Sunflowers and Finches In The Garden

sunflowers

I love sunflowers.  They make me happy, look at their beauty faces.   They dance in the garden and add brilliant color among the greenery.  This is a my second year growing sunflowers, and I’m in love.  The first year, I didn’t have one seed germinate.  However, I changed my method of growing them, and bam!  I use bottle greenhouses to germinate my seeds now, and than transfer them to the garden.  I have had great success using this method.  Check out my other sunflower gardening tips too.

Below are some of my favorite sunflowers.  I plant them every year. The Gold Finches love them too.  I love sitting on my deck watching them feast on the seeds.  Unfortunately, the lens on my camera doesn’t capture the beauties in the garden.  I guess I shouldn’t blame the lens, I need to learn how to use it, lol.

 

Autumn Beauty

 

sunflower varities

                                                                                           Mammoth

 

sunflower varieties

        Lemon Queen

 

So, my favorite sunflower is the Lemon Queen.  It’s smaller compared to the Mammoth, which grows 10 – 11 feet and the Autumn Beauty.  The Lemon Queen grows to about 5 feet. In a few weeks, the centers will be filled with sunflower seeds and the American Gold Finch will have a new feeder.  Right now they are enjoying the Nyjer Seed.

American Gold Finch

 

Furthermore, when the sunflowers mature, the finches will eat every seed on the stalk.  However, they’re so beautiful, I just let them eat until their heart is content.  Take a close look at the pictures, because there’s 2 males and a female in this picture.  Additionally, the female is the dull colored finch at the top.  However, the males turns the same dull color as the female in the fall/winter.  They color up in the spring and summer to the brilliant color shown.

Also, this feeding station is outside my bedroom window.  Unfortunately, the finch preferred the $1.99 sock.  Had I known, I could have saved my money on the tube feeder.  So, lesson learned.  They will feed from the tube feeder if the sock is completely occupied with feathered friends, so I guess it isn’t truly wasted.  I enjoy watching them feed upside on the tube feeder.

Finally, next year I hope to add additional varieties of sunflowers to the garden.  Do you grow sunflowers? What variety do you grow?

How to Create Garden Compost From Leaves and Lawn Care Tips

gardening, garden compost, vegetable gardens



Having rich soil is essential in vegetable and flower gardens.  So, check out our post on garden compost and lawn care. I started composting several years ago.  I have 2 compost bins that I use for kitchen scraps, yard cuttings, grass etc.  The compost bins weren’t breaking down fast enough for me, so I started composting my neighbor’s leaves.  I’m not sure that I will return to the compost bins after seeing the results of the composted leaves. I love how the leaves break down.  They’re easier to compost and they don’t require any work unlike the compost bins.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too.  Fall is a great time to prepare garden compost and lawn care for the fall.

Just leave the leaves in lawn bags and let them do their thing.  My neighbor brings me 15 – 20 bags each fall.  I use them to mulch the garden in the fall to keep the weeds down in the spring until I’m ready to till.  The top picture is a bag that I use around my garden plants as mulch.  This year I created paths in the garden to keep the weeds down with them. Normally I use straw, but I didn’t purchase any this year so I had to use my leaves.

 Here’s a picture of a bag that has broken down into black gold.  Every gardener wishes for black gold. This bag is beautiful and full of worms. It took a year for the leaves to break down to this state, but it is so worth it. The compost in the bins isn’t close to being this rich after 3 years.  I must say that I have not given the bins the attention that they require.  Compost bins must be heated up by using a certain amount of greens and browns, such as cuttings from the lawn, leaves, kitchen scrapes, newspaper, etc. It also requires water and turning.  My bags of leaves just require storage space, and nature does its thing. The longer you leave them, the more they break down.

Garden Compost

Because I have 5 – 10 bags of black gold for the next year’s garden, the other bags can sit and decompose this year.  You can have black gold too. Stop burning those leaves and find a spot for them to decompose.  It’s easy:
1.  Remove large sticks, pine cones etc. from the leaves.
2.  Use inexpensive lawn bags to house them.  I purchase cheap ones from the Dollar Store.
3.  Crumble the leaves as much as you can while placing them in the bag.  Because my neighbor gives me her leaves, I have to open the bags and crumble them myself.  If you have kids let them crumble them.  It gets them involved in gardening.
4.  Wet the crumbled leaves thoroughly, seal the bag and place it in a spot where they won’t be disturbed. I use a stick and punch a few holes in the bag so it will get water from the rain and snow during the winter months.
Garden Compost
 
Finally, I hope that you found the post on garden compost beneficial.  So, just remember that composted leaves will enrich your soil and help produce nice flowers and vegetables. You can either till it into the garden or place a scoop into the hole before adding your plant. I’m going to add more of this compost around my established plants this week.  I use a small hand trowel to dig the compost into the soil around the plant. Finally, if you use this method make sure you don’t dig too deep.  Digging too deep may damage the roots or the plant.  Most importantly, the compost is organic and it’s free.  Raking leaves is great for garden compost and lawn care for fall.
So, once the leaves have been raked and bag it’s time to do fall lawn care.  Also, fall lawn care should include aerating the soil, fertilizing, overseeding and continuing weed control.  Aerating the soil is important, especially if you intend to overseed your lawn.  Aeration allows water, nutrients, and oxygen to get to the root of your lawn.  It also allows seeds to touch the soil and receive water when you overseed.
Finally, fertilizing your existing lawn is a step you should take in the fall.  The moisture on the lawn in the morning helps to absorb the fertilizer.  The fertilizer in turn, helps with the roots of the lawn.  Strong roots will produce a lush, green lawn in the spring.   We hope you find our garden compost and lawn care tips beneficial.

My Kitchen Garden Is Thriving


I spent some time in  my kitchen garden checking on my babies and pulling weeds.  The only negative that find in gardening is weeds.  In the above picture are Sugar Baby watermelons, cantaloupe, and a yellow watermelon which I have never grown before.


I cut down on my peppers this year.  I have an orange, red and green belle.  I lost my white belle. I have a Tabasco and a jalapeno planted as well.  


My Blue Lake pole beans are starting to climb.  Hopefully I will have a good crop.  I did remove the weeds and laid a path of newspaper and leaves to help keep the weeds down.


My sunflowers are getting huge.  I started these in bottles during the winter.  You can see my post on Greenhouse Bottles here.


I have a small bed of lettuce, which is looking good.  I have a shady spot, that receives some sun, so I’m going to start another bed this week. Homegrown lettuce taste so much better than store brought.  

 



My cucumbers are starting to climb.  A few have latched onto my make-shift trellis, but it looks like I will have to train one.  I used left over rabbit fencing for my trellis staked with 2 fence posts. Last year I used a bamboo trellis, it didn’t work very well.  I have Marketmore, Lemon, Boston Pickling and Salt and Peppers cukes in this area.  

 


This is garlic, which I will be digging up in another 1 – 2 weeks.  This is the first season that I was able to grow it successfully.  The first season I planted in the spring, and it did not do well.  I planted this crop last fall and it has done great.  The leaves are starting to dead back, so it’s getting close to  harvest time.  I can’t wait to use fresh garlic in my recipes this summer and into the winter.  


Stay tuned for a future post on the other veggies in the garden.  I’ll be starting my seeds for my fall crops, cauliflower, kale, spinach, and collards.  What’s growing in your garden?  Leave a comment and I’ll stop by to check out what’s thriving.  

How To Freeze Fresh Corn

 

 

freezing fresh corn

 

Fresh corn will be on the market soon and I can’t wait.  I love it grilled, in soup, in chowder, boiled, you name it.  My favorite is Silver Queen. It’s a late corn, but so worth the wait.  Freezing fresh corn is a yearly ritual for me, but shucking it is another issue.  But, I found a solution and worry no more  The microwave is a life saver when freezing fresh corn.  Continue reading ad you will find out how.  Be sure to check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too.

I shucked, boiled, cut and froze about 100 ears last year.  Preparing corn for the freezer is easy and so worth it.  I purchase my corn from a local farmer.  He sells it at a bargain rate. He removes the corn from the stalks the day before he picks it.  So, it doesn’t get any fresher than this. Purchasing it this way saves space in my garden for other goodies too.

 

freezing fresh corn

Once I get it home, the work begins.  I shuck and remove all silk from the corn.  In about batches of 10 – 15, I boil them for about a minute or two in a large stock pot.

 

blanching corn, canning vegetables, vegetable gardening, preserving corn


You will need to prepare an ice batch for these babies.  This should be completed before you start the boiling process.  An ice bath is imperative in your preparation of the corn for the freezer.  You need to remove the cobs from the boiling water after 2 minutes and immediately place them in the ice water.

The ice water will stop the cooking process.  This is important because you don’t want to cook it as if you’re preparing it to eat.  Although I do leave a few cobs in the boiling water, because I do want to eat them, lol.

 

blanching corn, freezer foods, freezer vegetables, freezing corn for freezer


Once the corn has cooled down about 5 – 10 minutes, cut the corn off the cob in a large bowl.  I use an extra large bowl and a chef’s knife to remove the kernels. I also use the corn holders on one end, it makes it easier to handle the corn while removing the kernels.

Once I have the kernels removed from the cob, I pack quart freezer bags.  Buy quality bags and make sure the bags are sealed properly.  I don’t bother to date the bags because they will be gone by spring.  I’m thinking of purchasing a vacuum sealer this year. If you have one, this would be a perfect time to use it.


Image-Removing-Corn-From-Cob

Quart bags are perfect for my household.  I can just pull out a bag for soup, mix with green beans, fry it or however I want to use it.  It’s as fresh as it was the day I purchased it.  Put a few bags in your freezer to use this winter.  You won’t regret it.  Stay tuned for my post on blanching tomatoes and green beans.  
 Image-Freezing-Fresh-Corn
We hope that you have found our tips on freezing fresh corn beneficial.  You may also like our tips on How to Shuck Corn in the Microwave too.

Growing Dill In The Home Garden

 

growing dill

One of the herbs that I grow in my garden is dill.  I started a few plants under grow lights this year, but it did not do well.  As a result, I purchased a plant from the nursery to place in the garden. This is what I found when I went into the garden.  Volunteer dill in several places.  I wished I had saved my money purchasing the plant from the nursery.  Lesson learned, check the garden for volunteers before you head to the garden center.  A volunteer onion is in the background.  Dill and onions are great companion plants.  Check out my other gardening tips too.

Wondering how to use dill?  I have several uses:

1.  Dill Pickles
2.  Dip for potato chips and veggies
3.  Garnishes
4.  Sauce for salmon

I’ve made make spicy dill pickles for the past two seasons and used fresh dill from the garden. This year I will be making bread and butter.   I also dry my dill and store it in an airtight container for dip.  Fresh dill can also be used on various fish, not my thing but many people love using it in that manner.

 

growing dill

Last, we hope you like our growing dill tips.  It is an easy herb to grow, and has given me lots of volunteers this season.  It loves my garlic plants.  I have to harvest often, so it doesn’t choke out my onions and garlic.  As a result, I should have more than enough to dry and store for dip and to share with family.  If you love veggie dip, this herb will enhance it immensely.  It’s much more flavorful than store brought dill.  I’ll be sure to post my dip recipe the next time make it, which will be soon.

Backyard Birds: Barn Swallow

barn swallows

I was working in the yard this week and looked up to find this beautiful bird perched on my gutter.  I had no idea what type of bird it was so I headed to Google.  It appeared to be a female Barn Swallow.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

First, I’ve never seen a Barn Swallow.  I thought she was absolutely beautiful.  As you can see she has very distinct features.  Look at the long, forked tail and the color around the head and beak.  The top of the head was a bluish/black color.  Around the beak and throat was an orange color.  But, what really stood out to me was the glossy feathers.  She was quite striking.

barn swallow

Also, she had her baby with her.  However, the baby disappeared when I opened the door to go inside to get the camera and phone.  Interestingly, momma bird seemed pretty content right where she was.  When I googled the features of a Barn Swallow, I learned some interesting facts.  They like to build their nest under eaves.  So, it seemed that her nest was somewhere nearby.  Here are a few other interesting facts about the Barn Swallow:

  • Barn Swallow migrate between South America and North America.  No this is not a typo, they can travel 14,000 miles between winter and summer.
  • They usually live around 8 years.
  • The dine on insects.  They feed mostly in flight since insects are a large portion of their diet.  However, they will eat egg or oyster shells from a platform feeder.
  • Nests are made of mud and grass.  They are usually built on man made structures.
  • Barn Swallows habitat across most of the country.
  • They are very difficult to attract.  They like to be near streams, ponds and other sources of flowing water.  (My wet weather stream just happened to be running after 4 inches of rain and this may be the reason I was able to spot them).  Lucky me.

As I was writing this post I spotted a male Barn Swallow.  It was just as beautiful, but it was more black and blue in color.  Yet, the orange color on his breast was more defined than the females.  Furthermore, the male was gathering mud from my stream bed.  Again, Barn Swallows build their nest out of mud and grass.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.  I am glad that I was able to get an opportunity to see this beauty up close and person.  Because it is  rare to get this close to them.

Last, are you a bird watcher?  Furthermore, what backyard birds are prevalent in your area?

 

Backyard Birds: American Gold Finch

backyard bird, gold finches, American Gold Finch

My American Gold Finch have returned more brilliant in color.  I’m amazed at how much the male has colored up. They molt in the winter and late summer, turning a dull yellow/olive color similar to the female shown at the top.  

I discovered these little fellows last season in my garden. They devoured my sunflowers.  So, I fed them over the winter using black oil sunflower seeds.  Normally they head south for the winter, but I did have a few that hung around.  


I’m hoping to see a few babies at the feeder in late summer.  The female will lay eggs in June or July.  


Lately I’ve been having problems with Starlings wiping out the feeders in hours.  So, I’ve had to replace the seed in my feeders.  I decided to go with Nyjer for the finches this summer.  I purchased this nylon bag full of Nyjer at Lowes this winter and they loved it.   

backyard birds, American Gold Finch, wild bird seed, feeding wild birds
 





I purchased the tube feeder from Amazon.  Truthfully, I could have saved my money.  They prefer the nylon sock.  They will go to the feeder if there are too many finches feeding from the sock, but it is their plate of choice.  If you’re interested in attracting the American Gold Finch you should know that Nyjer is considered “black gold” to bird watchers.  This tiny seed is the most expensive bird seed that you can purchase, but a great way to attract them to your feeder if your want to get up close and personal.  They love sunflower seed too, but so do the Starlings and Crackles and I’m not trying to attract them.  

Unfortunately, the sunflower seed is too large to place in the sock and tube feeder.  These feeders are designed for Nyjer seed only.  I may grow thistle next year as a supplement to the feeder.  As it stands, these beauties are enjoying black gold.  

You may also like:  Attracting American Gold Finch

 

Backyard Birds: Tufted Titmouse


Tufted Titmouse

Meet my Tufted Titmouse.  I love these little guys.  They’re a beautiful gray and white with a little tuft on top of their head.  They are marked with a touch of orange on the side.  They’re abundant in my backyard.  I keep them coming back by providing them with lots of black oil sunflower seeds.  They love them.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

They’re funny birds.  They don’t normally eat directly from the feeder, they take their sunflower seed and crack it on a nearby branch and than head back to the feeder.  These little fellows will flock with chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches.  I enjoy watching them cling to the smallest branches while they wait their turn at the feeder.   They will eat from the platform feeder as well as the tube feeders.

 

 

The Tufted Titmouse likes to nest in holes in trees or a vacated woodpecker nests although they will also use nesting boxes.  I have plenty of woodpeckers around, so they have lots of holes to nest in.  They are known to pluck hair from live animals or humans for their nest. They mate for life.  The male does most of the singing, but the female will sing a softer version at times.  I will continue to supply sunflower seeds, as they are permanent backyard residents that I can enjoy year round. Their young are ready to leave the nest in 16 days, which I think is incredible.

 

 

 

tufted titmouse

 

 

I’m currently having problems with Starlings devouring the seed in hours.  So, I’m in the process of purchasing a new feeder and seed.  The new feeder will be enclosed in a cage, so only small song birds will be able to enter and eat from it.  I will be filling the other tube feeders with safflower seeds and thistle for the finches.  I’ll still use my platform feeder for the cardinals, but I will be replacing the sunflower seeds with safflower as well.  Supposedly, squirrels and Starlings don’t like safflower seed.  I’ll keep you posted on this change at the feeding station. 

You may also like Suet Feeders For Backyard Birds

 

How To Build A Green Bean Teepee Trellis

home gardening, vegetable gardens, bean trellis 


Last year I used a teepee trellis for my pole beans and it worked well. This year, I decided to modify it to maximize my harvest. Several bars were added to the teepee so I could plant beans completely around it.  However, one side was left open. I wanted my grandchildren to have a seat inside of the teepee while I’m gardening.  An adorable miniature chair will be placed inside the teepee for them to sit.  Check out my other backyard gardening tips before you leave.

Making a bean teepee can be simple and inexpensive.  I used the bamboo poles from last season and cuttings from my bamboo squash trellis from last year as well.  I found left over string from other projects under my sink and  used around the teepee.  String is great for the tendrils of the plant to latch onto. Lowes and Home Depot sell bamboo poles that won’t break the bank if you can’t found a resource locally. The Dollar Store sells string.  My brother has a yard full of bamboo, so I luck out. 

The poles should be 6 – 8 feet tall and you will need 4 pieces.  I used (4) 7 foot poles and 5 bars across.  Be sure to secure the poles tightly at the top and get them deep into ground before you tie on the horizontal poles.

 

 

Here’s the steps again:

1.  Tie your 4 poles at the top securely.
2.  Your poles should look like A-frames.
3.  Place the frames in the ground deep enough to secure them.
4.  Tie the smaller pieces (20) across the bars to form 3 sides.  Leave an opening to place a chair for the kids or spacing for growing lettuce through the summer, which requires shade.  The leaves of the beans will provide the shade.
5.  Plant your choice of pole beans completely around the bottom of the teepee and watch them climb.

 

Last, I use Blue Lake pole beans.  I believe they are more flavorful and less stringy than other beans.  However, planting Jade Bush Beans along with the pole beans will prove beneficial.  They were recommended by a fellow gardener.  Can’t wait to try them.  Also, green beans can be used as a companion to tomatoes and cucumbers.  Plant green beans close to your tomatoes and cucumbers this gardening season.  Finally, do you plant pole beans or bush beans?  What’s your favorite brand?

You may also like:  Using Eggshells In The Garden or Leaning Tower of Pole Beans

 

Summer Activities: Gardening With Your Child

 

gardening with your child

 

My grandfather had a garden when I was growing up, and I remember how different the vegetables taste from the store brought veggies today.  With that in mind, I planted a vegetable garden.  My father was an avid flower gardener, so it’s in my blood.

I decided to involve my grandson when he was little.  He lives near the beach, so backyard gardening isn’t a common theme in that area. When he visits in the summer he helps me with my garden.  He enjoys playing in the dirt and watering my plants.

Most importantly, he is learning about growing vegetables and flowers.  It’s a great way to get him outside and moving.  He loves it so much when he hears the back door open, he is on my heels.  In the photo above, he’s picking peppers.  Hot peppers are big in my family, we love them on everything.  Xavier loves hot peppers on his nachos, he’s a kid after his grandmother’s heart.  I pickle hot peppers, so we have a fresh supply all year and freeze Belle peppers for cooking.

gardening with children


Next, he’s learning the importance of watering the plants, weeding and waiting to reap the benefit.  How do you like his garden boots?  They’re Disney cars.  He loves splashing in the water after he makes puddles in the yard.  I can’t say that he’s learned to love everything he’s nurturing in the vegetable garden, but he’s having fun helping everything grow.

My grandchildren do love carrots, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes.  I use them in pasta salads, and the tomatoes for sauce for spaghetti and pizza which they both love.  I also can tomatoes for chili and soup in the winter.  Yum!

gardening with children

 

I’m a petunia lover too, so I make sure they’re the star on my deck in the summer.  Xavier was 2 when I started involving him in my gardening.  I thought I would share this picture of him sucking his binky and watering my plants.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  I purchased a little watering can, rake and shovel for him too.  He remembers watering the plants, and now wants to water them each summer.  My granddaughter is old now, hopefully she will take an interest as well.

 

gardenng with children

 

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive.  I start most of my vegetables and flowers from seed that I save.  I also purchase plants off the clearance rack at Walmart or Lowes.  The planter above is filled with Walmart clearance items. I purchased the planter from the Dollar Store.

Most importantly, if you don’t have a yard use your balcony or patio to grow a few plants.  Get your child involved. Better yet, let them plant a few flowers or vegetables of their own.  It teaches them responsibility and also gets them involved in nature. Try a perennial, they come back each year.

Next, when you expose children to different experiences, they will be open to different cultures, music, foods and other experiences as an adults.  Their formative years are in our hands.  They may not model everything that we do in their adult years, but they will have the memories and experience.  Last, you can’t place a price tag on that.