20 Flowers To Use In A Wildflower Garden

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Summer is around the corner, and if you’re like me you can’t wait to get outside and start working in the garden. I have found that there’s nothing prettier than a wildflower garden.  They’re not only beautiful, but they attract birds  and butterflies. I love sunflowers in my garden.  They can be used in a wildflower garden, but there are many flowers that can be used in addition.  Here are a list of my favorites:

  1. Coneflowers
  2. Red and Yellow Poppies
  3. Black Eyed Susan
  4. Zinnia
  5. Shasta Daisy
  6. Cosmos
  7. Coreopsis
  8. Autumn and Lemon Queen Sunflowers
  9. Turtle Heads
  10. Fireweed
  11. Blue Aster
  12. Cornflowers
  13. Texas Blue Bonnet
  14. Sweet William
  15. Wild Petunias
  16. Four O’Clocks
  17. Blanket Flowers
  18. Butterfly Weeds
  19. Wild Golden Glow
  20. Marsh Marigolds

Sowing or planting any or all of these flowers will result in a beautiful garden.  Wildflowers look great even among grass and weeds; however, I do recommend that you remove as much grass and weeds as you can from the area where you will be sowing your seed. This will give the seeds an opportunity to  sprout and grow a great root system initially.

Before you purchase your seed or flowers, know the difference between annuals, biennials, and perennials:

  • Perennials  – Most of the wild flowers listed are annuals, Cosmos, Poppies, Cornflowers, and will return year after year.  They bloom abundantly and will drop lots of seeds before dying   More plants will grow the following year. 
  • Annuals –  You will have to purchase annuals yearly. Marigolds, petunias, geraniums are popular annuals.  
  • Biennials –   Biennials will sprout one season but not bloom until the next year. They self-seed, so more and more plants will sprout in the spring. Black-eyed Susan and Sweet Williams are examples of biennials.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a cottage garden or just a small spot in your backyard, plant plenty of flowers for cutting.  There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy the fruits of you labor.

Guest Post – Tips To Help Save The Planet

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April 22, 2016 is Earth Day.  A lot of us think that it’s the big sweeping changes that will make an impact on the care of our environment but you know, it’s really the little things that matter. When millions of people do them, they add up fast. When you are planning your garden for this season, think about these easy tips you can use to help to save the planet at the same time, provided by the landscaping experts at RubberMulch. Every small action is part of the engine of positive environmental change!

Collect rainwater to help keep the garden green, even during a drought

A rain barrel will collect excess rainwater – something that can both protect and enhance your garden. It will help prevent flooding in low lying parts of the garden while at the same time allowing you to water your plants and flowers, guilt free and with no impact to your water bill. Even during a drought, you can maintain your garden’s fresh and beautiful look. Tip? Install a screen on the top of the barrel to keep pests and bugs out!

Bring on the Good Bugs!

There are several varieties of insects that are good for your garden and you can encourage them to pay your plants and flowers a visit. Example? Ladybugs and lacewing flies love two things: brightly colored flowers – like sunflowers and marigolds – and plant destroying aphids. The former attracts the ladybugs and flies and and the latter becomes their lunch!

How do you encourage the good bugs to fly on over to your garden? Plant colorful flowers. They’ll see them like a botanical drive-thru window.

Do you like a little Irish Spring in the shower?

Buy two bars of Irish Spring soap. When you’re in the garden, shave a little of the first bar around your perennial plants and flowers: small, furry critters don’t care for it. It’s an inexpensive deterrent that smells a whole lot better than many of the products sold at the garden center.

When you’re done all your gardening efforts for the day, take the other bar into the shower and put it to good use on yourself. Win-win!

Cornbread anyone?

Weeds are the bane of any gardener’s existence but if you’re partial to using corn meal gluten in your kitchen, you might want to use some in your garden too. To keep weed seeds from germinating and growing into full fledged plants, sprinkle some corn meal around your flowers. The gluten will prevent any seed from germinating – so avoid it in your vegetable patch or nary a tomato will you grow this year!

Do you already have some weeds growing? A pinch of salt at the base of weed will kill it naturally.

Snails and slugs are slimy but oddly, don’t care for man made slime!

Spread some petroleum jelly on the edges of your pots and planters and save your plants from becoming an all-a-snail-can-eat buffet of green goodness.

Get to reusing those milk jugs and plastic bottles

We all have too many of them in the house, what with growing kids and thirsty parents, and most can be recycled but you can also put a few of them to good use in the garden. You can keep your early spring seedlings safe from sudden frosts or other harsh weather elements by cutting off the bottom from the jug or bottles and placing them over top of the seedling. This will protect them from threats of spring frost or hail. Just don’t forget to remove them when the good weather is here for good, so the plants can benefit from the full and healthful effects of sun and rain!

Mulch much?

Mulching is so important for your garden! It protects plants from pests and weeds and helps the plants retain moisture and the necessary minerals from the earth that they feed on. As if those weren’t good enough reasons, mulch helps to cut down on the time and energy you need to spend maintaining the garden and plant beds. Take it up another level in environmental protection by using a sustainable and long lasting Rubber Mulch. They are made from recycled rubber tires: you can’t get more friendly to your garden and the earth than that!

Epsom salts for you… and for the garden?

Did you know that epsom salts are a perfect natural fertilizer? They will help keep your garden plants green, your flowers growing in abundance and balance the levels of magnesium in your soil, an important mineral for your garden’s happiness. And then you can put some in your hot bath and relax those tired muscles after a lovely day of tending your beautiful garden!

Coffee grounds and eggshells are compost gold!

Who knew being addicted to coffee could end up being good for the garden? Coffee grounds that are placed in the earth or the compost, to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, can do a lot of good. The grounds provide phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper, all of which your soil needs: like a dirt multivitamin! While the grounds degrade in the earth, they will also release nitrogen into the soil, which is another essential compound for a healthy garden. Fun tip? Sprinkle some as mulch at the base of your hydrangea plants and your pink flowers will turn blue as the grounds alter the pH levels of the soil!

Eggshells are two pronged goodness for your garden too:

1.     They are composed of 96% calcium carbonate so they can given your compost that hit of calcium it needs to nourish the resulting mixture for your soil. Pepper and tomato plants in particular love calcium!

2.     Crushed eggshells are sharp! Sprinkle some around your plants to deter pests like slugs and snails from munching on your growing garden.

These tips are things that we can all do to help our gardens grow and our earth to sustain itself.

Rubber Mulch, available at RubberMulch.com is the original and environmentally responsible mulch made from 100% recycled rubber used in gardens, playgrounds and sustainable landscaping. Rubber Mulch is weather resistant, durable, and the most cost effective mulch around. It is specifically designed to protect children from falls on the playground. Rubber Mulch helps homeowners increase the curb appeal of their house and create the home and garden they have always dreamed of.

5 Amazing Gifts From Your Garden

 

garden gift ideas, gifts for gardeners

 

Did you know that you make amazing gifts from your flower and/or kitchen garden?  Family and friends appreciate homemade and handmade gifts.  Making gifts has become the norm in my house.  I know my family and friends appreciate them and I save money by not having to purchase retail. 

When I’m planning my summer and fall gardens, I always add extra flowers and gourds to ensure that I have enough for myself, family and friends. Here’s a list of my favorite garden items for gift giving and uses:

Dried Flowers – Plant plenty of roses, herbs, Hydrangeas, coneflowers, and wildflowers. Anything that can be used in crafts, to make potpourri, or sachets bags. 

Pressed Flowers – Pansies, daisies, violets, ferns, roses, daffodils, cosmos, poppies, gladiolus, and verbenas make great pressed flowers. They are beautiful on cards, bookmarkers and in crafts. Make sure the colors are bright and vibrant when you pick them. They should also be dry when you pick them.

Dried and Fresh Herbs – Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme and Marjoram make the best dried herbs.  Find a cute decorative jar, pint size jelly canning jars, put a decorative label on with the name of the herb, and tie a pretty ribbon.  Grow fresh herbs in Mason Jars, tin buckets, chalk painted clay bowls, tea cups or anything imaginative. Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, and Chives make great gifts.

Gourd Birdhouses – Grow bottle gourds and make decorative birdhouses for family and friends. You can paint sunflowers on them, paint them in your family and/or friends favorite colors. Be creative.  These make the perfect house for Purple Martins, Red-headed Woodpecker, Bluebirds, Tufted titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker.

Sunflowers – Sunflowers make beautiful flower arranges.  Cut a few and place them in a mason jar, tall metal vase, a boot and any other creative container.  You can also dry them for floral arrangements and use the seeds to roast or feed the birds. Squirrels love to eat the sunflower heads.

Get your children involved in planting flowers and gourds. They will love painting and turning them into birdhouses. They can also remove the seeds from the sunflowers and roast them or save the seed to feed the birds during the winter months. Make sure you plant plenty of everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft Versus Hard Kitchen Garden Herbs

 

kitchen garden herbs, herbs, herb varities

Are you interested in growing kitchen garden herbs?  Before you plant or purchase, know the difference between soft and hard herbs and their uses. Here’s the difference:

Soft herbs are leafy, tender and best used fresh.  Fresh herbs enhance the flavor and appearance of dishes. They can be used in sauces, salads, potatoes, and greatly enhance the taste, appearance and nutritional value of the food. Here’s a list of herbs that are considered to be soft.  I do freeze and dry my basil and parsley:

  • Basil (Sweet, Spicy, Genovese, Lemon, Lime, Cinnamon, Dark Opal and Thai to name a few).
  • Parsley – (Curly or Flat)
  • Cilantro
  • Tarragon
  • Fennel
  • Chives
  • Mint

Hard herbs are considered more flavorful, and have a woody stem. These herbs are added to dishes that require long, slow cooking, such as soups, stews, casseroles and roasts, and are removed before serving the dish.  Here are a few herbs that fall into this category: 

  • Rosemary 
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Dill
  • Bay Leaves
  • Sage
  • Mint (Chocolate, Orange, Strawberry,  Julep)

If you are planting mint remember that it can become invasive. I suggest that you plant this herb in a container. Dill is know to reseed year after year, so be selective on where you plant it as well. I love planting various herbs in mason jars or small containers for use during the winter. I love using fresh basil, oregano, sage and rosemary in the winter. I cook a lot of soups, stews, casseroles and roasts, so these herbs are perfect in these dishes. 

If you have limited space, decide which herbs you will most likely use.  Plant plenty and preserve them for later use. Many can be dried or grown inside. What herbs do you use most?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Winter Sow Seed List

vegetable garden, vegetable seeds, gardening, canning

 

Are you wondering what seeds you can winter sow?  You’ve come to the right place. So, stay awhile and check out my winter sow seed list.  I started my winter sowing last week, and I thought I would share my list of flower and vegetable seeds.  They are currently sitting on my decking waiting for the perfect opportunity to germinate.  My list is not all inclusive, I’m sure there are many others.  However, I live in zone 6B.  So I select plants that will grow in my zoneSome plants do well in some zones, but not in others. 

Because I have a short growing season, it’s important that I give my plants a head start in the garden.  As a result, I start my seeds early so I plant out by Mother’s Day at the earliest and Memorial Day at the latest.  By mid-June my garden is fully planted.  I water and nurture the plants so they can establish a good root system.

I’ve been successful with some seeds and not so much with others.  I love the thrill of seeing what emerges each year and watching the plants produce.  Here’s my winter sow list:

  • Spicy Globe Basil
  • Genovese Basil
  • Greek Oregano
  • Italian Oregano
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Cilantro
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Collard Greens
  • Lettuce – Salad Bowl, Romaine,  Butter Crunch, Black Seeded Simpson
  • Spinach – Noble
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

Also, the following tomatoes found a place on my list to germinate inside this year:  Roma, Amish Paste, San Marzano, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Hillbilly, Yellow and Pink Brandywine, Tiffin Mennonite, Mortgage Lifter, German Johnson, Paul Robeson, Early Girl, and White Wonder tomatoes inside.

Unfortunately, not all of them will germinate successfully.  As a result, germinate enough seeds to ensure you produce enough plants for the garden. There have been times when I have attempted to sow a variety a second time if it doesn’t germinate.  So, allow enough time for this step if you want a certain variety.  Additionally, I sowed belle, cayenne, and jalapeno peppers.  Stay tuned, I’ll be posting updates on the germination journey.

Finally, I hope my winter sow seed list has helped you decide what seeds you will be winter sowing or sowing inside.  Again, it is not all inclusive and you will need to check your zone to ensure your seeds are compatible.  In conclusion, I suggest that you order a few catalogues to browse through the winter and make a decision based on your research.  I love looking at the catalogues and checking out the new varieties of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and more.  Stay tuned for future gardening posts.

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Winter Sow Seeds

 

winter sow seeds

 

I started my winter sowing this week-end, and I started about 25 tomato plants indoors.  I’m hoping to get my garden in early this year and possibly get some plants in the garden twice.  I’ve found that I’ve just about depleted my stash of canned tomatoes, sauce, corn, green beans, peppers and herbs.

Also, I may expand my garden this year.  My grandchildren love my tomato sauce and my sister and daughter enjoy the fresh vegetables as well.  After taking inventory, I realized that I needed to replenish my stock.  So, I’m going to winter sow some vegetable seeds and plant others under the grow lights for my garden.

If you don’t winter sow, you should.  Here’s a few good reasons why you try it:

1. Cost Effective –  Winter sowing can be done cheaply.  For example, plastic containers, duct tape, a utility knife, seed starting mix and outdoor space is basically all you need.  A single plant at a garden center will cost $2.00  –  $4.00Things can get expensive if you’re trying to plant a garden to feed a family over the winter at that price.  

2.  Saves Indoor Space Indoor germination requires space.  Once the seedlings germinate they require a warm space with proper lighting.  Many gardeners don’t have space inside their homes for this endeavor.  As a result, they resort to direct sowing in the garden or purchasing expensive plants at the garden center.  Furthermore, you can use your deck, shrubbery beds, backyard tables, backyard benches, your garden, the options are limitless.  I don’t recommend concrete areas unless you have a bedding of straw.  Your plants won’t appreciate a cold bottom from the concrete.

3.  Nature Does The Work Once you place your containers outdoors, you let nature take its course.  The rain, snow, light and moderation of the temperature will help germinate the seed and cause the plant to grow at the right time.  Once spring arrives, you will have to take the top off the plants and give them water, separate or thin them and prepare them for spring/summer planting. How easy is that!

4.  Doesn’t Require A Light System Nature will provide all the light that your plants will need when you use the winter sowing method.  Indoor sowing requires grow lights or some type of fluorescent lighting system.  I have an indoor system and it works great; however, if you have to spend money to set up a system why not go the free route.

5. Doesn’t Require Hardening Off The rigid, mild, and warm temperatures prepare seedlings for movement to the garden.  When you sow seeds indoors you will have to get your plants adjusted to being outside. This requires you to harden off your plants.  Gradually expose your plants to shade, sun and nights before transplanting them in the garden will be necessary.

Once I complete my outdoor sowing, I will be posting a list of seeds you can outdoor sow successfully too.  Start gathering your jugs and containers, you will have plenty of time to start your winter sowing too.  You may also like My Winter Sow Seed List.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Uses For Sunflowers

Mammoth sunflowers, sunflowers uses, sunflowers, how to grow sunflowers

I love the strength, grace and beauty of sunflowers. They’re one of my favorite summer flowers and a must in my garden. They stand tall, erect and they’re showy. They tower above everything else in the garden and their bright color makes an impact.  There are different varieties to grace your garden and they all grow to various heights. This particular variety is the Russian Mammoth, which has grown to about 10 or 11 feet.  The fence in the background is 6 foot.   


Sunflowers make a statement, but did you know that every part of the sunflower can be used. It’s actually considered the cash crop because the seeds, petals, stalk, leaves and roots can be used in various ways.  Here are a few:


1.  Seeds – Humans eat the seeds raw, roasted or dried. They are a healthy snack and a great source of protein, Vitamins A, B, E and iron.  I love the seeds raw in salads and roasted to snack on.   
 
2.  Commerical Use – Sunflower seeds are used in a variety of birdseed mixtures. I actually leave the majority of my sunflowers in the garden for the cardinals and finches to enjoy.  You will find black oil sunflower seeds in my bird feeders during the winter.  
 
3.  Petals – The petals can be dried and used along with other natural items for summer or fall potpourris.   

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Guest Post – 7 Easy to Grow Indoor Houseplants

                                       

 

                                     
It’s hard to admit this, but I am terrible at growing indoor houseplants. The list of greens that have met their doom under my thumb is rather extensive.  This knowledge of my innate ability to either drown a flower or deprive it of necessary nutrients – like water – is a subject of shame when I look my mother-in-law’s garden, which is full of blooms worthy of Eden. 

This admission has driven my husband to find me houseplants  that are, well, nearly impossible to kill. I believe the tags on these hardy specimens  even say that they are plants of steel. Unfortunately, I have been known to kill even those.
 
Needless to say, not everyone is born with a glowing  thumb of green. In fact, many like me are born with a special talent for
destroying beauty.
There have been a few  lucky houseplants that have survived. It’s these that I highly recommend for all of the benefits – like added color to the interior and improved air  quality – that greens can bring to your home.
 
1.  Ponytail  Palm – One of my plants of steel. With a  smooth bark, this  mini-tree houses a head of long green leaves that are arranged in
a way that is reminiscent of elementary school pigtails. Easy to care for with  just a cup of water a week – I think I can handle that – it can grow up to 3  feet tall.
2.   Aloe Vera – Both attractive and  functional, aloe vera is a modern-looking plant with incredible healing
properties. Break off one of the shoots and apply the ooze inside to sunburns  for instant relief.
3.  Autograph  Plant – This is by  far one of the coolest indoor plant options. Clusia rosea is known as the  autograph tree because the plant’s leaves act as the perfect host for keeping special memories. Simply sketch in your name or draw a picture and it stays  there forever – or at least as long as you keep it alive.
4.   Peace Lily – A perfect plant if you’re fighting a lot. Really,  though, there are few better plants that help clear the air. Known for its great
oxidizing attributes, the peace lily – with its white-flag flower – is exceptionally easy to grow and does well in low-lit areas.
5.   Spider Plant – Another no-fail green. Available in variegated shades as well as monochromatic green, it – like the ponytail palm – has shoots of leaves that spit out from the base like the legs of a spider.
6.   Pothos – My parents were given one of these as a housewarming gift, and it flourished  under their care, which is somewhat of a miracle considering the horticultural thumb of death runs in my family. Seriously, though: You can start with a small pot of pothos, and before you know it, a blazing trail of green starts to take
over.
7.   English Ivy – This is the perfect choice for ridding your home of  litter air. English  Ivy can help break down and reduce the amount of fecal matter in the air left  behind by your beloved furballs. It is, however, toxic to animals and kids; so keep it out of their reach.

Try out these seven indoor houseplant options, and may the Gods shine upon them – and your thumb – with favor.

 

BIO: Ali is a “Jill of all trades.” She writes about  gardening, home advice and healthy living on her blog Homey Improvements and is a  princess for hire at kids’ parties. Follow her on Twitter @DIYfolks.

8 Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes & Their Characteristics


I’m craving fresh vegetables from the garden, especially my favorite heirloom tomatoes. I have my tomato plants under the grow lights, and hopefully I will be tilling the garden this week. I believe the last frost date in Zone 6B is May 15. Heirloom tomatoes take up much of the space in my garden.

Why, because they have a totally different taste from store brought tomatoes and hybrids. It’s hard to describe the flavor of a tomato, it must be experienced. I’m a visual person, so I thought you would like to see the end result of what is being planted in my gardening and learn a few characteristics of my favorite tomatoes.  I hope this information will help you make a decision on what tomatoes you want to purchase before you buy from local garden center. 
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How To Make Bird Seed Cookies

bird seed cookies
 
Spring is finally here and our feathered friends will be migrating and hunting for food. My grandchildren and I spent the week-end making bird seed cookies for the birds.  The grandchildren had fun, and the birds think they’re delicious.
I thought you would love the recipe to make these treats for your backyard friends too. It’s a great activity to do with the children.  Also, this is a great activity to do when mother nature is sending cold, snowy weather your way.  The bird seed cookies are full of protein to help keep our backyard friends warm and their tummy full. 
Part of the fun is gathering the cookie cutters that you want to use.  Have everyone pick out a favorite cookie cutter shape and than get to work.  Here’s what you will need:
    • 3/4 Cup flour
    • 1/2 Cup water
    • 1 Envelope unflavored gelatin
    • 3 TBS Karo corn syrup
    • 4 cups of wild birdseed
    • Mixing bowl
    • Wax paper or non-stick spray
    • Cookie Sheet
    • cookie cutters

bird seed cookies

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl except the bird seed and mix until well combined.   Mix in birdseed gradually. Spray your cookie sheet with the non-stick spray or line with the wax paper. Spread the bird feed evenly on the cookie sheet.  Use the cutters to cut out shapes. 

An alternate method is to fill the cookie cutters by the spoonful, which is what we did.  First, place each cookie cutter on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Next, you want to fill the cutters to the top and pack it so the mix is nice and thick.  

 

bird seed cookies

 

We used my spring cookie cutters, which include a birdhouse, bird, and the sun to create the treats. However, use whatever you have on hand that the kids will enjoy using.  Nothing is off limit.  Once the cookies have been created, use a straw to make a hole at the top of each cookie. Allow the treats to harden over night.  You can place them in the freezer to help things along.  You can also store them in the freezer for future use. 

Furthermore, once the cookies have set place a piece of twine through the hole of each cookie so you can hang them. Place them on tree branches and bushes, and go bird watching.  My grandchildren think the cookies are cool, and enjoy watching the birds eat the treats through the windows.  Cold, snowy days with a warm fire make the best bird watching days. 

Last, making bird seed cookies is a fun activity to make throughout the year.  Get the kids involved in gardening and nature.  Be sure to make extra, you can keep them in the freezer and use them to feed your feathered friends throughout the year.  Don’t forget to make a few for friends who love to bird watch.  They make great gifts. 

You may also like:  How To Bring Backyard Birds To Your Feeder