that makes them good for something.

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The hub and I grow a garden every summer.  We grow broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, winter squash, pumpkins, carrots, beets, lettuce, chard, and beans.  We also put in plenty of flowers and herbs as companion plants -- to (hopefully) ward off bugs we don't want and to bring in the bugs we do.  The birds are a big help in pest control, so we put in sunflowers for them; the bees love 'em too.  It depends on what kind of  year it is, but we always have too much of something, so the surplus goes to our neighbors and a couple of area soup kitchens.

 

Forumfish, it's funny that you got your thumbs from your grandmothers -- the hub got his from his grandfathers, both farmers (one Irish, one Polish -- potatoes on both sides).  He's the brains behind the operation, I'm mostly the hired hand, though flowers, herbs and some of the veggies are mostly my domain.  

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My dad's father was a farmer -- he had a large peach and pear orchard. When he died, we brought his wheelbarrow home with us. My dad drilled a few drainage holes in it and it's where I used to (and hope to again soon) grow herbs. My grandmother had a garden, and I remember picking berries with my cousins when I wasn't even old enough to be in school. My other grandmother had mint growing in her yard, and my aunt took some to get a "start" for her yard. Over the years, she'd give me a "start" of it, too, but our drought and heat makes it hard for me to keep it. Sadly, my aunt passed away last summer, but my cousin still takes care of the house, so I might try to get some mint and try again.

 

harrie, do you have problems with snails? One year, we grew tomatoes and peppers in large paint buckets and big brown snails ate almost all the pepper plants. Finally I got some ash from a local bbq place and put a ring around the planters. Ta da! No more snails munching my veggies.

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forumfish, in wet years we can have slug issues with our cabbage, but never actual snails.  An old farmer told me that when the cabbage starts to form a ball, you should sprinkle a little salt in the middle part -- salt makes slugs disintegrate.  It's kind of gross, kind of fascinating if you have a cruel streak.  (And the salt thing works on snails, too.)  But the birds seem to help with controlling all kinds of bad bugs, and as long as we have sunflowers, they leave tomatoes and peppers alone. Whether the birds have been helping with the slugs, I don't know, but we haven't had much issue with them for a couple of years.  I hope I haven't jinxed this year's cabbage crop..

 

I did not know drought affected mint that much - I use it as a companion plant, and it spreads like a weed.  We till the garden every spring and every fall, and volunteer mint (and elephant head amaranth) still pops up every year.   

 

I love your wheelbarrow story.  My mom sort of gardened but wasn't passionate about it or anything, and that's the only exposure I had to it.  When the hub agreed to try out a plot in the community garden if he could grow potatoes, I got hooked just by kibbitzing/helping.  (One of his grandfathers had been a potato farmer in Maine, and the hub remembered everything he'd said on the subject and put it into practice.)  Now I think it's really important that people know where their food comes from and what it takes to get that stuff to the store, market, or table -- just my opinion, but I think knowing what goes into growing produce  makes one appreciate it more, whether you grow or buy it. .

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harrie, I also have a mean streak when it comes to snails -- one year I had an infestation of brown garden snails (I think babies had hitched a ride on some newly-purchased day lilies) and I kept a salt shaker on the patio so I could melt those suckers as I ran across them. One weekend I killed more than 100 -- this was a few months after planting the day lilies, so that's why I figured they were the source. I've since learned to check new plants thoroughly before adding them to my yard. (I also used to pull snails out of their shells when I was a little girl, but I chalk that up to being curious, not mean.)

 

Mint likes to keep its feet wet, so in a drought, it has to be watered but not overwatered. I sometimes find it hard to get it just right, and the leaves can scorch if it gets too hot.

 

I think it's great that your husband is carrying on the family tradition of raising food. Once things settle down in my house, I'd love to try another veggie garden.

Edited by forumfish

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I'm pretty sure my mint could survive a nuclear attack.  Same with my rosemary.  (And I'm in Los Angeles, so definitely feeling the drought.)  The other herbs I have to tend to, but I keep those two off in a section of the herb garden that basically only gets runoff water and they still try to take over the yard.  My oregano died for some reason, so I need to start over with that. 

 

I also have three citrus trees - lemon, Valencia orange, and navel orange - that I never water; whatever nature provides is what they get, and they yield great crops year-round.  Especially the lemon tree.  I'm knocking on wood as I type this, but the "no watering" thing has been working for years now.  They've been there for decades, so they're certainly well established.

 

For my vegetables, I do rotating crops, and do things like plant peas in the spot where tomatoes had grown (in order to replenish the nitrogen tomatoes suck out of the soil).  I'm overhauling the backyard a little bit at a time, and eventually I'll be able to really expand the veggie garden.  For right now, the summer crops will be the usual assortment of tomatoes and peppers, cucumber, greens, artichoke, broccoli, onion, and maybe a couple new things.

 

I have rosebushes down one side of the house, since they don't need much water once established.  I just put in new flower beds in the front last summer and filled all those with various plants that needed a good amount of water to get started but now only get watered for 3 minutes once a week or every other week.  Since we actually got some rain occasionally this winter, I didn't have to water them at all for a couple of months. 

 

I lined my driveway with begonias where it's right next to the house and gets no sun, and then vincas on the other side.  I have a shady area with a few different kinds of hydrangeas.  And then I have cyclamen in the shady areas around the back patio.

 

Other than not needing a lot of water, my criteria for the flower gardens revolve around color.  Evergreens are used sparingly; I want something that blooms.  And I like a wide variety of color; things have to coordinate with each other, but I don't have any two things of the exact same color.  I also like a fair bit of variation in height.  And things that attract bees and butterflies; the whole bed under my dining room bay window is taken up with lantana and they just love that.

Edited by Bastet
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It's traditional to get your peas in by St. Patrick's Day, but the ground is still under almost a foot of snow, so that won't be happening.  I just ordered my flower seeds - sunflower, nasturtium, cosmos, and zinnias - while it's snowing outside. Yay! I use those, plus buy some Cleome and alyssum starts because bees and beneficial insects like them.  In particular, the winter squash and pumpkins need to be pollinated,, so we really strive to make a bee-friendly garden. Plus, bees need all the help they can get.  Butterflies pollinate too, and we get plenty of them; last year we even got hummingbirds -- that was new.  

 

I also keep a couple of boxes at home with herbs, arugula, lettuce, etc. It's nice to step out and cut what you need while you're cooking.

 

Bastet, I'm jealous - it must be wonderful to have citrus trees in your own yard.  That's so cool! 

 

We rotate crops too, and every New Year's Day the hub makes up the garden blueprint -- potatoes and tomatoes cannot follow each other, and everything else shifts by one-third (our plot is divided into thirds), broccoli and cabbage usually go where beans were the previous year because beans enrich the soil, etc. It can be a little like a puzzle and gets us thinking about warm weather in the middle of winter.  I think we're giving up on onions this year; we've had two bad crops the last two years, and it gives us something to buy from a local farmer friend of ours.   

 

Last year we tried growing pumpkins and butternut squash on a trellis and it worked out really well. We tried it to cut down on the squash bug activity; and as it turned out, a lady mouse set up housekeeping in the plot,so whew!  I thought we'd have to support the pumpkins, which was very difficult; a soft rope hammock type of thingy was hard to set/keep in place, and the fruits just busted right through panty hose.  A couple of pumpkins escaped our support efforts and were fine, never fell off the vine, and they weighed 15-20 pounds.  And the squash bug issue was almost non-existent.  So far, we love the trellis. 

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alyssum starts because bees and beneficial insects like them.

 

Indeed.  Alyssum is essentially the ground cover for one of my beds, and it's host to all sorts of good things.

 

I know I'm very lucky to be able to keep things in the ground year-round.  Every once in a while it gets too cold for the basil, but it made it through this winter beautifully.

 

My cilantro is starting to sprout up already; I let it go to seed each year and gather up some of them for cooking while letting the rest settle into the ground and make new plants.

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Well, on this 20 degree morning here I am still waiting for the rest of the snow to leave my garden. Once it does I need to get out there and stick some garlic in the ground. I was a complete slacker last fall and didn't put it in the ground when I should have, so now I'm just hoping to get a crop this year.

 

And yesterday my tomato seeds arrived from Victory Seeds, with the second batch coming today or tomorrow from Tomato Growers Supply. Given the average last frost date of May 15 here, with two known dates of May 18 and May 23 in the last 12 years, I'll be shooting for getting them in the ground Memorial Day.

 

I have most of what I want already but needed new seeds for some of my favorites Anna Russian, Little Lucky, Cherokee Purple and Russian #117.

 

I will start them around April 1, and I should really start my cherry tomatoes right now, as I will grow them in large pots to keep near the house. Since they go in pots, I can get them up and planted around May 15 without the fear of frost given that I can just bring them inside.

Edited by JTMacc99
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I'm pretty sure my mint could survive a nuclear attack.  Same with my rosemary.  (And I'm in Los Angeles, so definitely feeling the drought.)

When I bought my house in LA (San Gabriel Valley), the prior owners had some mint planted in the little flower bed.  I immediately pulled them up and destroyed as much of the roots as I could find because I am extremely mint averse.  Those damn plants kept surviving somehow so for about 3 years I was fighting them before they finally gave up.

 

One of my favorite memories is when my ex insisted a snap line be used to be plant wildflowers in our tiny little flower bed so they were all orderly instead of chaotic disbursed. It worked for him until the plants started to grow at non-uniform rates and became unruly despite his Gestapo Planting Methods.

 

And then the next year wildflowers spontaneously bloomed around the flower bed, the yard, along the driveway...because the naturally occurring seeds that get spread bloomed where ever they managed to land.

 

My subversive self was positively delighted by this development!  It almost led to a psychotic break for him.

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Well, on this 20 degree morning here I am still waiting for the rest of the snow to leave my garden. Once it does I need to get out there and stick some garlic in the ground. I was a complete slacker last fall and didn't put it in the ground when I should have, so now I'm just hoping to get a crop this year.

 

And yesterday my tomato seeds arrived from Victory Seeds, with the second batch coming today or tomorrow from Tomato Growers Supply. Given the average last frost date of May 15 here, with two known dates of May 18 and May 23 in the last 12 years, I'll be shooting for getting them in the ground Memorial Day.

 

I have most of what I want already but needed new seeds for some of my favorites Anna Russian, Little Lucky, Cherokee Purple and Russian #117.

 

I will start them around April 1, and I should really start my cherry tomatoes right now, as I will grow them in large pots to keep near the house. Since they go in pots, I can get them up and planted around May 15 without the fear of frost given that I can just bring them inside.

 

JTMac99, I have not heard of Victory Seeds, but I like their philosophy and stuff.  Will have to check them out in more detail.  Those Anna Russian tomatoes look neat; I want to keep an eye out for them this year.  We've grown Cherokee Purple, but they seem so fragile once you pick them.  Plus, the hub read about another purple tomato, the Purple Calabash, which Thomas Jefferson used to grow; we're total history geeks, so we got some seeds and phased out the Cherokee Purples.  We found that we could plant a tomato seed around/after mid-May (sometimes we have late last-frost dates), and it would just about catch up to the starts that we planted at the same time; still, we mostly do starts, at least for tomatoes and peppers.  

 

The last few years, I've become fond of the yellow and orange tomatoes, which I think are all less acidic -- if not all, a lot of them are.  I don't know if it's because of their color, or just the way it is.  Lemon Boy have been hardy and yummy, almost sweet; and Jaune Flamme (yellow flame) were extremely prolific last year, plus tasty.

 

We buy tomato starts from a local organic greenhouse - partly because our cat likes to nibble, and partly because the greenhouse lady grows such interesting varieties.  One year, she had "Joe's from Bridgeport" tomatoes - she saved the seeds from some tomatoes "Joe from Bridgeport"  gave her; and they were excellent.  She opens next week, and I can't wait to check out this year's varieties, even if tomatoes don't go into the ground until around Memorial Day for us.  She has lots of cats who patrol the greenhouses, too, and they're a lot of fun. 

 

All this exciting tomato talk considered, the news just said we're expecting snow, possibly accumulating in some places, tomorrow.  Oh well.

DeLurker, I love the term Gestapo Planting Methods.  Your ex's head would probably explode in our garden.

Edited by harrie
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I like Juane Flamme a lot. I haven't grown it in a while. Maybe this year!

Three of my very favorites are Yellow/Orange. Sungold cherry tomatoes, which are sweet and the kind of thing that once you try, you will want every year. Little Lucky, which is a bi-color yellow with red streaks, and is great variety that grows on a plant with potato leaves. And lastly is Aunt Gertie's Gold. A perfect large orange Bernstein.

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I also love the term Gestapo Planting Methods -- I'm a graphic designer with more-than-slight OCD tendencies, who has a hard time "randomly" setting baby plants in a bed. I want them to look as if they came up naturally, but at the same time, I want there to be an even distribution of white space.

 

I got a catalog from these folks today, and I really want to order, well, everything.

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Now I am picturing you standing over your little plants with a sinister expression saying "Ve have vays of making you bloom".

 

Of course you would be wearing all black with boots and ominously slapping a riding crop against your palm.

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I'd love to grow plants, vegs and/or herbs indoor. I live in a tropical weather. Any recommandations? (I used to love planting tulips, jacinths and narcisses back in Europe, violets in northern Asia, but here whereas bougainvillea strive outdoors and are gorgeous, I don't know what to plant indoors, and I have no sunny outdoor - I do have a patio/covered terrace, though, but it's in the shade all day long as it is covered). Any help would be great.

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Well, I live in Newfoundland, next to the salt water, in a place where the Four Winds of Hell blow year-round. I'd love to have a garden, but I have no idea where to start and I can barely remember to water my house plants. They're not dead yet, though.

Anyone here try container gardening? How does it work for you?

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I grow cherry tomatoes in containers. Big, indeterminate cherry tomato plants that keep growing all year and are technically 9-10 feet tall if I didn't let them bend over the top of the cage and grow back down as the year goes by. 

 

It works really well with only a few basic requirements:

  • The container needs to be at least five gallons, but I use 7.5 to 10 gallon containers. 
  • The soil needs to be potting soil and not garden soil.  I use organic Miracle Grow, and 60% of my pots are generally filled with soil from last year's pots.
  • You will need to water frequently early on, and pretty much every day in the summer.
  • You need to regularly feed the plants. They'll need a lot of food.
  • Tomatoes need lots of sun.

 

And that's pretty much it.  I've grown peppers in pots with some success. I grow basil and parsley in pots every year. Same deal with the basil on water and food. If you skimp on either, the basil will quickly shift over to producing flowers rather than leaves. Parsley, on the other hand, is pretty forgiving.

Edited by JTMacc99

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Same deal with the basil on water and food. If you skimp on either, the basil will quickly shift over to producing flowers rather than leaves. Parsley, on the other hand, is pretty forgiving.

 

I'm growing in the ground rather than in pots, but this is so true -- the basil, especially Thai basil, has to be babied or I just wind up with flowers.  Which are lovely and smell nice, and I include dried ones in arrangements, but, still - not what I'm going for.  But the (Italian flat-leaf) parsley is almost as indestructible as my rosemary and mint.

 

It's my dill that usually works out to be my most vulnerable herb; just a wee bit too much sun and the next thing I know it's dead.

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But the (Italian flat-leaf) parsley is almost as indestructible as my rosemary and mint.

I plant a little extra flat-leaf parsley for the Black Swallowtail caterpillars-- they love the stuff and have voracious appetites!

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We've done tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in pots with good results.  As JTMac99 pointed out, you need very large containers to support the roots; if the roots get cramped, the plant up top will not grow much past a certain point. And I echo the importance of providing adequate food and water; in pots, it just becomes runoff, so you have to replenish it regularly.

 

I also keep smaller boxes going on my front porch with lettuce, spinach, arugula and radishes; they keep a semi-low profile (compared to tomatoes and cukes) and like cooler weather, so the Four Winds of Hell (love that term, Miss Dee) might bother them less than some other, taller plants.  The root systems of the salad greens is smaller than the larger veggies, so those faux window-box things (I got mine at Home Depot, they're about eight inches deep) work fine.

 

If you're not sure how committed you want to be, I might suggest starting with herbs, as most of them are pretty hardy and really, really handy to have around. It's super nerdy, but I love to step out and cut something I need while I'm cooking.  It feels so Martha Stewart.

 

 

 

 

Edited because, really, how many times does one have to mention that pots are involved?

Edited by harrie
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My flowers are doing amazingly well this year, they are all so healthy. I've always been really good with plants. My neighbors get sick of my veggies in the summer.

I'm recovering and in a wheelchair now so all I can manage is container plants on my porch. I went crazy with the flowers. I jUst can't believe how great it all looks.

Being in this condition now there's not a lot I can do anymore so having such healthy flowers makes me feel a lot of satisfaction. Like there are still some things I can do.

Something I've been doing that seeemz to help a lot is when I boil or steam vegetables I water my flowers with the vegetable water after it cools.

Does anybody have experience with lucky bamboo? My daughter bought me 2 of them and everything I've read online tells me something different. One will say to plant it with rocks and water which is what I would prefer to do but others say to use soil.

I figured it would be best to ask somebody who has grown it.

Thanks!

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It can be grown either way, but mine was in rocks and water.  They say the fluoride and some of the minerals in tap water can cause a problem (brown leaves, maybe), but it worked fine for me (I would use water from the Brita pitcher rather than directly from the tap, but that’s it).

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Don't know how accurate this planting guide is, but it is simple enough to make me delusionally believe that something I plant might actually grow.

 

That's a neat guide. If you try something like lettuce or herbs, they're low-profile so you don't have to invest in staking or trellising anything.  Lettuce in particular grows pretty quickly so you don't get impatient; and if you quit, you haven't wasted a bunch of time.  Plus it comes in several varieties, and fresh salad -- yum.  Just saying.  (If you live in a hot, hot place, please disregard everything I said.)

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Ooh, thanks for that link, DeLurker! I'm a design geek, so I think that's about the most adorable thing I've seen all month.

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I've stuck my pinky toe into the gardening pool...or at least I am trying to keep some green things alive intentionally (mold and mildew - your existence is not intentional!).

 

I have several catnip and citronella plants in containers on my front porch in hopes of making it less hospitable for mosquitoes which were flying into the house every time I opened the door.  They seem to have cut down on the skeeter population in that particular location.

 

I also, at times, try to start certain things from trimmings.  So I have a pineapple plant that is growing from the top of a pineapple I bought & cut up last summer plus some green onions from recent use (just put the root part into some dirt and they'll start to regrow).

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DeLurker, I also planting onions, but mine were from a couple of large sweet onions I forgot about. Until I smelled them, that is. I grabbed the half-rotted but sprouting onions and planted them in a pot in the yard, not really caring if they lived or not. Well, thanks to all the rain we've been having, those suckers are doing great. Maybe I'll try the same thing with a couple of sprouted taters. I tend to over-buy when produce is on sale, then I put anything that doesn't need to go in the fridge in a brown paper bag and stick it in a cool place. Of course I forget about it half the time.

 

I cleaned out my front yard's flower bed and moved the volunteer morning glories to the planters on the porch, where there's ironwork they can grab on to. I put a few salvias and Mexican heathers in the bed to fill in bare spots, and cut back the shrimp plant -- it's gone beserk this spring. Once the rain lets up, I'll do some more work in the back yard and see if I can coax the neighbor's honeysuckle over the fence (I talked to her and she doesn't care). I'm not complaining about these daily showers, we need the rain desperately.

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plus some green onions from recent use (just put the root part into some dirt and they'll start to regrow).

 

They'll do that in water, too.

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Okay, not exactly garden related, but today a bald eagle flew over, nice and low, while we were working in the garden - he was small but a beauty, and I got all excited for a minute, because that's what I do.   Unfortunately, I forgot my camera -- I swear, it's like they know this and then fly by all low and slow.  

 

Garden itself is doing okay -- monster volunteer sunflowers, lots of zucchini, all the veggies except for some peppers are doing well.  

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Dear shrimp plant in my flowerbed,

 

Please stop putting out new little buds. It may feel like spring, but this is Texas, and we will have a hard freeze before winter is over. I'd hate to see all your little flower thingies turn black and fall off.

 

Love,

Fish

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In Texas too - I've got plants in my yard that are very confused - they get spring like weather for a few days than we bounce back down with our (mild) winter temps.

 

I've been experimenting with putting store bought vegetables in water or soil when I am done with them to see if they will grow again (like green onions do).  I've got a pineapple plant that is doing decently, a romaine lettuce stump that is sprouting new leaves and some celery.  Now if only I could grow a brownie tree - that would be something!

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Delurker, I just asked about that in another thread. I've heard you can do that with green onions but I've tried a bunch of times and they never grew.

Keep us posted on how it comes out.

I'm trying to decide what kind of garden, if any I want to do this year. I just did a couple of tomato plants in buckets last year. I'm glad I didn't attempt to do a big garden because of our water restrictions.

I know I want to do tomatoes, they're so easy and I love fresh tomatoes. I'm not sure what else.

I'm going to use buckets again this year, they're so much easier for me to water and take care of so I know a lot of big stuff is out but I may do some peppers too.

What other vegetables are easy to grow in buckets? I use 5 gallon paint buckets and drill holes in the bottom, they work great and are so much cheaper than planters of that size.

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I'm surprised about the green onions - I am a plant killer and those work for me.  I just cut the part of the onion I want to use and leave about 1/2 over the root.  Toss them in a shallow bowl with water for a day or two and new roots start to grow (but the water starts to smell pretty quick).  After that, just stick'em in the ground.

 

They don't regrow in the nice tight bunches I buy in the store, but they work just fine flavorwise.

 

I'm just trying stuff now to see what works and what doesn't - in a totally haphazard fashion.  I have no idea if I will get edible celery, but I like how the plants look

 

I should try tomatoes in buckets - I don't eat a lot of them, but my son loves them.

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We've done tomatoes and peppers in buckets, same method as Maharincess described. I've read (but not tried) that squash and cucumbers can be grown in buckets, but I bet you need a trellis to give them room to run.

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We've grown peas, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, short carrots, radishes, lettuce/greens, and cukes in buckets. Agree with forumfish on trellising the cucumber, and peas like them too.  

 

I know people who grow potatoes in barrels, but for me it's more trouble than it's worth.  (I still grow potatoes, just not in a barrel.)

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Hey guys, got some questions tangentially garden related that I hoped some of you might be able to help me with, if it's okay to post them here? I couldn't find a nature thread.

I've recently taken up bird watching, and am trying to come up with better bird feeding solutions. The problem we're having with the current approach (hanging feeder) is we've got one species (threatened/endangered, so we'd want to keep / encourage them anyway) that liberally tosses half the seed on the ground. (Complete jerks, won't share with other birds, they land on the feeder and bogart it, but whatcha gonna do?) And then I have another species on the endangered list (plus two species of birds that I actually prefer) that are ground feeders, and currently eat from bowls. The bowl approach is recommended by the local Conservation Society because you can sterilize them easily and reduce the spread of illness.

So the problems are these: both bowls for ground feeding and the tossing of seed onto the ground is providing food for mice (no rats (yet) thankfully), which needs to end yesterday. I'm also worried that their tunnels are doing a number on my flower bulbs. I've noticed a severe decline in spring flowers in the last couple of years. Another issue is that all the seed dropping on my beds (my garden is so small, that I had no choice but to put the feeders in my beds) is creating a real weed problem.* And finally, does anybody have a better approach for ground feeding? The winter has been so wet, that the bowls keep getting soaked, and although some of the birds are cool with mushy (as long as not moldy) seed, I feel like it leads to a lot of waste. The CS recommends setting feed out in the evening, to make sure it's there early enough in the morning, but that also increases both the time for rain or mice to spoil things.

I tried googling this, but found lots of articles, and not so many answers. So I thought I'd just ask. Worse yet, lot of the articles were actually about how to *attract* mice to your garden (the insanity!) as a food source for birds of prey, but since they increased the number of houses around here, simultaneously increasing the number of free roaming cats and decreasing the fields, the prey birds have pretty much flown the proverbial coop. OTOH, leaving "prey" out of the google equation eliminated the broader information sources as well, so I got stuck.

Has anyone had experience with chili pepper on bird feed? I've read that it doesn't bother birds but does work against squirrels. We don't have any squirrels, but I figured mice might respond the same way. Does anybody have any bright ideas as to how to reduce the weed problem? I was even thinking of putting down a tarp right below the feeder, with cutouts for my hostas/rudbeckia. (Weed killer isn't an option.) As to the wet seed, I've read about mesh bowls that would allow drainage, but never seen an actual product like that, so I wondered if I was misunderstanding something there. Anyone familiar with it? Does it lend itself to holding small seeds plus easy disinfecting?

Thanks in advance for any answers, and sorry if this is too OT.

* going with the definition of weeds as a flower in the wrong place, I guess, because I suspect a lot of it is sunflowers.

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I  have no ideas on ground feeding but can vouch for red pepper flakes in slowing down rodents.   Squirrels were decapitating my sunflowers this summer, to the point where one was perched on our squash trellis, eating a sunflower head he had severed, just watching us walk into the garden, totally unconcerned.  We also have a small mouse/vole thing going on where we've sort of thrown in the towel and decided to try and coexist.  (That being said, I witnessed a breathtaking scene this last fall when a red tail hawk swept down into the garden, picked off a vole, and took off.  Totally thrilling and WTF all at the same time.)

 

Anyway, we invested in a couple of five-pound bags of red pepper flakes - the stuff you find in a shaker on the table at pizza joints - and sprinkled the flakes on the paths of our garden.  The squirrel(s) didn't have a direct tree-to-sunflower route and had to walk around at some point in the garden, so this worked.  On the one hand, it's mean, because the pepper probably makes the squirrel uncomfortable or hurts his feet (or mouth).  On the other hand, it worked - so if the critter is smart, he'll burn his little feet or mouth once, maybe twice. 

 

We also sprinkled the flakes around our lettuce beds, beds where we planted seeds, and beds with tender seedlings that we thought would look attractive to our voles/mice. It worked very well; you just have to remember to give your lettuce, for example, a good wash to get out any flakes that might have gotten tucked in within the leaves. 

 

We started the red pepper flake experiment with an 8 oz. package from the local grocery store; but our garden is large, so we found the big bag from Amazon a much more reasonable buy.  

 

We encourage birds to visit our garden and keep a bird bath going (in season).  We just get regular birds, but they're pretty and fun.   As far as we can tell, the red pepper flakes do not affect them at all.  

 

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Brilliant! Thanks so much, just what I was hoping to hear. The mice are driving us nuts. I think I'm about ready to clutch at straws, but didn't want to do anything too rash.

 

Your birds are gorgeous! What kinds are they, and how did you manage to get such a lovely picture??? My mom always had cardinals and blue jays in her yard, but none of ours really bring the plumage like that, which I miss. Our endangered birds aren't spectacular, just two species of sparrow whose numbers have seriously tanked over the past decades. Neither is particularly pretty, and both are kinda jerks, but they need help, so there we are. Other than that, I rather like the blue tits (can't help it, that's what they're called) and our robins for a bit of color, and our blackbirds for their character. And we also have a fair number of magpies and great tits. The magpies are fascinating birds, but they can do a number on other birds' nests, so I have mixed feelings about them.

 

I'm stuck doing the convalescent thing atm, kind of like Maharincess, so I spend a fair amount of time staring out the window these days, and got more into birding. My husband was so kind as to get me a webcam for the bird feeding station for Christmas, and it's done a lot expand my knowledge of the little critters. We also have hedgehogs. (I love them to bits.) They also enjoy the ground feeding stations.

 

I wouldn't say my vision is that great, but you get to a point, if you watch them long enough, where you can identify the species as much by their behavior as by their appearance. The field sparrows appear singly or in small groups, land in the hanging feeder (but always just one at a time, they don't share), and then sit there forever, throwing a lot of seed on the ground. The house sparrows never use the hanging feeder. They come in groups, sometimes out of the blue, but without fail just as soon as any other bird starts to use "their" ground feeders. They'll gang up and try to chase off a much larger blackbird, but the blackbirds only come to feed on their own, and eventually give up when confronted by the little rowdies. By contrast, in summer the blackbirds usually feed in pairs, picking over our lawn for worms. The blackbirds also spend more time than the others looking for fallen seed, which I appreciate, as it means fewer weeds. The great tits swoop in and out of the hanging feeder so fast, I can't focus my binoculars, but you can tell it's them by the blur of yellow. (Or rewinding the webcam footage, whichever... ;-)) They quickly clear the way for the next guy to grab his nut, and don't go knocking everything on the ground. And the funniest by far are the blue tits, who actually fly like Woodstock was always drawn, in wobbles and curvy loops. I get a real kick out of them.

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Thank you, krimimimi!  The blue and orange guy is an Eastern Bluebird, and the others are assorted sparrows. I totally get the jerky, endangered sparrow thing; as you say, they need help, and that's what matters.  This is a sentence I never thought I'd be writing, but tits look like our chickadees; and it seems they are all related, being part of the Paridae family.  We also get finches and sometimes hummingbirds - they love zinnias.   Plus the usual suspects, like mourning doves and grackles.

 

A bird feeder webcam sounds wonderful - I hope it takes some of the sting out of your convalescence.  It must be great fun to get to know all the different birds - I know I would watch them all day long.  I'm also jealous that you have hedgehogs; we have groundhogs, and they are not at all alike!

 

 I was not much into birds until we started the garden; and then they became fun to watch (because watching birds is much more fun than weeding). Plus they eat bugs, which makes me happy.  We've been busy in the garden, and upon hearing a cacophony, have looked up to see our poor friend the red-tailed hawk being hassled by a murder of crows.  Other times, we notice bunches of smaller birds chasing a crow around; so I guess what comes around goes around. We also get a Northern Mockingbird who perches on one particular limb and lets go with his crazy song. The hub says he's serenading us, I say he's telling to get out of his garden.  

Edited by harrie
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Those are pretty birds, harrie! The little reddish-headed one on the left looks like what we (central Texas) call a house finch. I've seen them perch on a hummingbird feeder and basically stand on their heads to feed. I love to try and identify our backyard birds by their calls. Once of the loudest for its size is the Carolina Wren -- they are so cute, too, with their little kicked-up tails, hopping up and down our Chinaberry tree. We also have a family of woodpeckers that nest in the same Chinaberry (it's a huge tree), and I have video of them driving out invading starlings. One morning around 4:00, I was awakened by a mockingbird going through what must have been his entire repertoire.

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krimimimi, sorry I can't help you on the bird feeder. I used to feed the birds until the day my cat was going crazy at the window, I looked out to see what was there and it was the biggest rat I'd ever seen.

I immediately took all of the feeders down and stopped feeding them.

I always put over ripe fruits and vegetables out for the deer and other critters and I sometimes put raw chicken wings out in the road outside my window for the foxes. I love watching the foxes, they're so damn cute. I have a picture from a few years ago of a mama fox and her baby sleeping on the hood of my car.

I feed pretty much all of the critters around here. I miss my birds, I've been thinking of maybe putting feeders farther away from the house but then I couldn't see them.

The only birds up here I don't care for are the Blue Jays. They're so damn loud and they gobble up the peanuts I put out for the squirrels.

krimimimi, I hope you're feeling better soon.

Dog hair and toothpicks worked really well at keeping the squirrels out of my planter boxes. I got so sick of them digging up my flowers as fast as I could plant them.

I read that dog hair would keep them out, so I brushed my hairy beast and put that on top of the soil, then for good measure I stuck a bunch of toothpicks into the soil.

I figured a few sharp jabs in the ass would keep them out and it worked like a charm.

Edited by Maharincess

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Thanks, Maharincess! I'm hanging in there.

I've started a test run with the bird food and cayenne powder. I'll let you know how it works vis a vis the mice, because that might solve the issue with rats as well, and then you wouldn't have to put the feeders so far from your house.

I was currently testing 5 different kinds of seed anyway. Bringing in a different kind of seed got me five species that hadn't previously used my feeder, incluging the first robin I've ever seen in my garden, so that was nice. Bringing in types 3 through 5 otoh didn't bring *any* new birds, but might have provided some solutions for less seed mess, so not entirely without merit. Now I'm testing to see if I can spot a difference in consumption rates for the birds between chili'd and un-spiced foods. (Not sure how to account for possible overnight mouse feeding rates, as I'm not willing to get up at the crack of dawn to check again. I guess the early feeding bird habits won't be taken into consideration.) Great tip, harrie, thanks again!

Otoh, I expect the chili will be a problem when the hedgehogs come out of hibernation, so maybe this is the ideal time to start using it, and once the mice give up, I could lay off the chili. I'll need to give that some thought.

Maharincess, I don't know if you guys are still working on making your garden more accessible, but if so, was wondering if there's an affordable machine rental place down near you, where maybe your son could rent a mini digger? When we built, I wheelbarrowed several dumptrucks worth of soil up here from the road, only to watch the neighbors rent one of those things a little while later, and boy did that ever make light work of their job! I felt a little foolish having done it by hand, but I had never heard of a rental place for them before. It was like a mini steam shovel and apparently not too pricey, although the "too" in that sentence is clearly relative. But maybe it's worth checking out? Trying to level land is beastly work. I'm sure your husband could drive one of those things.

Then there was another product that might be worth looking at - the use of plastic grates under small grain gravel to stabilize walkways for use with a wheelchair. I remember gravel being (literally) cheaper than dirt when we built. Had dumptrucks of that, too. I'd bet the official plastic walkway reinforcing product isn't necessarily cheap, but it seems like something that you could substitute other things for. You need the properties of the material, not the brand name. I saw that a year or two ago in Alan Titchmarsh's current garden renovation show. I think it's called "love my garden." Also, I bet you really only need stuff like that in those spots that collect water and get mushy. If that's at all of interest, say so, and I'll root around to see if I can find more specifics. I've come to really appreciate what a difference being trapped inside makes. Anything that increases the size of your "world" is well worth a look.

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Update on the birdfood sitch: so the blackbirds and sparrows are utterly undaunted by the cayenne powder, the robin has been scarcer, but that could be unrelated. Plus he's only a single bird, so statistically not relevant. Unfortunately, I also haven't seen much at all of the assorted tits (yes, that's really what they're called, blue tits and (worse yet) great tits. seriously. who comes up with this stuff?). Hoping that's a coincidence, as I'm pretty sure the pepper is highly unattractive for the mice, and would like to continue using it. I assume this will also cause issues with the hedgehogs when they come out of hibernation, but I've still got some time to get creative on that score. I built them a house last fall. I may just build them a little feeding hut, too.

On the plant front, a couple of years ago, I removed a bunch of mini-privets that made up the borders of two of my beds and replaced them with box. The privet was just too woody in winter; I really wanted green. I've been holding my breath ever since that we wouldn't get hit by box blight, which seems to be creeping down from the north. So instead, last year we got invaded by some dumb caterpillar that was supposedly imported from China. Sure, why not? Apparently none of the local birds want to eat them, and the caterpillars literally decimate any box they're left unchecked on in a matter of days. They can reappear as often as three times a year, and the only solution is poison poison poison. Which I'd really prefer avoiding. I don't think my garden will survive another year of it. So I'm looking for replacements. Again. Third time is the charm, right?

Suggestions welcome, I'm looking for two different things:

1) an evergreen border plant to edge beds with that isn't horribly expensive, won't grow too high or wide or need too much cutting (max 3x yearly), but that also reaches that size fairly quickly while maintaining a formal shape

and 2) an evergreen plant for my flower bed that is otherwise devoid of structure in winter. It also shouldn't be horribly expensive, needs to survive the summer almost completely eclipsed by my bedding plants, and should be happy with 2 or 3 trims yearly, and between 1 and 3 feet, or be affordable at the 1 foot size and grow slowly from there.

Also, I was wondering what garden forums you guys use? Any recommendations? Friendly corners of the web where lay people can ask their (sometimes) stupid questions and emerge the wiser for it but otherwise unscathed preferred. (For example, some of the dog info sites I've stumbled into have been downright scary. The information to be had just comes at too high a price.) I was looking at (a non-english) one for the box question the other day, and they had pages and pages and pages of discussions on alternatives, a third of which went over my head (thanks to some pros wanting to be recognized as such, but apparently not actually willing to convey info in an accessible manner) and a lack of succinct answers. I think a wiki might have been a better approach. Anybody know of something like that? Thanks in advance.

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I don't visit any gardening forums regularly, but have found that for me, the best info comes from the local agriculture extension office. I used to work for a conservation agency and so I'm a bit biased in the "native vs invasive species" area of discussion. I do find that ag extension-type offices usually point you in the direction of the best plants for your area, and are helpful if you are in a drought-prone area and need plants that won't suck up tons of water (and your bank account).

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Well, I had to buy scallions for the first time in forever this morning as the ones I was re-growing n a juice glass finally got kind of grody.  I will definitely have them back on my windowsill because they seem to be the only things I can't kill!

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