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27 August 2014

3 Easy Cheater Ways to Propogate Plants!

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Fall is a great time of year to think about propagating plants.  If you do it early enough - read NOW - many plants in a zone 6+ garden will have a chance to get established.  Zones 4-5 are pushing it to propagate in September, but some super hardy plants, like sedum, might make it.  Even if you are in colder zones though, propagating indoors in pots makes a lot of sense for saving money in the garden.  Join me today as we talk about  three super easy ways to propagate new plants -- so easy a kid can understand the concept fully and completely.

Forget collecting seed, forget grafting stem to rootstock, forget finicky cuttings. These are three methods that work for a BUNCH of hardy plants to help multiply your stock without paying a cent! OK, here we go.  Buckle your seat belt, here is #1!

#1  Cheater Division

The first plant I'm going to show you is a lambsear.  They are super hardy, even growing as a weed in some gardens.  Therefore, there is no need to dig up lambsear to divide them.  The root grow close to the surface, so if you put your hand at the very bottom of the stem near the ground and give a slow, steady pull, the whole plant, roots and all will pull out.

If there is no budge at first, add a little water to the plant, or simply divide after a rain!   
If the plant pulls up without a root, no is just lambsear.  
Throw the plant in the compost and try again.

Simply replant your lambsear where you want it and you have the most easy propagation EVER.

#2 Layering

Layering is simply taking a new (less than a year old) and flexible stem that is growing near the ground, and simply securing it to the ground so that it will grow new roots.  If the stem is not young enough, it will break and will not grow roots easily.

So once you bend the stem onto the soil, cover the middle of the stem with a little soil.

You have to weight the stem down a bit so it stays under the soil, so use a flat rock or heavy brick on top.
You also must make sure a few leaves are showing on the other side of the rock.  It is ok if they touch the ground,
but you want them to have access to light so that your layered stem "takes" more easily.

It is essential that the entire stem is surrounded by soil and weighted down because that is where all of the roots will be forming.  If the stem is exposed to air, it won't work without a lot more babying and care.  No peeking either.  Leave the stem and rock alone all winter long and through the early spring.  You should check for the first time around May or June.  If there are little white roots all over the stem, then you simply cut the stem close to the mother plant and replant the stem with the root section completely underground.

#3 Cheater Cuttings

You've heard me talk about sedums before.  I love them because you can propagate them just by thinking about them.  Not really, but it is almost as simple.  All you have to do is simply snap off a section of plant.  Typically, I would tell you to get a young plant that snaps easily when bent, but with sedum it truly does not matter.  I have never had a sedum cutting fail.  Just break off a piece of stem and you are good to go!

After you break off a stem, you do not need to put it in sterile soil.  you do not need to use rooting hormone.  Simply shove that stem into the ground wherever you want a new plant with nice rounded habit, and you are good to go.  Don't mess with it and next spring, you might have your very own river of sedum.

25 August 2014

FALL Morning Glory Tablescape

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morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons full front

When the temperatures start to descend and the air gets so crisp you can taste it,  all I want to do is be outside.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks -- they are all outdoors as long as possible.   To celebrate the falling temperatures and the garden harvest, I put together a little "muffin bar".  Won't you join me in a celebration of Fall?


Supplies Used:

morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons top down

To assemble your display, the main players are the cake pans, zinc pots and then an assortment of decorative items.  You can make the tiered stands permanent by adhering the metal pots to the cake pans with E6000, semi-permanent by using a couple dabs of hot glue to secure around the rim or simply stack them and skip adhesive!  If you use hot glue or no adhesive, you can reuse your cake pans as actual cake pans.  if you decide to make them permanent tiered stands, you might want to get your cake pans cheap from the thrift store.  On my largest tiered stand, I used simple wood coins (cut from a dead tree branch) stacked and glued together.

morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons labels

Once you have the basic structure of the display, it is time to make things pretty!
These little acorn stickers are absolutely beautiful and perfect as accents.

morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons acorn detail

Harvested and dried seeds and these cute little decorative acorns make up the "bedding" in the cake pans.  If you don't have a garden, dry lentils, chickpeas, fava beans and various other beans are easy to find and VERY cheap in bags at the grocery store.  No shame in purchasing them!!\  (PS - You CAN eat or plant these seeds after using them!  Simply give them a wash in a colander and they are good to go!)

morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons main tier
morning glory muffins amy renea crafts unleashed a nest for all seasons mini loaf

Load up your pans with freshly baked goods, wrapped in parchment paper (a cheap must-have for the kitchen and gifting!) 
and secured with a little baker's twine!  (I got this set of four colors that covers fall and Valentine's day :)

 Now get baking and harvesting!  Fall is only here for such a short, sweet time!

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22 August 2014

How to Get Started with Square Foot Gardening

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I have a treat for you today!  A master gardener brought into the Nest to give YOU the detailed basics for square foot gardening.  Get ready for a tiny history lesson, some practical advice and an informative post you will want to pin for later!  An added bonus having a master gardener here today -- you can ask her questions -- anything gardening!  

You can visit Maureen at The Farmer's Garden,
or go say hello on facebooktwitter or pinterest!
Burpee Farm Trial Gardens  ::: Fordhook Farm :::   Photos by Amy Renea
Square foot gardening was started in 1975 by Mel Bartholomew. He retired, bought a place in the country and decided to try gardening. Quickly, he became frustrated by the number of weeds that took over his garden. He asked himself many questions including the following;

Why do you need three foot wide aisles between rows? 

People told Mel that this was so that you have room to till the weeds. The square foot gardening method eliminates the uncovered aisles where weeds grow. Therefore, there's no need to waste time and effort weeding these areas.

Burpee Farm Trial Gardens  ::: Fordhook Farm :::   Photos by Amy Renea

Why plant a long row of the same crop?

Followers of the square foot gardening method only grow as much as they can eat at harvest time. They plant less and stagger plantings so every plant of a single variety doesn't ripen at once.

Burpee Farm Trial Gardens  ::: Fordhook Farm :::   Photos by Amy Renea

Why plant seeds thickly and then thin the seedlings after they germinate?

In the square foot gardening method seeds are planted at their ultimate spacing. This eliminates unnecessary thinning and wasting seeds.

Why improve the soil and water areas that you'll be walking on?

In the square foot gardening method, raised garden beds are a maximum of four feet wide on each side. Most people can only reach two feet without being off balance. The growing space will never be walked on and compacted when the square foot gardening method is used. Mel and the members of his community garden tried these square foot gardening techniques and were quite pleased with the results. Over many years of teaching and experimenting with his square foot gardening concept, Mel has made several improvements including the ones listed below.

1. Build Up - Build raised beds to eliminate amending your existing soil. Beds are usually constructed from wood, but you can also use bricks or concrete blocks. Do not use pressure treated wood or boards that have been painted on the inside.
2. Raised Bed Height - Only six inches is needed for most crops. Construct one foot tall beds for long carrots and potatoes.
3. No Fertilizer Needed -Mel's Mix contains all the nutrients plants need to grow. You only need to add compost each time you replant a square.
4. Aisles - Leave 3 or 4 feet between each raised bed for easy access with a wheelbarrow or harvest basket.
5. Grids - Wooden grids are best. You can also use old plastic mini blinds to create an inexpensive grid. Without a 1 by 1 foot grid, it's not a square foot garden.

Burpee Farm Trial Gardens  ::: Fordhook Farm :::   Photos by Amy Renea

Sizing Your Square Foot Gardens

The first thing you need to do is determine how many square foot gardens you'll need to feed yourself and your family. Mel has determined that a single 4 foot square garden will provide salad for one adult every day of the harvest season and a second garden of the same size will provide enough daily vegetables for that same person. You will need to add a third bed per person if you plan on preserving or giving away some of your harvest.  A 3 foot square garden will provide the same nutritional needs for a child, but children quickly become hungry teenagers. It's best to plan ahead for your children's growing appetites.

Burpee Farm Trial Gardens  ::: Fordhook Farm :::   Photos by Amy Renea

Factors in Selecting a Location

Use the following guidelines to determine the best spot for your square foot garden(s).
1. Near Your House - The more often you pass by your garden, the more likely you'll take care of it. One of the reasons that traditional row gardens placed in the back corner of the yard become overload with weeds is because you never notice them until it's too late. You'll also be more likely to notice when vegetables ripen as you regularly walk by.
2. Sunshine - Choose location(s) that receive between 6 and 8 hours of sunshine a day. Plants that produce fruit such as tomatoes, eggplant, squash, pepper and cucumbers need more sunshine than lettuce, kale and other leafy greens.
3. Keep Away From Trees and Shrubs - Not only do they provide unwanted shade, but their roots will be attracted to your perfect well watered growing medium.
4. Drainage - Keep your gardens out of areas where water accumulates. Too much water will drown the roots of your plants. If the only sunny location in your yard is in a low lying area, add a bottom to your square foot garden and use bricks or blocks to raise it off the ground.
5. Existing Soil - This is not a factor in square foot gardening because you'll be filling your boxes with Mel's Mix and not soil dug up from your yard.

How to Make Mel's Mix

Mel's mix is a very important part of the square foot gardening method. You're not square foot gardener if you don't fill your raised beds with Mel's special blend of materials. His simple recipe is based on volume, not weight. The ingredients can be found at most gardening centers and greenhouse suppliers.

1/3 blended compost
1/3 peat moss
1/3 vermiculite

Make sure the compost you use is a blend of at least 5 ingredients. If you make your own compost, you don't need to worry about this. Homemade compost is typically made of many more than 5 ingredients. Store bought compost is often composed of waste material from a single industry - wood, cattle, mushrooms, etc. You may need to purchase several types and blend them yourself. Use store bought if you have to, but for best results make your own compost. Peat moss is a naturally occurring substance made of plant material that has decayed for millions of years. Vermiculite is made from mica rock that has been heated until it explodes, similar to popping popcorn. The coarse agricultural grade is best for gardening. It holds the most moisture and makes the soil more friable.

Mix the ingredients together either on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow. Peat moss and vermiculite are both powdery. Wear a dust mask and don't create Mel's mix on a windy day. Fill your square foot gardening bed(s) to the top, but do not pack it down. Add the dividers and you're ready to start planting.

Planting Plan

Think about which types and how many vegetables you purchased in the last week and month. This will give you a good idea how much you and your family eat. Start off small so you're not overwhelmed with produce the first year. Consult your seed packages to determine how much room your plants will need. Look at the spacing or thin to requirements. Plant either seeds or seedling according to the following rules. Start seeds indoors or purchase seedlings to jump start your garden.

12 inch spacing means one plant per grid
6 inch spacing means four plants per grid
4 inch spacing means nine plants per grid
3 inch spacing means sixteen plants per grid

Plant one type of seed in each square of your boxes. Don't plant the same variety adjacent to each other. You can also stagger your harvest by planting one square one week and another square with the same variety in a couple of weeks. Planting a variety of crops in each box also looks attractive.
Small seeds are hard to handle. Plant 2 or 3 small seeds in each space. Use a scissors to snip off the excess seedlings after they germinate to prevent disturbing the roots of the one you want to keep.
You can also plant a second or third crop once you've harvested a certain variety and the space is empty.

Mel has taught the square foot gardening method to people all over the world and his students have had great success. What are you waiting for? Try square foot gardening whether you are a novice or an experienced gardener.

Maureen Farmer is master gardener and the founder of The Farmer’s Garden website ( The Farmer's Garden is an online place to make in-person connections between gardeners across the US. Gardeners and want-to-be gardeners can search and post free classified ads to share excess homegrown produce, tools, or gardening space with people in their area. Food banks and individuals can post wanted classifieds for surplus items. She is an avid gardener, adjunct horticultural professor and a former Board member of Urban Oaks Organic Farm in Connecticut.

Remember, y

ou can visit Maureen at The Farmer's Garden,
or go ask questions on facebooktwitter or pinterest!
 I know you have them!

One more TREAT for Nest Readers!

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