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31 May 2011

How to Grow and Layer Tree Peonies

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Layering is one of the most full proof ways to propagate new plants because the new plant is still attached to it's mama while it is putting down roots.  Basically, you take a newish branch close to the bottom of the stem, bend it towards the ground and pile soil on top of the stem so that it can develop new roots.  To make the process go more quickly, you can wound the stem on the bottom where it will come in contact with the soil.    To hold the stem underground where it can stay in contact with the soil, bury the stem and then place a rock or brick on top.   Does this sound like parenthood to anyone else??

Anyway, here is an example of the layering of my newly discovered tree peony.  In the first photo, you can see the mama plant, the rock holding the stem down and the "baby foliage" on the bottom of the frame.  In the second photo, you can see a bit more of the baby plant. 

For some plants, the roots will develop quickly, and others will take a year to grow strong.  Once the baby plant has a good set of roots and is putting on new growth, simply "cut the cord" or the stem back to the mother plant.  You can dig up your new plant, or leave it to grow where it is.  This method works on tons of plants, but I've used it best on shrubs that put out long branches such as hydrangea and forsythia.  One of the best advantages of using this method is that the plant is a larger specimen when it is divided than if you were to start the plant from seed or cuttings.  A layered plant will bloom within a year or two to have flower and after flower of these marvelous beauties:



Are your potatoes sprouting in the pantry?

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Even if they aren't sprouting yet, you can probably still plant potatoes from your pantry.  
They are treated to not sprout, but have you ever met a non-sprouting potato if you leave it long enough?  
It seems like they ALWAYS sprout.

Take potatoes and cut them into pieces, making sure there is at least 1-2 buds on each one.


Let them sit out for a day or so until they form a "scab".  See the edges of these potatoes?  
The white part will feel harder to the touch than a fresh potato.  When they look like this, they are ready to plant.


They are tough TOUGH puppies, and need some water, but otherwise will take care of sprouting themselves.  These were in the ground a few weeks and I completely forgot about them.  As I was planting some more vegetables, I saw a few of these plants coming up and almost pulled them because I thought they were weeds.  Then I realized they were my potatoes!  I had layered cardboard and newspaper under my mulched veggie bed, and they were pushing through.  Surprise! 


After they show up, you can wait a few weeks until mid summer, then dig up a few baby potatoes, 
or simply wait until the tops turn yellow and wither and then your full sized potatoes will be ready. 
Ready to see the results??  Check out my potatoes right HERE!

What do you plant from your pantry???

27 May 2011

If you are crazy mad over Mad Men, you will looooooooove this!

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If you've never been to an auction, it should be on your bucket list...and not just stopping in for a few minutes and checking it out.  You have to stay for at  least a few hours to get the full effect. Seriously, like right now go get a pen and write "Go to an Auction".  It is such a fantastic peep into the life of someone born closer to 1911 than 2011.   A slice of life through the turn of the century, a look into the entire stock of kitchenware from 1952, music from the 60's and clothing from the 70's.    You have to go when it starts, stand in the rain,watch the {sometime crrrrazzzzy} people going nuts over a piece of blue glass or a Longaberger basket (Is anyone as over those as I am?  I don't get it.).  You especially have to check out anything coming out of the barn or garage.  Insanely cool tools and buckets and baskets and metal things and wooden things and bins and tubs and a fire extinguisher.  (Yes, I bought a fire extinguisher...)

The strategy?  Never pay more than a quarter for most things, and NEVER pay more than a dollar.  You should come at the beginning of the auction because that is when all the {crazies} are having fun and bidding each other up on old pillows and sheets, but you should BID nearer to the middle and the end of the auction when everyone else has already spent all of their money.

For example, I bought a pile of sheets and blankets for 25 cents.  The previous 10-15 stacks of linens went for $6, $8, $4 and then started to work themselves down until everyone had bid themselves out and I got a stack I wanted for a quarter...lovely....

...also lovely is the look people give you when you get something for pennies that they paid dollars for.  It is priceless and funny and another reason you should put "going to an auction" on your I NEED TO DO THIS NOW list.

Another quarter buy was a basket full of stuff -- some of which headed to the trash, some to the burnpile, and the mouse traps to the basement.  The real reason for the bundle though were these bottlecaps.  A wonderful golden-green-brown in a shiny finish with a matte texture and cork on the inside.  There will DEFINITELY be a fun project ahead for these babies.


...annnnnd back to the baskets.  I grew up around Longaberger baskets.  Everyone had at least one, some people had hundreds and they paid SOOOOOO much money for them.  The ultimate gift was a Longaberger basket.  The ultimate Bingo win is a Longaberger basket.  I just don't get it.  I really don't.  I recognize that they are very nicely made baskets.  I recognize that they are strong and pretty.  ...but they aren't THAT great.  They aren't $30 for a tiny little basket great.  So at this auction the bidding went sky high for a bunch of Longaberger baskets...bidder after bidder "winning" basket after basket for a boatload of money.  Then this long, flat basket with a bunch of other stuff comes piled on top.  The basket was wrapped in yucky, dusty plastic, but I saw the shape and saw a piece poking through and decided it was ok to not get it because surely it would at least be bidded up to 3 or 4 dollars.

WRONG.

Happily, everyone was staring blissfully into the eye of their {overpriced} Longaberger baskets, and nobody bid on this lovely.  SO I did.   ...and I bought it for a quarter. 

Absolutely perfect for taking photos of tiny newborn babies...AND for piling throws.  AWESOME.


By the way, when you are bidding, you have to wait for your moment to get the quarter deals.  The auctioneer will usually start at $1 for smaller things and then start making crazy loud pseudo words like:

I gotta dollar, anybody give me two, whada whada, ba--ba--ba-- I gotta dollar, dollar, dollar TWO!  Anybody Two?  Two?  I gotta half a half, whalalalala, loppa, loppa, wha-wha-hwa- half, anybody HALF?  I'll take a quarter, anybody quarter, botta-botta- I HAVE A QUARTER!  Now someone give me a half, 50 cents for this lovely beeeeeeautiful basket, BIG basket, going for a quarter BOP-BOP-BOP-BOP  roll the R'ssssssss....SOLD!  25 cents to the girl in the green.  Number??  992!

I TOLD you it is fun...ebay has NOTHING on auctioneers...NOTHING!

...but the deal is hard to wait for because you want to bid a dollar and if someone else does, they might get what you want for just a dollar and yada-yada-yada.  you just have to wait.  Be patient and hold out for the quarter and as SOON as he says quarter you have to jump on it!   Raise your paddle and yell "right here" if he doesn't see you.

...AND remember that a quarter for junk is a quarter wasted, so don't bid if you don't really want it.

Of course, if your husband goes to the auction, he might want to buy something for a quarter that you think is ridiculous.  He might want to purchase a DECORATIVE NUT BOWL.  I'm not kidding.  A nut bowl.  That comes with nut crackers and scrapers (?).  A nut bowl that he says you should do a blog post about...

At least it was only a quarter.


Two more 25 cent buys included a radio (and fire extinguisher) for our garage to listen to while painting and playing with bebes on the driveway, as well as a giant metal bin (not pictured, but it's AWESOME) filled with a bunch of wood scraps.  Most of the wood scraps were actually little projects that the homeowner had made and the boys turned them into accessories for THEIR FORT.  See that table and chair there?  It became a steering wheel.  The bench?  ...for "little friends" that come to visit the fort.  ...and those black straps?  They are attached to a piece of wood and make the perfect shield or secret entry knocking board.


One of my favorite times at an auction is the very, very end when the auctioneers are tired, 
there are only about 10 people still there and bidding and they decide that everything else is free.  
PERFECT time to pick up an old rusty bucket for your garden...
I don't usually think rust is pretty...

Time to stop admiring my rusty trash bucket...time to start mucking out a chicken coop...or maybe just gathering a few flowers...

GO TO AN AUCTION!  
...but only put a few bucks in your pocket!

26 May 2011

Transplanting and Propagating Bleeding Heart | Dicentra

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This Valentine's Day, you might be searching for the perfect gift for your sweetheart.  While candies and flowers and cards are always nice and appreciated, nothing beats a real plant in my book.   I love when a gift is not disposable.  I love when you can transfer the gift into the garden and it lives on and on and on, reminding you of that person for years to come.   And with valentine's Day quickly approaching, what better gift than a bleeding heart.  Think of all the awesome names you could come up with for that one ;)

Bleeding Heart is one of those plants.  One of those plants that you can beat up, JUST LIKE HOSTA.  No kidding.  Rip off a stem, enjoy it in a vase for a few days, shove it in the ground, and NO JOKE, you'll have a plant in a few weeks growing and growing strong.  The only thing you really need to give it is some water when you are transplanting it.  After it is established, you are good to go with a wonderful plant that will come back year after year after year after year. 


You've seen the flowers right?  Literally bleeding hearts...


So much beauty, so tough...what isn't to like?  By the way, this plant comes up in spring from the ground and looks like peonies.  The first time I saw one, I had no idea what it was and thought it might be a weird peony because the shoots looked similar.  A few weeks later, it was very clear I had a bleeding heart and a beautiful one at that!

So surprise your girl with a beautiful bleeding heart that will remind her of your love day after day after day why don't you??

25 May 2011

One of those nights...

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If you saw THIS PROJECT 52 POST over at Allenaim, you might have noticed that the air was that beautiful kind of misty haze with sunshine cutting through...it was just one of those nights.  One of those nights when everything seems perfect and serene and hopeful and calm and perfect.

Too bad it was May 20th.   The day before crazy Mr. Camping said the world was going to end.  Now, as a preacher's daughter and the proud owner of a Bible minor (thank you Cedarville!), I was well aware that we are not going to know the time or date of the rapture, but I'm still a tiny bit gullible.  It still scares me a bit when people start predicting the end of the world.  I still get queasy thinking about my kids and the rapture...  I'm not quite ready for it all and how dare Harold Camping take a perfect night and put a tiny bit of fear into it. 

Anyway, the 21st came and went and clearly we are all still here...including Mr. Camping.  ...but doesn't it make you think about Noah...how everyone laughed him away as a joke while he was building a ginormous ark because the world was going to flood?  I'm sure people had "flood" parties making fun of him too.  I'm sure people got mad because they ruined their perfect evenings with tales of a coming judgement. 

So what do you think?  Did you have even a twinge of worry that night?  Were you perturbed?  

I know I said an extra prayer that night...and then moved on to enjoy the beauty our Creator gave us...the air was that beautiful kind of misty haze with sunshine cutting through...it was just one of those nights.  One of those nights when everything seems perfect and serene and hopeful and calm and perfect.



24 May 2011

I am not kind to my hostas

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There are some plants that are picky about being moved.  Take poppies...have I ever properly been able to transplant one??  NOPE.  Luckily, there are plants that almost seem to like being battered and broken and slung into the ground.  One of those plants is the ubiquitous hosta.

Hosta :: Guacamole
You know, when I was in Nebraska, I would see these little signs on the side of the road and I would slam on my brakes and turn because I thought they were garage sale signs (I'm a bit of a recovering yard sale addict...).  Well, those signs were not garage sale signs, they were plant sale signs, and most often: hosta sales.  Well, I had no idea what hostas were, and at the time thought $2 was far too high of a price for just about anything at a yard sale, so I moved on.  Now that I have discovered what easy plants hosta are, I realized I was missing out on one of the easiest, forgiving, shade loving plants available.  Of course, since then I've also found out how {stupidly} easy it is to propagate hosta, so I still believe $2 is highway robbery for one.

So anyway, back to dividing.   For small hostas, you simply wait until there is a good rain and then grab the hosta by the base and gently pull it from the ground.  If it is large, you will need a good shovel.  If you want to completely move the hosta, go around the plant with the shovel cutting the roots and then dig the whole shebang out of the ground.  If you want to simply take a piece, you can drive the shovel straight through the crown of the plant, take off a piece, pile some soil up around the original plant and you are good to go.

If you have a whole plant, you can usually just pull the pieces off.  The hosta will almost fall apart where it is ready to divide (kind of like brisket after 10 hours in the crock pot).  Dig a hole for each plant (or just use your hands and scoop away a chunk of soil), place (plop) the plant in and press down gently, but firmly around the edges of the soil to finish.  Basically, just throw it in the ground.  It will grow. 

Many times I even end up breaking a bunch of leaves, especially on large specimens like this 'Sum and Substance',  The poor plant looks tortured.  He will be ok though.  IN fact, this photo was taken 2 or 3 days ago.  Today, there is quite a bit of leaf growth.  By 2 weeks out, the plant will be back to his former glory.


Here are sections of a hosta.  The first is the leaf and a little bit of crown (the whitish/purplish part at the bottom).  The second is a clump of roots that fell away from the plant when I was dicing it.  I planted both.  The leave went about 2" deep into the ground.  The roots were buried about 2" under the surface.  I am about 90% certain both will grow. 




Sorry for the abuse hosta.  
I do appreciate you.  Really.
That's why I keep splitting you and spreading you all over my garden.  
Please forgive the battering and bad planting.  I'll bake you a cupcake later.



22 May 2011

Do you have leftover sauce packets from Chinese takeout?

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I hate hate hate wasting stuff, but even more than wasting - I hate hate hate having a bunch of crap cluttering up the fridge.  So I can't throw little packets of soy sauce, or hot sauce, or ketchup, or mustard in the trash, but I have to use them up quick or they really start to bug me.  I KNOW I am not the only one...raise your hands girls!  I know those packets bug you!

This recipe not only uses up a bunch of sauce packets, but gets the last out of your peanut butter jars.  You know those little bits of peanut butter you can never get out??  Here is the recipe to use them up on...

So the "technique" is beyond basic.  Simply cut up your veggies and place them in a roasting pan.

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion chopped


Add your sauces:

10-12 packs of soy sauce and duck sauce (or the equivalent # of Tablespoons)



...and 1 leftover bottle of peanut butter remnants + water.  Just put a tiny bit of water into the peanut butter jar, seal the lid tightly, and shake as hard as you can for about 30 seconds.  Alternatively, you can occupy your 2 year old for 5 minutes shaking the jar.  Just please make sure the lid is on super tight...oh the disaster mess that could happen...makes me shudder just to think of it...


Mix it all together and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours, until a fork easily pierces a piece of sweet potato.

I served this side dish with rice noodles (cooked according to the package instructions) and grilled chicken, 
but the secret weapon was the addition of peanut butter sauce and some hot pepper flakes for heat.  

This sauce was delicious! 
...available at Target Grocery Stores
NOSH!


3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion chopped
10-12 packs of soy sauce and duck sauce (or the equivalent # of Tablespoons)
1 leftover bottle of peanut butter remnants + water.
Archer Farms Thai Peanut Sauce
Hot Pepper Flakes

Cut up your veggies and place them in a roasting pan.  Add your sauces.  Mix it all together and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours, until a fork easily pierces a piece of sweet potato.  Garnish with peanut butter sauce and hot pepper flakes to taste.

Let me know if you try this recipe out and give it a thumbs on BABBLE if you like the result!  :)

20 May 2011

How to Plant a Pot the Wrong Way

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I know it isn't the normal way to do things, but this is how I do it.  My reasoning is basically that I:

1.  I want to save money --
2.  I want to use my resources the best I can --
3.  I want my plants to grow well!

So the basic idea is to reuse weeds that you don't want to put in the compost pile and mix your own potting soil.  The weeds will compost in the bottom of the pot and since I only use this method for HEELING IN POTS or seed starting pots only, the roots will never actually reach the composting weeds in the bottom.  After I remove the seedlings from the pots, I can sow more seeds without replacing the soil.  When the soil finally runs out of "juice", I can throw the whole thing into my real compost pile and the composted weeds will go through a second composting process ensuring the demise of the weed roots and seeds. 

Here are my weeds!


Simply shove them into the bottom of the pot as densely as you can, so that as they compost, the soil will not settle too much.

When I make my own potting soil, I purchase a couple bags of compost or top soil and a large bag of peat moss.  (If my own compost was ready, I would use it instead).  I then add a little fertilizer and chicken bedding (pine chips) with lots of stinky chicken poop.  I mix the whole  thing together in a large pond liner. and then start scooping it into the pots.  If it isn't mixed thoroughly, I try to keep the chicken bedding towards the bottom so it can compost some more and get the weeds composting as well.  I then add a layer of almost pure peat on the top of the container for the seeds to germinate in.


Here is a scoop of mainly top soil and chicken manure going in the bottom of the pot.

Here is a scoop of mainly peat moss that is going towards the top of the pot.

If you are planting in a strawberry planter like this one, make sure you pack the soil into the little opening so that soil doesn't spill out.

Pack down the soil a bit so the soil settles down into the weeds on the bottom.


Then it is time to sow your seeds!  Simply scatter them and let the rain pound them into the soil or water them in.


I usually like to prettify everything, plant markers included, but sometimes I just don't have the time or energy to make something.  So in this case, I just stuck the seed packet into the corner of the pot.  It will disentegrate eventually, but it will last long enough to tell me what is planted here for the next couple of months.



Of course, I do push a little soil over the top because who wants to look at an ugly seed packet sticking out of a pot??



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