Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recycling for the Garden

For many of you, getting started with gardening might seem like a daunting task.  Starting to make lists of items you'll need to begin a garden, you'll notice how quickly the supplies can add up!  I try to do my best to reuse items whenever possible to save money and to not waste.  Here are some tips on what to save and how to use those items.  In the photo above there are a few things I have recycled specifically for the garden.  The long white plastic "tray" is really the shelf of an inexpensive set of white plastic utility shelving units.  The black item is the leftover package from some flowers that were bought at the greenhouse.  The plastic bottle is a syrup bottle that has been washed out.  Now how do you use these things?  Well the shelf I use as a "seed starter tray"....simply turn it upside down and you can put your containers of seedlings in it, when you water them there are no leaks!  The leftover flower package I have tons of these and I use them until they fall apart.  I use them to start seeds in.  Any plastic squeeze bottles can be used as "seedling waterers".  When you first start your seedlings, it can be difficult to water them without uprooting the whole seed.  I use plastic bottles or spray bottles to water.  You can save ketchup, mustard, or syrup bottles for this purpose.

Here is a longer list of items that can be reused for the garden.  Most of these things people either have lying around the house, basement or garage.  If you don't, you can get most of them free from neighbors or relatives.  Some things like the shelves can be bought at garage sales.

1. Styrofoam coffee cups, or instant noodle cups -  Use them to plant larger seedlings that have outgrown the flower containers.

2. Plastic or wooden kitchen utensils- Use these as row markers in your garden.  Get spoons or spatulas so that you can write on them with marker what you've planted in the row.  Just write on them and put them in the ground at the end of your row! Your garden will look interesting with these as row markers! You can get these sometimes 3 for 5 cents at garage sales.

3. Clear plastic cookie, cake or pie containers.-  These can also be used to start seeds in.

4. Plastic information tags from flower packs-  These are those little spiked tags that have the information about the flowers you're buying. Most of them have a blank side.  When they do I save them to mark my seedlings or seeds I've started.

5. 2 Liter Soda bottles- If you cut these in half they're great to use as a funnel!  I use one all the time for my bird feeders!

6. Gallon milk containers -  If you cut these in half, the bottom can be used to plant seeds in and the top can be placed loosely over your seedlings.  Leave the cap off and it will be like a greenhouse for your plants!  OR if you already have plants in the garden just use the top half of the container to cover your plants if the weather gets cold!

There are COUNTLESS ways to recycle items for garden use, these are just a few.  So you can feel free to be creative and you can get started for almost no money!  Good Luck!

UPDATE:  The Fuji Apple seeds have not yet sprouted.  I will keep them going for another week or so and if they do not sprout I will stop this experiment and move onto getting grafted fruit tree saplings.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How To Grow Fuji Apple Trees

I am experimenting with growing fruit trees from seed.  Admittedly I am not an expert at fruit trees nor have I ever attempted this before.  This will be a learning experience for all of us!  From what I've learned so far, growing fruit trees from seed is actually very easy.  It takes very few steps to get started.  Here is what they are.

1. Remove and rinse the seeds from an apple.   From what I've read, the seeds taken from apples bought at the grocery store work just fine.  My Fuji apple seeds are from an apple I got at the local orchard here in town.

2. Allow the seeds to air dry out for a few days.

3. Find a clear plastic container with a lid and line the bottom with damp (not soaking wet) paper towels.  This can be tupperware, or any other food container.  I am using a clear plastic cookie container that I washed out.

4. Place the seeds on top of the damp paper towels and then cover them up with more damp paper towels.

5. Seal up the plastic container with the lid and place the container in the refrigerator. 

6. Check daily to make sure the paper towels haven't dried out.

From most of the reading I have done on this, MOST of the seeds will sprout within 24 hours!  But you must leave them in their container until the sprouts are at least an inch long before transplanting into little cups.  I will keep you all updated on this!  Maybe tomorrow I will be able to post some pictures of the sprouts!  Thank you for reading!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Give Peas a Chance

OK, sorry about the bad joke in the title....I saw it on a t-shirt once.  It is FINALLY time to think about planting peas!  Ohio's winter this year has been very mild....had I been prepared for this I could have had peas, spinach and lettuce growing all season!  Peas can be planted in both containers and directly in the ground.

First let's talk about varieties.  There are sugar snap peas, snow peas, and peas that must be shelled.  You can also find "stringless" varieties...which just means that you do not have to remove the strings before cooking.  There are types that need to be trellised and bush types for containers.  You can even plant them if you have no ground space!  Sugar Snap Peas are eaten when the peas have formed in the pods, Snow Peas are usually eaten when the peas are just forming in the pods and they appear more flat.  I prefer the Snap Peas and the Snow Peas over the shelled peas.  They can be eaten raw, in salads, steamed or stir fried.  I also freeze peas for eating during the winter.

The process of planting them is very simple.  Peas like cool weather and can be planted as soon as the ground is workable.  Once the weather gets too warm they'll stop producing.  I plan to start planting mine around March 1st!  Seeds are planted 1/2-1 inch deep in the soil and covered with about a 1/2 inch of ground.  Plant the seeds about 2 inches apart to allow for plenty of growing space.  A slow release nitrogen fertilizer can be applied at the time of planting, as peas like nitrogen but do not require much.  You only need to apply the fertilizer once.  Each variety will have detailed directions on the packet.  These are general instructions.  Once the seeds sprout you'll need to protect the sprouts against rabbits and deer.  The easiest way to do this is to fence them in with chicken wire fencing.  Good luck to you!  Also begin thinking about other vegetable seeds you'd like to plant!  We're getting closer to garden season everyday!