November 30, 2019

Flowers in Winter--2 Grow Kits for You

Just checking in from snow valley over here! Since Thursday, we have gotten around 3 feet of snow, with more falling every day! We have been shoveling over and over, and the kids spent 2 glorious days building a 5 foot tall fort, using plastic toy bins as snow brick makers. We did make a trip down to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner, but other than that, we have stayed home and enjoyed not having to go anywhere!

Did you get large amounts of snow this weekend as well? Tell me all your stories!

So, I am very happy to report that whilst I have been snowed in, I have taken the opportunity to get some grow kits ready and available for sale! If you’re like me, those cold winter days last so long! I miss the color and change of watching flowers grow! I crave the beauty. Growing flowers inside during the winter helps me do better emotionally and helps fill in that gap a little bit.

If you’re on my email list, you’ve already seen my tips for growing amaryllis. Amaryllis are the great big bulbs from South Africa or Holland, with big, waxy-looking blooms at the top of big thick stems. They are so beautiful! If you missed the email, send me your email address and I’ll get a copy over to you.

I won’t say too much more about amaryllis, then, except that this year’s gift boxes have arrived!! These are the Dutch amaryllis, which should flower 8-12 weeks from the time you pot them up. The colors available are: orange, pink and white (mostly pink with a white stripe down each petal), apple blossom (more white than pink), red, white, picotee (white with a thin red edging on each petal), and one red-and-white striped. I’m so excited to have these!

I’m selling them for $24 each, and each one includes the bulb, a pot, and soil to pot it up with, all inside a beautiful box with instructions printed on one side of it. These make wonderful gifts for clients, employees, coworkers, or family members. Call or text me to reserve your color preference early! There’s only 2 of each color, except for the red-and-white striped—that one only has one. 

I’ve also put together some delightful Paperwhite Daffodil Grow Kits this year! I’m excited about these, because this is such a fun and easy project! These would be great gifts for your tween or teenager, siblings—even neighbors or friends. Even younger children could do this, with some adult supervision and help. Once you get it all set up with the rocks and the bulbs, all that is required is topping off the water as needed. It’s so fun to watch them grow!

Part of what makes these kits special are the rocks. I was able to purchase polished river rocks from JH Rocks, a little business my oldest son has ventured into—selling polished rocks and semi-precious gems. So much love and care have gone into these! So you’re not only supporting my small business, but his as well, by purchasing one of these kits.

Along with the rocks, it includes 3 bulbs wrapped in festive tissue paper, growing instructions, and of course, a vase to put them in. Very affordably priced at $18 each.

You can find these in my online shop on this very website, or call or text me directly: 801-845-8217.

I don’t usually use this blog as a commercial, so thanks for your patience with me on that score! I am just so happy to have these grow kits available! Having flowers growing inside makes such a big difference for me in the winter, as far as my overall happiness goes, that I am excited to have them available to share with you, too.

Now, get out there and make the biggest snowman in all the land!!

November 23, 2019

2 Books to Add to Your Gardening Reference Shelf

 It’s been awhile since I have done a book review on this blog. It’s high time! Two books that I have read lately and found useful would both fall under the “reference” category for gardening (surprise, surprise).

Two of the biggest problems we have faced since starting our little flower farm have been the same that farmers have faced for centuries: pests and weeds. With both of them, though, you can’t know what to do about them until you know what you’ve got. While you may be able to take a good picture of a weed (they don’t move around much, after all), it can be difficult to snap a shot of that little creature scurrying under the nearest leaf.

Unfortunately, it also seemed like the solution to one of the problems only made the other worse. For instance, this summer I thought I would use cardboard in the pathways to keep the weeds down. That worked pretty well, all things considered, but all that cardboard being held against the ground? The earwig population exploded! I hate earwigs, so bad. So yeah—what am I supposed to do about that?!

I have not reached for the RoundUp or the insect killer (yet). I am trying to farm sustainably and with the health of our family in mind—I don’t want any of my kids coming in contact with that stuff!

So, enter these 2 books. Some clarity, some help, and I hope—a better year next year when it comes to bugs and weeds!

Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically, by Jessica Walliser

5 stars: Useful information, in an easily accessible format.

So, this one immediately addresses one of the main problems of bug identification: the sheer numbers involved. It can be overwhelming even trying to look up an insect, because where do you even start? She has boiled this down to 41 different common insects: 27 pests and 14 beneficial.

She starts with the pests. Each one has the name, a description, a picture, plus “Spot the Damage” and “Plants they Attack.” She then has a second page for each one that lists “Live Biological Controls,” “Preventative Actions,” and “Organic Product Controls.” There’s also added information at the bottom, as well as another picture—often showing the egg or larvae stage of the insect in question.

In the section covering beneficial insects, it starts out the same, with the name, picture and a description. She then describes their “Life Cycle,” “Pests They Control,” and includes a section on “How to Attract and Keep Them.” Each entry also contains a “More About…” section with interesting facts.

This book has already been useful to me, just thumbing through it. I found out within less than 5 minutes that the white cottony/sticky bugs on my houseplants are mealy bugs, plus what I can do about it (remove them with a Q-tip soaked in alcohol.) It’s got a spiral binding inside a hard cover. I’m planning on taking it out to the garden with me next summer and getting some things figured out!

Weeds and what they tell us, by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer

4 stars: What if weeds were not the enemy?

This a book from the 50’s, but the information was fascinating. Pfeiffer’s perspective on weeds is game-changing. Rather than declaring war on every weed you see, use them as soil indicators. Certain weeds prefer certain soil conditions. This is an idea I first ran across as I have learned more about permaculture. If you have lots of ox-eye daisies, for instance, that’s a warning flag that your soil is increasing in acidity. Fix the soil, your weed problem disappears.

One thing I found interesting is that a good number of plants he lists as weeds in this book are now grown by flower farmers for cutting! Larkspur, chamomile, feverfew, and Dauca carota (wild carrot), just to name a few. Also, he describes which plants bring minerals or vitamins up out of the soil. For instance, he mentions that tansy (which I just planted this fall) concentrates calcium in its leaves. So if you can cut them before they produce seed, they will add many nutrients to your compost pile. I have been so afraid of seeding my entire with garden with weeds, that I haven’t put any weeds into my compost pile. This has given me something to think about along those lines, for sure.

Also, I found out via soil test last spring that my soil has excessive amounts of phosphorus in it. I think he said (though now I can’t find the reference) that orach pulls phosphorus out of the soil. There are several varieties of orach that other flower farmers grow as filler! So guess what is going on my seed list?!

Advice is heavily geared toward tilling, which many people are trying to get away from now. We have still done it, but I think the information in this book can dovetail with a no-till approach. That’s what I would like to move toward. It sounds like, though, whenever you start a new bed—particularly one on weedy ground—tilling at the beginning can really help set back your weed problem. Don’t quote me on that; I need to do more research on permaculture and no-till farming.

I bought this one as an ebook, and to be honest, I’m kind of wishing I had a hard copy to mark up. I know, I know, I can highlight and make notes in an ebook too. I just prefer it on paper. Call me old school—-HEY, maybe that’s why I liked this book so much! Ha!

What have you been reading lately? Anything worth sharing? 

November 16, 2019

More Freebies--Yay!

 Just when I think I’m done planting for the year, I get some more free plants! Lovin’ it!

My friend and neighbor down the street, who has gifted me with plants already, told me she had some rose bushes for me. I was excited! There’s a section along the one side of her house that is going to get cemented in at some point in the next year. She let me come dig up some stuff!

Here’s what I came home with, and where it went:

1 white rose bush—back corner flowerbed

1 mini red rose bush—in back, by the Jupiter’s Beard and the honeysuckle shrub (Actually, I’m not sure if they are mini roses simply because the bush is still so small, or if that’s the size they will stay as it grows)

1 pink and white rose bush—she said it was kind of striped petals. I wonder if it will look kind of like this one in my oval flowerbed, above? So, I put this one in the front fence bed, to replace the David Austin rose that died this year. I’m not really sure it’s going to go with the color scheme out front, but hey—it's a rose that has proven that it can withstand our winters, so that’s got to be worth something.

1 hosta—front flowerbed, in front of the lilac bush

4 large clumps of asters—these I planted in my perennial beds in the garden, starting a new row for “purple/blue” colors. At her house they were nearly as tall as me, before we cut them back for digging, but they were in partial shade there. I’ll bet in full sun they will be shorter.

1 clump that separated into 6 or 7—um…long brown things? I don’t know what they were. She called them coneflowers, but they weren’t like any coneflowers that I’ve ever grown. The seedheads looked like the cone part of the coneflower, on a 4-5’ long stalk. She said that’s what they were—no flowers, just these cone things. Anyway, I thought they might add some interest to my arrangements next year, so I plopped them in behind the greenhouse, between my eremurus that I got planted a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping I didn’t just plant a pernicious weed of some kind! Ha!

I’m so excited to see these shrubs grow next year, and to have another hosta, some more asters, and some…brown things! She was so generous, and happy that her plants were going to a good home. I was happy to be that good home! Win-win!

Also, I was so proud. I dug them up yesterday and got them planted TODAY, friends! Good job me! They didn’t languish in their pots on my front porch for days and days…or all winter.

Okay, now I think I’m really, truly done. Unless I give in to the sale ads coming into my email inbox right now and order a bunch of tulips for 40% off. It is so tempting! But also, I shouldn’t. Maybe my amaryllis will come in this week and keep me busy getting those potted up, so I don’t have time to purchase any more plants or bulbs. If any one wants to give me some more plants, though—I’m all over that!

At some point, I want to make a large flowerbed just for roses, and another just for peonies, and fill them up with all kinds of beautiful shrubs to cut from. Until then, these go in my flowerbeds, where I know they can stay for awhile, undisturbed.

Are you still throwing things in the ground?

Do you have any beautiful flowering shrubs or plants you no longer want?

[shrug. worth a try.]

November 11, 2019

Garden Weed: Common Mallow


Frosted mallow in the grass. The round, veined leaves are quite distinctive and easy to identify.

This weed has been on my mind this week, as I spent a good portion of the day last Saturday attacking it in my garden. So let’s talk about it a little more, shall we?

It’s a native of Europe, but has now become naturalized throughout the United States. It is edible—my kids like to eat the little round fruits—they’re maybe 1/4” in diameter. They resemble a wheel of cheese, hence the other name for this plant “cheese weed.” You can eat the leaves, flowers, and roots as well, though I have never tried any of those.

It’s related to okra, and can be used to thicken soups and stews. One site says it releases “a thick mucus” when cooked. Boy, doesn’t that sound appetizing! Ha!

There are some herbal uses, but I can’t speak to those. You had better look that up on your own if you plan on using it to cure your ailments.

It is a cool-weather weed, so it will probably be one of the first you see in the spring and last in the fall—like now. We had some very very cold weather a couple of weeks ago, and the plants I was digging out last Saturday were still green and alive. So, kudos to you mallow (I guess.)

Here’s why it’s a garden pest:

It has a long tap root, and tends to hug the ground. Those roots are tough to get out, even in my sandy soil. If you let it grow much bigger than—well, tiny—it’s going to take a shovel to dig it out. Since I don’t tend to weed with shovel in hand, this is one that tends to get neglected, until it has sprawled over 2-3 feet of ground and has become such a nuisance that I’m forced to deal with it. Interestingly enough, it’s scientific name is Malva neglecta. I can see where they came up with that one!

The good news? It is annual or biennial, so all those little sprouts that you pull out or bigger plants that you dig out will truly go away—probably.

It’s supposed to be very nutritious, so I guess I should have been harvesting all those leaves for my salad—assuming we could get past the mucilaginous texture and everything. Hey, I guess it’s another one (like purslane) that makes me feel slightly better about the amount of food produced in my garden this year. It wasn’t very much, but at least I had some nice, healthy stands of mallow growing!

Also, note to self: next year have my kids harvest all the mallow fruits that they can find—nutritious snack (apparently) and fewer mallow next year! I’ll take it!

November 2, 2019

The Advantages of a Clean Slate

To take a break from my website redesign this afternoon, I went outside into the balmy 45 degree weather. I began to put away things that had been left out on the deck most of the summer—my toolbag, my plastic totes for holding weeds. That led me to the greenhouse, where such things will be stored until spring, and THAT reminded me that I still had some cleaning up to do in there, as well.

This year, I primarily used the greenhouse for transplanting seedlings. As it was unheated, I couldn’t do my full propagation in it. I spent some very pleasant hours in there, potting up seedlings into peat pots and getting them ready for bigger and better things. 
The world was rosy (but then, it usually is in the spring.)

Then that late frost came along in mid-June. Many of my seedling-related hopes were dashed, and the seedlings themselves turned dead and black. I was so discouraged. I managed to move the trays full of dead tomatoes and peppers, and assorted flowers, into the greenhouse, but that’s as far as I got. 
There they stayed all summer long.

Now here we are, 4 1/2 months later. The sting has gone out of the failure, for the most part. It was time to clear things out and get ready for a clean start next spring. With the help of my 2 year old, I dumped peat pots full of dirt and dead seedlings into the garden, then ripped up the pots themselves and put them into the compost bin. (She had great fun with the ripping!)

I stacked plastic pots of all sizes, then found more in other trays that needed stacking. I emptied the 2 large cement mixing bins, stolen from my husband’s outside projects, and used for soil recipes. That dirt all went into the garden as well. Trays warped by the sun beyond reclaiming, and various plastic containers I had saved from the recycling bin and used for seed starting went back to the recycling bin.

As I cleared away the evidence of my many failures, my mind began to clear a little bit. I could let go of those disappointments. The neat stacks and empty shelves seem to give a sigh of relief right along with me. Time to move forward. Perhaps next year I will be able to learn from my mistakes without holding on to their remains.

All together it only took me about and hour and a half. Another chore checked off the “Get Ready for Winter” list; a clear workspace, and a clear mind to move forward into next growing season. 

Feels good.