Category Archives: Garden

Lasagna Gardening

Have you ever heard of lasagna gardening? It has nothing to do with Italian food.  It’s a way to prep garden beds by layering organic matter, it’s also known as sheet composting.  The layers will “cook” and break down leaving you with rich garden soil. This method of gardening is easy. No digging, to tilling, no hard work at all really. Just gather your supplies and start layering.

I’m going to share my take on lasagna gardening. I wanted to create a small garden bed for growing herbs. I can’t be bothered to dig up grass and I don’t have a tiller break up the soil so lasagna gardening seems like the perfect solution.


Step One: Create a perimeter

I used rocks I had from around the yard. They were heavy. Ohhh my back hurt the next day! You could use rocks, bricks, a wood frame, old bottles- anything to make a border.


Step two: Layer newspaper on the grass and soak it with water

The newspaper will help to suffocate the grass and weeds and prevent them from growing up into the new soil you are going to put on top of it. You can also use cardboard but it will take longer to break down.


Step 3: Layer organic matter

Create layers with compost, old grass clippings, peat moss, leaves and well rotted manure. I mostly used grass clippings, compost and potting soil because that’s what I had on hand. Spray water on each of the layers so that everything is nice and moist.



Step 4: Cover with plastic

I used garbage bags to cover everything and weighed it down with rocks. The plastic will help trap heat and make all your layers break down faster.

Step 5: Wait it out

You are essentially letting all your lasagna  layers compost and break down into rich soil to plant your plants. It can take weeks or months for everything to break down depending on the size of your garden and what you used in your layers. Let your garden “cook” and check every once and a while to see how things are going. Once the soil is nice and composted you can get things growing!
This method seems like it would work best in the fall so your garden has all winter to break down. By spring your garden beds will be ready for planting.

I’ll update you in a few weeks to show my progress. Have you ever tried lasagna gardening? Share your tips in the comments.

Pinecone Bird Feeders

Here’s a quick and easy way to attract some birds to your garden this winter. An old classic that’s great to make with kids. If you have more time on hands and some random beef suet in the freezer you can make these . But if you don’t you can make these simple pine cone feeders with things you probably already have around the house:

When my husband makes bacon we save the grease in this gross container. It’s not good to pour it down the sink and if we tried to pour it in the garbage the dogs would go crazy trying to get into it.
You can easily use peanut butter instead of bacon grease. It would probably be less gross.
Step one. Tie string around the pine cones

Step 2: Smear the pine cones in bacon grease or peanut butter and roll them around in bowl of birdseed

Now you have a whole bunch of seed covered pinecones

Hang and enjoy. The birdies will be by shortly!

Suet Bird Feeders

Ok before we begin, full disclosure. I’m vegan but my husband is not. Rob loves his meat and I’m OK with that. Well I guess I have to be OK with that because there’s nothing I can do about it 🙂 Living with someone who eats animal products when you are trying really hard not to presents it’s own set of challenges but I’m trying to make the best of it.
For reasons I won’t go into here there was randomly a 1 pound packet of beef suet in the freezer. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to make some suet bird feeders for my feathered friends. Since the suet wasn’t going to be used for anything and thrown out if I didn’t use it I figured it would be OK and might as well put it to good use fattening up my feathered friends.
For this project you will need the following:

1 cup suet
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup birdseed
1/2 cup flour
string/ yarn/ rope
plastic cups, soap molds or muffin tins

Start by chopping up your suet into one inch or smaller chunks. Put them into a pot on the stove and set the temperature to medium. Let them melt. Open the windows and turn on the fan. It’s going to get stinky. Actually you may want to light some incense or a scented candle because it’s really stinky. You are melting cow fat.
Once the fat has melted add the peanut butter flour and the birdseed. Mix it up real good.
Pour the mixture into your molds. Soap molds work great for this. Candle molds would probably work well too. No molds? No problem. Get creative. You can use muffin tins, plastic ups, the bottom half of a pop bottle. Just make sure the mold is slightly flexible and you will be able to get the hardened mixture out. Let your molds cool overnight or in the fridge. They will get nice and hard.

Pop them out of the mold and tie some string around it

Then wrap the string around all crazy and secure the loose end.
Tie to a tree branch and enjoy!

For another variation you can have the string going right through the suet. I took a plastic cup and poked a hole in the bottom

Fill the cup with the mixture and let harden. You will want to tie the string to something so that it stays straight while it dries. Once hardened cut away the mold and hang.

Now sit back relax with some hot tea and wait for the birdies to fly on down.

How to Make Seed Balls

A few years ago I went to the natural cosmetic store Lush in downtown Vancouver.  As I was browsing the aisles the beauty advisor informed me they were giving away seed balls to help promote Earth Day and gave me a packet of  marble sized red brown dirt balls. I had never heard of seeds balls. The lady told me the balls were loaded with wildflower seeds and I should toss the balls anywhere I would  like to see some flowers grow. I thought this was a fun idea and when I used up the seed balls I was given  I decided  to make my own. This is a fun project you could do with kids to help teach them about gardening and the environment. It’s also a good way to use up any extra seeds you may have.
Supplies:
1 cup Seed starting mix/ potting soil
1 cup Crayola Air dry Clay. You can also use red art clay or potters clay. Available at an art supply store or garden center.  If you can get your hands on some of powdered clay  I have read it works better but in a pinch the Crayola stuff will work too. You can find it at the craft store.
1 cup Compost
Seeds

Mix all ingredients together except for the seeds in a large bowl. Because my clay was starting to dry out I used my food processor. If you use a food processor don’t put the seeds in because it will grind them up and ruin them. Add water to the mixture as needed until you get a good consistency. It should look like this

You can now stir in your seeds. I used a couple cups of wildflower seed mix. Form the mixture into half inch balls and set them aside to dry.  This part gets messy so make sure you have lots of old towels on hand for clean up! In a few days your seed bombs should be dry. You can put them in little baggies to give away as gifts or favors or just start tossing them anywhere you would like to see some flowers grow.

Make a Compost Bin out of Pallets

I  wanted to buy a compost bin and saw some  for sale at the Home Depot. They cost $50-100 and up depending on how fancy you want to go. I decided to make my own after seeing some online tutorials. Why pay for something you can make for free?
This is a project you can do for free or very little money.  You can get shipping pallets for free from shipping companies or any place that receives freight.  Go take a look behind a big box store and you will probably find some pallets. The stores will be happy to give them to you.  I work for an international shipping company and we receive freight that comes on pallets. The pallets are a pain for us to get rid of. I got my husband to bring his van to my work and we loaded it up with the pallets.  Wear gloves and be careful. Pallets are usually full of splinters and many have old rusty nails sticking out.  Try to choose sturdy looking skids that are all the same size.

I propped them up in position and secured with rope. I just twisted the rope through the slats and tied the loose ends together. You could nail them together or use old wire coat hangers to secure. For the front, I only secured one side so I could still open the front to get out the compost. You could use a bungee cord to help secure the front for easy access.

If you live in a dry climate you may want to line your bin with plastic to help keep the moisture in.  Moisture isn’t really a problem here in the Pacific NW.  So I didn’t bother with that step.
The slats on the pallets help to increase airflow. You could have an additional pallet on the bottom to help with airflow from underneath

Compost tips:

  • Alternate brown and green layers in the bin. Brown= vegetable and kitchen scraps and manure. Green = yard waste and grass clippings
  • Chop the scraps up as small as you can, they will break down faster
  • Water the compost to keep it moist, but not so wet that it gets rotten and stinky, turn often with a pitchfork.
  • Consider adding composting worms to your bin to help things break down faster.

Is Organic Worth It?

Organic lemons growing at my husbands grandparents house in Mexico

Organic fruits and veggies can cost 50-100% more than the non- organic varieties at the grocery store. It makes you wonder, is buying organic really worth the extra cost? Well according to the Environmental Working group a non profit organization that is based out of Washington DC some types of produce are more susceptible to pesticide residue than others. The group came up with a list of the “Dirty Dozen” the 12 foods that are definitely worth buying organic:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

This list above are the foods that you should focus on buying organic. These foods are affected most by chemicals and pesticides.
If you can’t afford to buy only organic, that’s OK. They also complied a list of 12 foods that have the least pesticide residue:

  • Papayas
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kiwifruit
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocados
  • Onions
Homegrown avocado also grown at the grandparents in Mexico

So if you can only afford some organic foods make sure you stick to the dirty dozen.

How to Make an Airplant Terrarium

Last week I wrote about air plants, how easy they are to take care of  and some basic tips and care. I purchased some from the nursery with the idea to make some terrariums. I’ve seen similar air plant terrariums for sale online for $25 and up. I’m going to show you how to make your own for under $10. They make great gifts and only take a few minutes to put together.

Materials

Glass globes: I bought these from CB2 for 3.95 each. You can hang the globes from the ceiling by a chain and they have a flat bottom so you  sit them on a table and they will be stable.  A great deal at under $5 a piece. You could also use glass jars or old fish bowls

Air plants: available at your local nursery or online $2- $5 for small ones. Bigger air plants are more expensive. Some places you can buy them online are here and here.

Sand, moss, rock, sticks.
I bought sand and moss at the craft store but I collected the sticks, rocks etc. when I was out walking my dogs

Assembly:
Add in your gravel, sand or moss first, then your air plant. Embellish with what ever rocks and sticks you like. Hang from a hook in the ceiling or place on a table.

 

Woodland Theme
Oh look! A deer!

Care:
Make sure not to cover the root and  mist your plant with water a few times per week. You should probably take the plant out from time to time and give it a good soaking. Make sure the plant is not soaking before placing it back in the terrarium. If it stays wet for too long  it will rot. Place in indirect sunlight no more than 10 ft from a window.
Check out my other post All About Air Plants to learn more about air plants and how to take care of them.

All About Air Plants

Air plants. Another house plant that is almost impossible to kill. I have professed my love for succulents recently (because they are the only indoor plant I have yet to kill)  and showed you my succulent terrarium. I picked these plants up from the nursery last weekend and plan on making some terrariums with them. If you are a notorious plant killer like me, air plants may be a good option for you.

So What are Air plants Anyways?

Air plants are commonly referred to as tillandsia. Tillandsia are one of about 540 species in the bromeliad family.
They grow in the forests, deserts and mountains of  South and Central America, Mexico and the Southern United States.  Tillandsia species are epiphytes,  meaning they do not need soil to grow. The roots grow on an object, usually a tree for support but they are not parasitic. They absorb nutrients from the air and water through their leaves.

What’s so great about air plants?
* They look really cool! Some have really long alien-like tendrils and some have pretty flowers.
*They are non toxic (no need to worry about your pets getting poisoned if they eat them)
*No soil means less mess and they don’t require a ton of water.
* They are low maintenance and easy to care for
*You can get creative. They will grow on anything, on driftwood, in glass terrariums, indoors or outdoors. Use you imagination!

How should I care for my air plant?

Good air circulation is essential.  Don’t plant the root or have  the plant sitting in water for long periods of time or it will rot.  Keep the plant out of direct sunlight but not more than 10 feet away from a window. You want filtered light but if it is too bright and hot it will get sun burned.  Water your plant once or twice a week. Soak the plant or mist the leaves with water. Since the plant will be getting it’s nutrients through water you want to try to avoid tap water. Try using water from a pond or collecting rain water. If you have to use tap water put some in a bowl and let it sit out overnight to de-chlorinate like you would with a fish tank.