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.

Using Eggshells In The Garden

 

 

using eggshells in the garden

 

Don’t throw those eggshells away.  Eggshells are beneficial in the garden.  Start using your eggshells in the garden.  Your tomato and pepper plants will thank you.  So, grab a container and save them throughout the year.  Ask your family members or neighbors to save them for you if you don’t consume a large quantity of eggs.  Explain that using eggshells in the garden will benefit the tomatoes they will receive in exchange.  This will give them an incentive to save the shells for you.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave.

However, before you store the eggshells I recommend rinsing them thoroughly and than drying them in the oven on a low temperature. You can also set them outside on sunny days or leave them in an open dish on the kitchen counter. When your dish becomes full, have the kids crush them and than store.  Check out my other backyard vegetable garden tips.

 

using eggshells in the garden

If you decide to dry them in the oven, remember they don’t need to be in the oven long or on a high temperature.  Just long enough for them to dry on your lowest setting.  Once cooled, crush them and put them in a plastic bag or container. You can store them in your refrigerator if you don’t have counter space.  A rolling pin is a good way to crush mine or have the kids crush them with wooden spoons.

So, when garden season arrives place a generous dose of the crushed eggshells in the hole when you plant your tomatoes.  They are a great source of calcium for the plants.  Furthermore, I also sprinkle the shells around the plant once I get the tomatoes in the ground.  I actually do this throughout the growing season.  The eggshells will help give your tomatoes a calcium boost, and help fight off blossom end rot.

Secondly, I mix the crushed eggshells in with my birdseed.  Bluebirds, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and Barn Swallows love eggshells.  You can spread the eggshells on a log or on the ground if you don’t have a platform feeder.  We hope that you enjoyed our tips on using eggshells in the garden, and you will start recycling your eggshells.  You may also like 20 Flowers to Use in a Wildflower Garden.

How To Make Bottle Greenhouses

bottle greenhouses, mini greenhouses, winter sowing

                                                      
First, I increased the number of sunflowers for the garden.  As a result, I decided to make bottle greenhouses out of 2 liter soda bottles.  Also, milk containers or any bottle that is clear can be used.  After I complete the setup, the bottle greenhouses on set on my deck to germinate.  I grew my sunflowers using this method last year and they did great.

Additionally, the American Goldfinch picked every sunflower seed off the flowers last year.  They’re such beautiful birds, I couldn’t get mad.  I decided to plant some for them and some for me to roast and store for the winter.   I have marigolds and Blue Buttons planted in the tray above.  Here’s my list of sunflowers.  Be sure to check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too:

  •  Lemon Queen Sunflower  (My fav)
  •  Autumn Beauty Sunflower
  •  Evening Sun Sunflower
  • Mammoth Sunflowers
  •  Mexican Sunflowers
  •  Marigolds (French Dwarf mixed)
  •  Blue Buttons
  • Cosmos

 

winter sowing. mini greenhouses, bottle greenhouses


As a result, if you want to try this method this is what you will need:

  • 2 liter or other large bottles that are clear
  • a box cutter
  • seed starting mix  ( I use Miracle Gro, just make sure it’s quality)
  • selection of sunflower seeds
  • duct tape
bottle greenhouse, winter sowing

Most importantly, bleach your bottle greenhouses to ensure all liquid has been removed and the bottle is sanitized. Allow to air dry.  Next, cut the bottle at the half way point all the way around with the box cutter leaving a small hinge. Leaving the hinge will make it easier to tape the bottle closed.  Also, once you have your seed starter mix ready, place a few inches in the bottom of the bottle and plant the seed the depth recommended on the package.

Once you complete this task, use the duct tape to close the bottle.  And you will want to mark the bottle with the name of the sunflower with the permanent marker.  Place the bottle in a location where it will receive sun, rain and close to your house to help shield from wind gust.   You may have to gently water the seeds if you don’t receive enough rain.

Last, once the seeds germinate and reach the height of the cut, remove the duct tape and top from the bottle by cutting the hinge.  You may need to add potting soil to the bottle once the plants takes off to ensure that the roots are covered.  Just remove the tape and add the soil to the bottle.

Finally, make sure the last frost has passed before removing the top permanently.  It serves as protection from those cold, frosty nights.  I’m in Zone 6B, so the last frost date is usually mid-May in my area.  I hope that you have been inspired by my bottle greenhouses.  Save a few throughout the year, and start your seeds in them next growing season.

Tips to Attract Baltimore Orioles

I decided to become more diligent in feeding the birds through out the year.  I’m hoping to attract Baltimore Orioles this year. I’ve never seen an Oriole in my area, but I did a little research and it seem they like oranges and grape jelly. Orioles are beautiful birds.  They are Maryland’s state bird, and since I’m across the Maryland line, about 20 minutes, I’m thinking my chances of attracting them to my backyard are favorable.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

Oranges and grape jelly, oh what to do.  I love home made items, so I decided to make a feeder until I can find one that I like.  Oriole feeders are expensive, so it has to be just right. Until I find the perfect feeder, I decided to make a simple one out of a metal hanger.  My thinking, if I’m unsuccessful I’m only out a hanger and an orange.  To make this feeder you will need the following items.

  • wire hanger
  • 1 orange
  • yellow or orange ribbon
  • *grape jelly (optional)

Baltimore Orioles

 

attracting backyard birds



Bend your hanger until it looks like S.  Cut the end with a pair of wire cutters, and spread the 2 pieces apart.  You want to leave the hook, you will use it to hang the feeder.

Cut the orange into slices.  Cut a wedge out of each slice.  You will use the smaller pieces for spacers.  Alternate an orange slice and than a spacer.  You can smear grape jelly on the orange slices too.  Spread them apart as much as you can, so the bird can perch and enjoy the treat.

Tie on your ribbon and hang in a spot where you can bird watch.  Try placing the feeder where the bird can perch from another branch and reach the slices if you’re unable to get enough space between the slice.  You can rearrange them once you hang the feeder if necessary.  Refrigerate extra slices.  Slices should be checked every 2 – 3 days and changed if they dry out or start becoming moldy.  Wish me luck.

10 Benefits of Vegetable Gardens

 

benefits of vegetable gardens

 

I love gardening.  It’s a rewarding experience and there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables in the summer and throughout the winter months.  My grandfather had huge gardens when I was growing up. He planted enough vegetables for his kids and their kids. There was a catch, the grandchildren had to help weed the field, I mean garden.  It looked like a field and felt like one when we had to walk it and pull the weeds.  You can also find other vegetable garden and backyard vegetable gardening tips on the blog too.

I remember the garden holding tons of tomato plants, green beans, peas, onions, corn, greens and the list goes on. The garden became a part of my soul. For as long as I can remember, I thought about my own vegetable garden.  I decided to finally put one in several years ago, and I look forward to digging in the dirt each spring.

It’s time for me to decide what I want to grow this season.  I planted garlic in the fall, and I saw green sprouts yesterday.  I was unsuccessful last year, so I’m really excited.  My freezer is full of squash, peppers and, zucchini now, so I was thinking that I wouldn’t plant any. It dawned on me that others aren’t as fortunate, they would love to have fresh veggies this summer and maybe freeze a few for the winter months.  For the veggies that I don’t use or give to family, I can take to a food bank.

vegetable gardens
I have found so many benefits from planting my own vegetables.  Here’s a few:

  1. I save money on my food bill. 
  2. I have delicious vegetable for summer gatherings and snacking. 
  3. I’m able to make my own tomato sauce for pizza and pasta.
  4. I’m able to can and freeze vegetables for use during the winter.
  5. I share my bounty with neighbors, family and friends.
  6. Gardening is a great way to exercise and get fresh air.
  7. Gardening is a great way to relieve stress.
  8. Learning to grow a variety of vegetables is educational.  
  9. Provides an opportunity to bond with my grandchildren.
  10. Growing produce from seed is challenging and rewarding.     
Finally, Urban Gardening has become popular. So, growing fresh vegetables in small places is possible.  A little creativity, and you can have fresh garden vegetables at your door. Fresh vegetables are being grown on decks, patios and balconies. How you ask?  In containers.  Furthermore, the containers can be paint buckets from Lowe’s or Home Depot, planters, or old whiskey barrels. Use your imagination.  Grow lettuce, peppers, tomatoes or herbs.  Herbs can be grown in small flower pots and don’t take up much space.  You can place these in your kitchen window, and they really enhance dishes.  Start small, but start growing your own greens.

 

How To Attract Blue Jays To Your Backyard


Blue Jays


First, Blue Jays are large and beautiful birds.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at the feeder this winter.  So, I’m glad I was able to capture the photos below this fall.   Apparently, some Blue Jays migrate and some do not.  I’m assuming mine decided to move on this winter.  Check out my other attracting backyard birds posts.

 

 

 

Next, Blue Jays start their courtship in February. The breeding season is from March to July.  Spring is around the corner, so I wanted to give you a few tips on how you may be able to get them to a feeder in your backyard for a photo op.

A few facts about Blue Jays, they are large birds and stay with their partner for life.  So they understand the meaning of until death do us part.  They are loud and love to make their presence know with their “jaaaay” call early morning.  Wooded areas are preferred.  I have trees along my back property and the adjoining property has a roll of evergreens, so I have the perfect environment.  The average life span for a Blue Jay is 7 years.

blue jay

It’s difficult to tell the male from the female, they look identical.  These two show up together, or one shortly after the other.  Blue Jays don’t eat at the feeder.  They pick up their treat and eat elsewhere, but return often for more.  Their color is striking.  Blue is my favorite color, so I may be biased.

 I was so excited to see this Blue Jay since they had been missing all winter.  I don’t know if this is the male or female, but the other is around somewhere.  I’m hoping to see little Blue Jays this summer since breeding season has started.

Here are a few tips to lure these beauties to a feeder in your backyard:

  • Purchase a platform feeder as shown.  I ordered mine from Amazon and love it.
  • Use raw peanuts.  They also love shelled peanuts, but make sure they’re unsalted.  You can buy them in bulk at Costco or SAMs.
  • Add acorns, sunflower seeds and fruit to the feeder.  (I use old grapes).
  • Spread cracked corn and sunflower seeds on the ground under the feeder.
  • Plant an oak tree and you will have them for life.  (They love acorns).

Last, bird watching is a great activity to do with children.  Turn bird watching into an educational lesson. Additionally, bird watching gives them an opportunity to become involved with nature and learn the habits of various backyard birds.  You may also like:  Backyard Birds: Red Bellied Woodpeckers.

Attract Backyard Birds With Birdseed Pine Cones

 

birdseed pine cones

First, I started bird watching and feeding my backyard birds several years ago.  It is a hobby that I have come to love, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I started making birdseed pine cones, and the birds are loving them.  They literally pick the pine cones clean.  The birdseed pine cones are easy and fun to make with kids.  There’s really no recipe, but I thought I would share how to make the pinecones.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

 

feeding backyard birds

Next, pick a day to gather pine cones with the kids.  You can gather them from your neighbor’s yard, a park or yours. If neither of you have pine trees, locate an area where you can gather a few without trespassing.  Furthermore, they are essential to your project.  I use a medium or large pinecone.  The larger the pine cone the more birdseed it will hold.

You will also need the following items:

  • peanut butter (Purchase store brand)
  • twine or yarn (You can purchase twine from the Dollar General)
  • birdseed  (You can purchase seed from the Dollar General)
  • a paper plate
  • plastic knife
  • plastic spoon

 

feeding backyard birds

You will want to watch the birds feast.  As a result, hang the pine corns in place where you can see and high enough where cats or other predators can’t reach them. Therefore, tie a piece of the twine or yarn around the top of the pine cone leaving the ends long enough to hang it from a branch as shown.  Spread the peanut butter over the pine cone (be generous) with the knife.  Also, place the pine cone on the paper plate and sprinkle the birdseed over the pine cone with the spoon.  Cover the birdseed pine cone thoroughly.  You can use the spoon to press the seeds into the nooks and crannies.  Be sure to do this around the entire pine cone.

This is a fun project for kids to create on rainy or snowy days.  Furthermore, they will love the craft more when they see the birds enjoying the treats.  Additionally, if you need visuals on how to prepare the pine cones you can get the instructions here.  Once the pine cones are prepared, have fun watching our feathered friends gobble up the birdseed pine cones.  I guarantee you they will devour every seed.  Place them in a location where you and the kids can watch them enjoy the feast.  Consequently, you will be providing protein that birds need to keep them warm.

Last, freeze the pine cones before placing them outside.  Furthermore, place several in a gallon baggie and place in the freezer until you’re ready to use.  You will always have a few on hand when time is limited.

 

American Gold Finch: Attracting Backyard Birds

american gold finch

 

I’ve had several American Gold Finch visit my feeder this winter.  I watched them eat sunflower seeds from my garden last summer and became fascinated by their beauty.  The male sports feathers that are a beautiful shade of yellow and black.  They are unmistakable. They have a unique flying pattern, which consists of an up and down motion.  However, their bright yellow feathers turn dull during the winter.  I have learned that they “color up” in the spring and summer months, but lose their bright plumage in the fall and winter.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds.

Furthermore, American Gold Finch are small birds that love sunflower and thistle seeds.  My feeder contains black oil sunflower seed, so I see them regularly.  This little fellow just grabbed a sunflower seed. I plan to plant wild flowers in my garden this year in hopes that they will be attracted.  My sunflowers attracted them last season, so they will definitely have a place in the backyard.  They cleaned off every sunflower in my backyard.

I can’t wait until breeding season when the males molt and regain their beautiful yellow and black plumage.  If you want to attract these beauties to your backyard here are a few tips:

Place a feeder in a location where you can watch the birds feed.  Finches will eat from platform, hanging or tube feeders.

  • Fill it with black oil sunflower seeds or plant sunflowers in your yard.
  • Hang a thistle sock, they love thistle.
  • Fill a bird batch with shallow water.

I purchased a new camera with a zoom lens, so I’m hoping to get some great shots of them in my garden. Stay tuned for my spring and summer photos of the American Gold Finch.  Bird watching is a great activity to do with kids and get them involved in nature.

 

How To Attract Cardinals in Your Backyard

cardinals

The cardinal also known as “redbirds” is my state bird.  They were the mascot for our high school growing up, so I’ve always had an infinity toward them.  My backyard is full of them and as you can see they eat well.  The males are red with black back/tail feathers and are a standout anytime of the year, but breathtaking during the winter months against the snow.  During mating season, the brighter the better to the female cardinals.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds before you leave.

 

female Cardinals

 

The females have some red, but are mostly tan and gray.  They sing outside my bedroom window in the morning.  They are known to have up to 12 different songs.  While watching them, I’ve found them to be quite sociable.  They wait their turn at the feeder and interact well with other species.  Cardinals love mixed birdseed as well as the black oil sunflower seeds.  They also eat fruit, insects and sap from the trees.  I have yet to see them eat from the suet feeder.  The male is a gentleman.  The majority of the time he will perch on a branch while the female eats and than he takes his turn.

 

male Cardinals
Cardinals usually mate for life and they don’t migrate.  You can enjoy their brilliant color year round.  The male is responsible for feeding the female when she is incubating her eggs.  He guards the nest and ensure predators stay at bay.  Breeding season can last from March – September.  The female usually builds their nest in a dense bush that I have at the other end of my house.  I watch them from afar, the female will leave the nest and build elsewhere if she senses danger.  The male in the picture above is indulging on black oil sunflower seeds.  They usually arrive at the feeder with their mate, but I have seen both feed alone.
attracting Cardinals
If you’re a beginner bird watcher, the cardinal is one of the easiest backyard birds to attract.  They like the platform and tube feeders, so you can use one or the other.  They’re not picky eaters, so regular bird seed or black oil sunflower seeds will meet their needs.  Happy bird watching!

Using Suet Feeders for Backyard Birds

suet feeders

Food sources for backyard birds become scarce during the winter.  So, I decided to put up a couple of suet feeders.  What is a suet you ask?  Simply put, it’s fat mixed with corn, fruit, peppers peanuts or  dehydrated insects.  Furthermore, it comes in a brick or log form.  The bricks fit into a cage suet feeders as shown below.  Check out my other posts on attracting backyard birds before you leave.
Also, you can use the suet cakes year round.  They’re not just for winter feeding, that just happens to be the time of year I use them.  If you’re going to use suet feeders in warmer months, I recommend using the No Melt Suet.  Check the package to ensure you have the No Melt before you leave the store.   It’s easy to get the packages mixed up.  Also, using the suet feeders are cheaper than buying bird seed.  As a result, if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in bird seed, a suet feeder is the way to go.

Furthermore, I’ve discovered that some birds prefer suet rather than seed.  Suet is important to birds, especially during the colder months.  It helps to keep them warm.  Mostly insect lovers like Mockingbirds, Orioles, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and Chickadees flock to suet feeders.  I have been able to get my Woodpeckers and Chickadees to eat from my platform feeder too.  They love black oil sunflower seeds.

As a matter of fact, I really hoped to attract Orioles this past spring.  I tried using oranges this spring, but no luck.  I did manage to attract a Mockingbird and Catbirds.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard his mating call in the wee hours of the morning in my neighbor’s yard.  Hopefully,  he will find a mate soon.   I need to get my sleep.

 

suet feeders

 

I did have a visitor at the suet feeder today, a Carolina Wren.  My state bird, the Cardinal, is nibbling on Black Oil Sunflower seeds.  Isn’t the cardinal beautiful.  Also, the Tufted Titmouse (bottom  picture) was eating from the suet feeder too.   However, they  seems to prefer the seeds in the platform feeder.   But, the wren in the second photo is going for the suet.  So, I’m hoping as the weather gets colder, more of the birds will eat the suet.

It’s cheaper, and the suet cakes last longer.  That’s if the squirrels, Starlings or Grackles don’t find the suet cages.  They can devour a cake or two in a day.  As a result, I purchased this bottom suet feeder to try to deter them.  So far it’s working.  I can put 3 of the suet cakes in the feeder.  The woodpeckers love it.  I have both Red-Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers that visit.

 

suet feeder

 

What backyard birds visit you?  Do you feed them?  If so, what methods do you use to attract them?