Category Archives: Gardening

Our Fairy Garden

Fairy GardenAs a Waldorf-inspired homeschooling mama, who loves to garden, it’s kind of amazing that I haven’t got around to creating a fairy garden any earlier than I did. We finally got around to it last month though.Fairy Garden WellTo house our garden, I used a large metal tub that I bought a long time ago. I drilled holes into the bottom of the tub, put a layer of rocks on the bottom of it, followed by a large layer of coconut coir, which is very light and bulky, followed by a layer of potting soil. I planted a couple of moneywort plants, a couple of thrift plants, some British soldiers (lichen), and lots of moss. We then decorated the garden with gems and fairy garden miniatures. Two items that I particularly love, are the adorable fairy house, which came from an Etsy store, called Gnome Sweet Gnome, and the wooden well, which came from another Etsy store, called Dragonfly Studio Arts.Fairy Garden HouseWe really enjoyed building the garden and a couple of days after building it, I left a small bottle of “fairy dust” for Dora to find. She was so excited that the “fairies” would leave something for her. She was disappointed that it didn’t make her fly though. She even warned me that if she suddenly started floating in the air that evening, it would mean that the fairy dust had finally started working.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Fariies, Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Crunchy Tuesday–My Garden’s New Friendenemy and New BFF

Welcome to week two of the Crunchy Tuesday link-up! To learn more about the link-up, please scroll to the bottom of this post. Wild LettuceTwo seasons ago, a new plant showed up in our backyard. I was too busy dealing with Dora and my undiagnosed connective tissue disorder to do  much weeding and the plant wasn’t that ugly, so I kind of ignored it. Last year, more of them showed up, but my health was even worse and nobody could see the backyard, but us, so I only made a half-hearted attempt to pull them up. This year, however, the plants took over our backyard. As soon as spring began, the plants were all over and new plants continue to show up every day. Also, they grow at a phenomenal rate. Nor do they seem to have much discernment when it comes to soil, they like the vegetable beds as well as the grass and the rocky/sandy rock wall area. I had no idea what they were and was too busy pulling them up to bother researching them. I nicknamed them “Devil’s Weed”, which I still think is a good name for them. I never saw them anywhere, but our backyard and wondered if they had been in one of the wild flower packs we had planted by our rock wall over the years, though couldn’t imagine anybody thinking they were pretty enough to intentionally grow. This weekend, though, I happened to mention my problem to a friend, who is very knowledgeable about all things botanical and herbal and who had me e-mail her a photo of them. At the time, none of the plants were flowering, but her best guess was that they were wild lettuce. The next day, one of the plants had grown several inches and bloomed, so I took this photo and then looked up wild lettuce. I had to agree that these plants do look a lot like the drawings of wild lettuce that I found. I also learned that wild lettuce is sometimes ingested for its psychotropic effects. Not exactly the type of plant I want growing in my yard! I have read that some people harvest wild lettuce for a variety of medicinal purposes, but I’m never going to allow another one of these plants grow in my yard again, if I can help it! I’ve read that it is a biennial, so I may be fighting a second invasion next year.Lactuca virosa - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-213Garden KnifeOn a positive note, my garden and I also have a new BFF. Last year, I read about something called a “garden knife”. I had never heard of such a thing and decided to purchase one this year. All I can say is that if I could only have one tool for my garden, this would be it! I don’t know how I have lived my whole life without one of these things. It works as a trowel, but also has a serrated edge, which is great for cutting open bags and for hacking out deep rooted weeds. The part of the knife that I have just recently started using and really love is the “dandelion popper”. It works very well for pulling dandelions out of grass.

Anyway, that is what is currently claiming my attention in my garden, but now it is time to get one with the link-up!

Maureen

Labels: Crunchy Tuesday, Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Pumpkin Jack Gets Carried Away

Pumpkin Jack 1I posted back in November that we decided to grow a pumpkin from Dora’s Halloween pumpkin, just like the boy in Pumpkin Jack did. In February, our Pumpkin Jack was just starting to decay, but by March, he was just a shell of himself. Jack started growing a new plant recently, but in the last two weeks, our first, albeit minor, complication to the Pumpkin Jack experiment has arisen. He never stunk or attracted pests, as I had worried he might, but he did start growing a bazillion plants! This picture was taken last week. Right after taking it, I pulled up all, but two, of the seedlings. Today, there was a whole new batch of seedlings, just as many as before! To give you perspective as to how many seedlings they are, you can see the stem from the original Pumpkin Jack off in the left hand corner of this photo (I must admit that I’ve also grown a bit curious as to how long it will take for the stem to decay).  So all these seedlings are growing in about a 3” x 3” space!

One really interesting footnote is how healthy the soil is where Jack decayed. Every time I pull up some seedlings, I unearth about a dozen worms! The worms and other bugs (which I try very hard to ignore) are very clearly concentrated in that specific area. I guess Jack has provided a yummy feast of decay for them!

I also recently read that if you harvest seeds from your plants to grow the next year and continue to do this year after year, the plants will start to adapt to your specific soil and climate. Though, in reality, what is actually happening is that as you will most likely keep the seeds from the healthiest plants of each crop each year, you will be using an unnatural form of natural selection to grow healthier and stronger plants in each subsequent generation (clear as mud, eh?).

How is your garden doing? Though Jack is doing well, our other crops are only doing okay. I’m not happy with the brand of seeds we bough this year. I bought heirloom seeds (specifically to avoid seeds that were genetically modified), but I don’t think that should account for the exceptionally pour turnout that I’ve had. I’d say that only 1/5 of the seeds have grown. In fact, over the weekend, I planted a second crop of some vegetables. Next year, I’m going to try a different brand of seeds, as our weather most certainly cannot be blamed this year. I also may try to start my plants a bit earlier in some sort of mini-greenhouse type of arrangement.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Using a Worm Bin to Turn Ordinary Kitchen Scraps Into Awesome Compost

Worm BinYum! That picture sure helps to build up an appetite! This year, I wanted to start using our kitchen scraps to make compost for us instead of putting the scraps into our yard waste barrel to make compost for the city (and subsequently having to buy compost for our garden every year). I decided to use a worm bin, thinking worms would break down material faster and that we’d get more worms for our yard once we did have compost. The last time we tried this, we ended up attracting drain flies, though I later learned that this was because Tertia was tossing fruit remnants in the bin and not covering them. It was a very big issue for us, since our yard is so small that the bin has to be right by our patio door. This time, I did a lot more research before purchasing a system. I purchased  a Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter and Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms. We’ve had the setup going since January and not had any problem with odors or drain flies, though the summer heat will be the true test for this.

Dora has vacillated between fascination and repulsion in regards to the worms (as have I, if the truth be told). She has been very involved, however, with helping to “feed” and “water” the worms, as well as helping with layering the compost materials. Overall, the worms have been very low maintenance. Once we had all the trays full, we have just had to water them once a week.

Unfortunately, this system is just too small for our family of seven people and three pets, even when I expanded it as much as possible. I even added another thousand worms, but the worms can only eat so many banana skins and apple peels a week. So I recently ordered a traditional composter. Based on it’s design, I’m hoping it can hold more. At the very least, we’ll have two systems going, so we’ll get twice the compost. I’m really hoping that I never need to buy compost again, as the first seven years that we lived here, I spent hundreds of dollars a year trying to rebuild that natural ecosystem in our soil that the builders destroyed when they built our house (this is a problem with all new housing, between scraping off the top soil when they clear the land and compacting the soil when they drive their heavy machinery on the land, construction crews wreak havoc on soil).

What about you? Do you have a worm bin or compost pile? If so, is it near your door? Does it attract flies or smell? Do you know any other secrets to controlling odors and flies (other than covering all “greens” with “browns”)?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 21

Vase of Daffodils - 7Sunday – Reading the comics for the first time in years and years!

Monday – Grateful that everyone in my family is safe and accounted for. Feeling deep sorrow for all those who cannot say the same on this truly horrific day.

Tuesday – Cutting the last of the daffodils for one final vase for the house. Their sweet fragrance fills the whole downstairs.

Viola 24

Wednesday – Violas, now that I figured out that the slugs won’t gobble them up if they are in planters!

Thursday – “2-for-1” sales on outdoor containers! Score!

Friday – I am very grateful that the Boston Marathon suspects are no longer at large.

Saturday – Mr. Mo bringing a nice warm chai to me before I even got out of bed.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Getting Ready for Spring

Spring Nature Table 2Last week, we set up the spring nature/seasonal “table”, even though it’s not quite spring. It just seemed like the right time to do it, with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter both falling in the same month. Even the nature table seems to be bursting forth with abundance, compared to the winter nature table. One special purchase I made just for the nature table was for the green peridot, which I purchased from Our Planet’s Treasure. I really wanted a gem/mineral that was reasonably priced and seemed to me to represent spring. I cannot tell you how much Dora has played with those little gems (most of the pieces are smaller than beans). Most recently, we have taken to putting them into a little wooden “pot”, which we then put at the end of her wooden rainbow. We’ve been calling them “green gold”. She pretends that her farm animals eat the “green gold” and it then gives them various magical abilities.Our Backyard 1Today, Dora and I assembled two more raised beds for our vegetable garden. Mr. Mo has promised to fill them with soil, as that would be too much work for me, physically speaking. As you can see, our small urban (suburban???) yard is looking rather barren at the moment. I’ve put in as many raised beds as I can possibly fit, between the play system and the fact that half of our yard doesn’t get any sunlight, ever. That white thing in the one bed is Pumpkin Jack, who is decaying rapidly now. The rock wall still is looking rather ugly, as I continue to attempt to find a non-invasive plant species that will climb the wall and handle our many gray days in the fall-spring, but then not fry when the sun hits that wall full force in the summer (our neighbor next door who has shielded their wall with those giant evergreens is actually breaking the HOA rules as well as city rules, so that is not an option that we would pursue – not to mention, their evergreens are going to die one of these days, because I keep chopping off the roots when they grow into our yard, so that the some of the bushes are only anchored on one side – I feel mean to do that, but its either that or let their plant monstrosities suck up all of my plants’ nutrients). Our Backyard 2You can’t see them in that first photo, but right behind where I took that photo, we have a few dwarf fruit trees, which are looking sad and lonely right now, but they all have some tiny buds on them! We’re looking forward to getting a decent harvest of fresh peaches and apples from them this year (if we can attract some pollinators).Our Backyard 3The dirt bed in front of our rock wall is mostly used for Dora to plant lots and lots of flowers. As that is where rodents tend to come from, I don’t like to grow any food there, but I do have two blueberry bushes that I planted last fall. I thought the bushes had died, as we had a massive heat wave right after I planted them and they were completely shriveled up spikey, twiggy masses until just a couple of weeks ago. They still don’t look super impressive (to give you an idea of how small the bush is, those are tiny crocus plants in front of this bush). I imagine that we’ll be lucky just to get a cup of blueberries from both blueberry bushes this summer, but hopefully now that they have established a good root system, they’ll grow a lot bigger by next year.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Nature Study, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Update On Our Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack In Early DecemberWarning! The pictures in this post get disgusting! Back in November, I posted that we were going to try to grow our own Pumpkin Jack, like the boy in the book, of the same name, did.  In November, we tossed our Pumpkin Jack into one of our raised beds and left him alone. I really started worrying that this was not going to work, because Jack showed no signs of decomposition until December (in the top photo in this post, you can see some brown spots on his skin, three months after we harvested him!). Even then, Jack did not seem like he was really going to rot, until mid-January. Once he started rotting, however, he has been rotting fast! Unlike what happened to the boy in the book, we have not had any snow to cover up Jack through all of this, so we’ve got to see every step of Jack’s decomposition!Pumpkin Jack 12-18-12Mid-December and he’s still not looking very impressive.Pumpkin Jack 1-2-13Early January saw some frost and Jack started getting black spots.Pumpkin Jack 1-6-13 - 1A few days later, his skin began to pucker.Pumpkin Jack 1-9-13 - 3I worried that Jack might attract rodents, but only one animal took a small bite out of Jack and then spit out the bite a couple of feet away.Pumpkin Jack 1-13-13 3Since then, nothing has touched Jack. I guess word on the street now is to stay away from things growing in our garden! Pumpkin Jack 1-13-13 1Mid-January and Jack is beginning to collapse in on himself.Pumpkin Jack 1-24-13 - 1A week later, he’s collapsed some more and he’s developing a pretty large spot of rot on his behind.Pumpkin Jack 2-4-13Early February now and Jack is beginning to show some real rottenness, there is hope that he will rot enough to “sow” his seeds for another generation of pumpkins! Alas, poor Jack, I knew him well!

I had worried that Jack would stink or attract fruit flies, but thus far, Jack has not emitted a single odor and I’ve not seen a single fly. I am prepared to discontinue this experiment at a moment’s notice, however, if any of that changes.

Finally, I have found this to be a bit odd, but not a single visitor has asked us why we have a rotting pumpkin in our backyard….

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Nature Study, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wordless Wednesday–My Garden Agrees With Punxsutawney Phil, Spring Is On the Way!

Snow Drop

Cherry Blossom Buds

First Crocus

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

He’s So Chippin’ Cute!

Chipmunk 4

I posted in the past about our issues with getting rats in our rock wall when we try to grow a garden. So I wasn’t completely surprised a couple of weeks ago, when a flurry creature ran out of our rock wall, though our vegetable garden hasn’t even started producing yet. As I watched the creature run by, however, I realized that it was no rat. It was a chipmunk! Dora is a huge fan of the Chipmunks movies, so she was very excited by this development. I wasn’t so sure, knowing nothing about chipmunks other than that they have funny voices. I did some research, and though a couple of websites predicted an immediate and tortuous death for anyone with a chipmunk in their backyard, most seemed to think they were pretty harmless and could even be beneficial. The biggest concern seemed to be that they might tunnel. Well obviously this wasn’t a concern for us, as this fellow had settled on our rock wall as his a home. Further research reassured me that rabies in such small animals was very rare in our area. So I decided to relax and even took some photos of him. Unfortunately, we have seen neither hide, nor hair of him for the last two days and I am very worried that he has met his demise.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees in Suburbia

Planting an Apple Tree

Dora and I are currently looking at trees in preparation for Earth Day and Arbor Day. As part of this study, we went to the nursery and bought an apple tree for Dora to plant. We have a very small yard, so it might seem a bit crazy for us to be planting an apple tree. A few years ago, however, I learned about dwarf fruit trees. Since then, I have vowed to eventually have a mini orchard in our yard. We currently have a peach tree, an apple tree, and a cherry tree. The cherry tree, however, is a sour cherry tree, which I did not realize when I bought it. I think I am going to get rid of it, as we just don’t use sour cherries and don’t have the extra space. In addition to dwarf fruit trees, we are once again trying to raise a vegetable garden. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I gave this up before, as we got rats from our rock wall, which abuts a city street. I have now learned some new techniques for preventing rats, so am giving this a go again. I also hope to start raising chickens in a couple of years. Eventually, I’d like to have an urban farm. I am a bit constrained by our homeowner’s association and city ordinances, but as this recession continues year, after year, and people are becoming more and more eco-conscious, not to mention health-conscious, I have noticed that our city is letting up some on the rules regarding urban farming. In fact, they are in the process of creating a community garden, so if the rats return, at least we’ll have that option! Smile

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Gardening, Montessori, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff