Don’t forget the gardener on your Christmas list.
I am thrilled to announce that Amazon has approved us for their infuencer program. Through this I am able to share my personal recommendations for gardening products. I have spent the last week scouring Amazon deciding which products were worthy of this page. A lot of the products are items that I have used personally. Some of them are items I have sold before and had positive response on them. Some of the products are items which I have seen while attending trade shows. And finally, for the items I was unfamiliar with, I studied all of the reviews to decide if I thought they were good enough to make the cut. All items are garden related, although some of the items are just a little bit whimsical. Gotta have a little fun while digging in the dirt. Oh yeah, and this is an affiliate program. We will get a small commission on any item which you buy from Amazon as long as you start your search on this page. Any help is appreciated. This is part of what helps us to be able to supply our free content to you. Check it out and see what you think! Tammy
Growing Vegetables with Grow Lights
Do you want to grow vegetables and herbs indoors? Unless you are growing a few plants such as herbs on a sunny windowsill, you will definitely need lighting. If you do not use grow lights your plants will become leggy and spindly. They will not develop a healthy root system and let’s face it, they will probably never produce into the food you are looking for.
Trying to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse in the short winter days? You will need supplemental lighting. There are a lot of different lighting options available. Let’s take a look at them now.
Different types of lighting
There are basically 3 types of lamps available. They would be HID (high intensity discharge), LED’s (light emitting diodes) and fluorescent fixtures. There are a couple of sub categories in each of these categories.
HID lamps are twice as efficient as fluorescent bulbs. They are available in several different sizes from 250 W to 1000W. If these are used as a primary light source a 250 W fixture will cover an area of 3′ x 3′. A 400 W covers 4′ x 4′, a 600 W covers 6′ x 6′ and a 1000W covers a 7′ x 7′ area. You should place your fixtures as close to your plant as possible without getting it too close. The HID lights put out a lot of heat. The best way is to put your hand under the light at the desired height. If it is not too hot for the back of your hand it will be OK for your plant. HID lights come with metal halide (MH) or high pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs. The metal halide is for the vegetative or growth stage. It supplies a blue range of light that is similar to what we have in Spring. The high pressure sodium is for the fruiting or flowering stage. It supplies light in the red range. These systems come with a ballast. It used to be that we had to have one ballast for each type of bulb. But now there are switchable ballasts available that will work with either type of lamp.
Historically fluorescent lights were thought of as to be used with seedlings or plants that did not require as much light. But, that has changed with the development of HO (high output) T5 lamps. These are only about 5/8″ in diameter. These high output lights will give twice as much light as the standard T5. They are able to produce enough light for larger or fruiting plants. Of course they will be more expensive than the standard fluorescent lamps. They are available in 2700K(yellow, red light) for flowering or 6500K (full spectrum light) for plant growth. Fluorescent bulbs are also available in T 12, T8, T5 and compact fluorescent models. They are not as efficient and may be best left for seedlings and low light plants.
Fluorescent lamps have several benefits. They are lightweight, affordable and easy to assemble. They do not put out much heat at all. These lights should be placed within 4″ to 6″ of the top of the plant.
LED lights have historically been very expensive and pretty much out of the range of the non commercial grower. But the prices have come down considerably in the last couple of years. The price on LED lights is still typically higher than the other types, but they will definitely cut down on the electric bill. They use half the electricity of HID and fluorescent lighting and will last up to 5 times as long. Most of these lights have a small built in fan which means they will run cooler.
There are full spectrum lights available where you can switch the growing mode. This is much the same concept as the switchable ballasts for the HID lighting. You should check the manufacturers specifications for coverage area and height to hang these fixtures. They are typically hung 18″ to 24″ over the plant.
How Long Should You Leave Your Lights On?
I know everyone hates this statement, but it is something you will need to experiment with. It depends on if you have any other light source and what type of plant you are growing. If you are using it as a primary light source growing inside I would recommend starting at 14 – 18 hours for the growth stage. Once you are fruiting or flowering you can cut this down to 12 hours.
If you are using the lights for supplemental lighting in a greenhouse you will not need them on during sunlight hours. The way we always did this was to have our lights come on 2 hours before sunrise and then turn them off. At night we would turn them on at dusk and leave them on for 2 hours. Of course this is all easiest to do with an automatic timer.
What can I grow using grow lights?
With the proper setup you can grow just about any crop under grow lights. One thing to take into consideration is what kind of space will you need. It is probably not practical for most of us to try and grow crops like corn or watermelon inside. A few examples that do well include tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, herbs, peas (will need to be trellised), bush green beans, bush cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, radishes, etc. Keep in mind that you must meet the same temperature requirements that these plants need outside. For example, you cannot grow cauliflower and broccoli in an 80 degree room. You cannot grow tomatoes in an unheated basement in the winter.
Just because you don’t have a yard and it is the cold of winter does not mean that you cannot have fresh herbs and vegetables for dinner tonight. Set aside a little space and try growing some food indoors under lights.
Compost your autumn leaves
Composting at Home | How to Compost
A lot of people wonder if composting is really worth their while. If done properly it really takes a minimal amount of effort. I am not saying you don’t have to work at it, but you don’t have to work at it hard. You just need to follow the “rules” and you will get an excellent product to use in your garden, your containers, or even your flower beds. Plus, let’s face it. None of us wants to contribute any more to the already overflowing landfills than we need to. Just think of it as doing your part to help Mother Nature.
Over 1/3 of the materials in a landfill are compostable. Why are we throwing out these items that we can turn into the best amendment for our gardens? Do we think it is going to be too hard? I don’t know, let’s not over think it. Composting is simply the breakdown of organic matter. Nothing more, nothing less. Compost fuels plant growth, while restoring previously depleted soil. It also helps to retain soil moisture and helps to hold off plant diseases.
What Will I Need to Compost?
There really is not much start up cost and you can get as fancy as you want. To start you can use a small roll of fence that you can purchase at any local lumber store or home store. You would also want to have a few posts to wrap the fence around to make your “bin”. Or, you can recycle pallets to make a compost pile. The most expensive, but probably the easiest way is to use a tumbling compost bin, but they will be the most expensive initially. There are also worm composters available. The worms do the breaking down of materials in these systems, no turning with them.
If you are doing any other method than the rotating bin or worms (vermicompost) you will need something to turn the pile with. We had a special compost turning tool at one point, but a shovel or hoe would work just as well. A neat thing to have on hand is a compost thermometer. You can take the temperature of your compost pile and brag to all of your neighbors how hot your pile is. (I know, a little too geeky for some). This is also a nice tool to help troubleshoot as you rill read below. A really nice item to have is a decorative bin to place on your kitchen counter to collect scraps. You then just take this to your pile every day.
Other than that you need your browns and greens. I remember reading an article in a gardening magazine years ago. The author was telling you if you did not have enough garbage to use OPG (other peoples garbage). I guess some of your neighbors and friends would be willing to do this if you share at the end. I have also read about people going to produce departments and getting the produce that goes bad. The stores are usually glad to give you these unsalable items. That way it doesn’t have to go to complete waste.
What to Compost?
If you have checked into composting before you have probably seen the terms “green” and “brown”. These are referring to the 2 sets of materials that should be added in proper ratios to your compost pile. The green items supply the nitrogen and the brown items supply the carbon. You should use a ration of 1/3 green to 2/3 brown.
Hay or Straw
I do not recommend using cheese or meat scraps for your compost pile, as these attract rodents. Leaves and larger items should be shredded prior to being placed in your compost bin. If you have too many leaves in the fall you can just save them to the side and add them to the compost pile as needed. Meanwhile they will be partially breaking down. Be sure not to add big clumps of any of the items you are putting in your pile. You want everything to be loose .
Maintaining your pile
Don’t leave food scraps at the top of your pile. Cover them with a layer of leaves or grass. This will help to deter pests (rodents, raccoons, etc) that may want to get into your compost. You need to rotate every few weeks and add in more materials. You should be keeping your pile moist, not damp. Or, if you have purchased a rotating bin you should follow the instructions that have come with the bin. These are usually up on a stand and are easily rotated with a handle or simply by spinning the bin.
Troubleshooting Your Compost
Your compost pile should not smell. If it smells like rotten eggs or musty you need to add browns and aerate it (turn the pile). If your pile is not getting hot enough add more greens. This is where your compost thermometer comes in handy. Your pile should be getting to at least 150 degrees F if it is working properly. If your pile is too wet, add brown – cardboard, leaves or wood chips.
Bugs, etc in compost pile
If you have mites it means that your pile is too moist. You need to add your brown materials. You may see a white layer form over your compost pile. It is fungus and will aid in the process. It should be ignored. You may also see millipedes and potato bugs in your pile at times. There is no concern as they are just aiding in the process. If you have rodents you should make sure to “bury” food scraps below the surface of the compost pile so they are not quite as tempting to the animals.
When To Use Compost
Most people agree that the fall is the best time to add the compost into your garden soil. Cover it with some sort of mulch. That way it will have the entire winter to break down and become part of the garden bed. If this is not possible or you just don’t want to do it then you can add it about 2 weeks before you are ready to plant. Be sure to mix it into the soil good. Of course most of us are in a big hurry in the spring to get planted, so waiting until you can work the soil and then waiting 2 more weeks may be too much for some of us (pointing at myself).
Heating the greenhouse with compost
Did you know that you can use your compost pile to heat a greenhouse? You can put the compost pile directly in the greenhouse if you have space. Remember that they will get up to 150 degrees when working properly. Use your thermometer to check the temperature. If it is lower than 120 degrees you will need to aerate the pile. Some people are concerned about having their compost bin inside the greenhouse due to the potential fire hazard. Plus, I have heard the complaint that the pile may smell. If you recall from earlier in this post, if you have a smell you need to fix your compost bin – something is wrong.
If you prefer to have your compost pile outside the greenhouse you can run water pipes through the compost pile to heat the water and then run the pipes into your greenhouse.
Composting is a win / win situation. It is good for your garden, good for the planet and good for your soul. Get busy composting!
Palram Greenhouses Review
Palram Greenhouse Review
We started selling greenhouses online in 2002. We started selling Palram Greenhouses online in 2003. It was a model called the Enthusiast. And I must say, everyone was very enthusiastic about this little greenhouse. It had a gambrel roof and was a 8′ x 8′ size. It had 4′ extensions that you could add on. The next model to surface was the Mini Pro. It was a 8′ x 10′ size. I am not quite sure why, but both of these models were discontinued. Snap and Grow Greenhouses were next to appear. We sold those for quite a few years up until 2014. They are still available, but we decided to not carry them anymore. It had nothing to do with the greenhouse, it was a “corporate” decision. We (Tom and I) just felt that we had too many greenhouse options available.
Enthusiast Greenhouse-no longer available
MiniPro Greenhouse-no longer available
Features of Palram Greenhouses
They are sturdy! The first time I saw an Enthusiast was at a trade show in Ohio. I was walking down the aisle and all of a sudden there was a loud boom. I just about jumped out of my skin. There was an exhibitor in the Palram booth slamming a sledge hammer at this poor Enthusiast. It didn’t budge a bit. That was pretty impressive. Hey kids, don’t try this at home!!!
All of the Palram greenhouses are pretty much built with the same materials, there are just different configurations and options. Some of the models now have twinwall polycarbonate in the roof and/or sides. Even though the outside sheets of the twinwall are clear, the rib in the center of the sheets will distort your view. It will not be like looking through glass. The same single polycarbonate that was found in the Enthusiast will be in the rest of the models. You will get glass like clarity with this lightweight panel with over 90% light transmission. The panels are flexible and you can bend them and twist them. Don’t let that fool you. It is very durable.
The frames are rust resistant aluminum and the greenhouses come with a 5 year warranty. I am very active in several online greenhouse forums. There are many people discussing their Snap and Grow greenhouses that are 8 – 10 years old. Let me tell you that Palram Greenhouse owners are very satisfied and loyal. Actually, the whole time we were selling these greenhouses we only had 2 issues. One was from a greenhouse that was in a tornado. That is just plain old bad luck. The other was a gentleman who just was not satisfied. We sold a lot of these greenhouses, so I guess one person is not too bad a record.
These have simple to use Smart Lock connectors. These greenhouses can be assembled easily by 2 people in 1 – 2 days. Step by step instructions are included with all greenhouses. You can accessorize your greenhouse with items such as plant hangers, shade cloths, an anchor kit, shelf kits, automatic openers for roof vents, benches, or a trellising kit. Most of the Palram Greenhouses can be made longer with the addition of extension kits.
Although the clear view clarity of the single polycarbonate panels is a nice feature, they will not supply you with as much insulation as other greenhouses. Although you can heat them in the winter. Depending on where you live and what temperatures you are want to achieve, you may find that this is cost prohibitive. Of course there are solar methods you can use to retain some heat during the night hours. Also, some people will use bubble wrap to insulate the greenhouse more. If you are looking for a 4 season greenhouse I would consider the Glory with 10mm twinwall panels.
Snap and Grow Greenhouses
These are available with a silver aluminum frame. All of the polycarbonate is the crystal clear single layer polycarbonate. They have double wide doors, adjustable manual roof vents and rain gutters. The door handle is lockable. Widths are 6′ or 8′. Lengths vary from 8′ to 16′ in the 6′ wide model. There is also a 20′ length available in the 8′ wide greenhouse.
Mythos Hobby Greenhouse
The Mythos Greenhouse is covered with 4mm twinwall polycarbonate sheets. It has an adjustable roof vent and rain gutters. The door handle is lockable with a magnetic door catch. It is available in 6′ and 8′ widths. The 6′ ranges in length from 4′ to 14′. The 8′ wide model is available in a 12′ length.
This is a beauty. This hexagonal shaped greenhouse has a gray frame. The roof has twin wall panels and the sides have the crystal clear single layer polycarbonate. The frame is a powder coated aluminum frame. There is a wide double hinged door and the door handle is lockable. An integrated gutter system is present. One side louver for added ventilation and air flow also comes with this greenhouse.
Bella Hobby Greenhouse
This uniquely bell shaped greenhouse is covered with 6mm clear twinwall panels. The shape of the frame is designed for increased wind resistance and reduced snow build up. Taller plants will be comfortable with the 7′ peak height. The roof vents are manually adjustable. This greenhouse has a galvanized steel base. Door handles are lockable. Sizes range for 8′ x 8′ to 8′ x 20′.
Chalet Hobby Greenhouse
This European Style Greenhouse has a gray powder coated aluminum frame. The roof is glazed with twinwall polycarbonate panels. The sides have the crystal clear single polycarbonate. There are 2 adjustable manual roof vents. The wide double door has a threshold ramp for easy access. This is a great structure for growing or to be used as a garden room.
Glory Premium Class Hobby Greenhouse
This greenhouse is built for year round growing. It has an almost 9′ peak with 6′ sidewalls. The frame is a gray powder coated aluminum. All of the glazing is 10mm clear twinwall polycarbonate for added insulation. There is one side louver window and manually adjustable roof vents. This greenhouse comes in a 6′ x 8′ size and 8′ wide from 8′ to 20′ long. This greenhouse has a 10 year warranty. It comes with an anchoring system and a galvanized steel base. The door is over 31″ wide and is lockable. The door threshold allows easy access for wheel barrows. There is an integral gutter system.
Hybrid Lean To
The Hybid Lean To has 4mm clear twinwall roof panels and single layer crystal clear polycarbonate for the sidewalls. The frame is a rust resistant silver aluminum frame and it comes with a wall mounting kit. One manually adjustable roof vent and integral gutters are also included. The size is 4′ x 8′.
The Hybrid freestanding greenhouse also has the 4mm clear twinwall roof panels and single layer crystal clear polycarbonate for the sidewalls. It is available in a 6′ x 8′ size. One manually adjustable roof vent and a door with a magnetic door catch are included.
This greenhouse has the gambrel style roof same as the Enthusiast of old. The roof has clear twinwall panels and the side walls are the crystal clear single layer polycarbonate. Size is 12′ x 12′.There is a double swinging door and 2 manually adjustable roof vents. The frame is the silver rust resistant aluminum.
With so many styles and sizes to choose from there is no reason not to have your name on the list of happy, satisfied Palram Greenhouse owners.
The winter greenhouse – to heat or not to heat? That is the question!!!
We all want to use our greenhouses in the winter. But, it can be costly to heat them all winter long. For certain crops you will need the heat. Do you want to grow seasonal winter crops without the cost of additional heating? Or, do you want to pay the heat bill to have tomatoes and peppers all winter long? That is the real question.
Did you know that a greenhouse will build up a lot of heat during the day? That is why you need a ventilation system in place. But, once the sun goes down the heat will begin to dissipate and disappear. In order to keep your greenhouse above the outside temperature at night you will need to have heating systems or other solar systems in place.
You can keep some heat in your greenhouse at night by using a few solar practices. You can pull a solar blanket over the roof of the greenhouse to help keep any heat inside. These are on the inside of your greenhouse and are typically a heavy blanket that can be pulled at night.
Probably the most popular and easiest method is to use black containers filled with water. These will build up heat during the day and let off the built up heat slowly through the night. You can use gallon water jugs painted black or 55 gallon drums.
You can put a compost pile in your greenhouse. Although, I have heard quite a few people complain about the smell. If you have a properly balanced and properly functioning compost pile you should not have these odors. But, if you want to spend some time and money you can put your compost pile outside and pipe water through the pile (which will heat the water in the pipes) and through the greenhouse for heat.
Some people will use a layer of bubble wrap (yep, like what is used for packing in all the boxes you receive) to help add insulation to their greenhouse. They basically just line the interior with the bubble wrap to help keep the greenhouse a little bit warmer.
These methods will all give you supplemental heat, but none of them will give you a way to control what end temperature you require. To set the heat at let’s say 60 degrees, you will need a heater with a thermostat.
Greenhouse heating systems are available in electric, natural gas and propane. I much prefer the natural gas or propane. My top pick, and the heater that I use in all of my personal greenhouses, is the Southern Burner heater. I have used both the natural gas and the propane models. I find that they both function the same. These are great heaters because they require no electricity. They are the perfect size to fit under a greenhouse bench, thus staying out of the way and not using up valuable space. There is a vented and a non vented model. I personally have always used the non vented heater, but there are some locations in the US where this is a problem and against code. Even though it is called a non vented heater you still need to have a fresh air supply.
Max/ Min Thermometers
A relatively inexpensive, but very valuable tool is a max/min thermometer. These can go from low tech models to models where you can monitor the temperatures from inside your home. Some even have an alarm system set up with them if the temperature drops too low. These are valuable in both a heated and unheated greenhouse to help you troubleshoot any potential problems that you may have.
Crops You Can Grow in a Heated Greenhouse
You can grow just about anything that you can grow in your garden in the summer if you heat the greenhouse. Your night time temperature for tomatoes must be a minimum of 55 degrees. You can also grow peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans, eggplant, corn, basil, tomatillos, etc.
Rules To Growing in an Unheated Greenhouse
If you are growing in an unheated winter greenhouse there are a few rules you should follow for the best harvest. You must be growing crops that are in season during the winter in your area. These cool weather crops include crops such as lettuce, spinach, chard, carrots, etc. Do NOT try to grow warm weather crops in an unheated winter greenhouse. If you are not sure of your growing seasons I would check with my local extension office to see if they have a free vegetable planting guide available. If you don’t know where they are just do a search for extension office “my town”.
Do not try to grow in containers. They will lose any heat they have retained rapidly. You should grow in the ground or in raised beds.
Cut back on how much water you think the plants will need. Plants require a whole lot less water in the winter than they do in the summer. Only water when the ground is dry 1″ to 2″ below the surface.
Grow in “layers”. Add a cold frame or a mini hoop house inside the greenhouse. If you have electricity you can even add heat cables to the cold frames or under the mini hoop house. I always like to use heat cables in my personal cold frames. I find that it gives a higher yield earlier. Just be sure that you check these in the morning. Depending on your location and your weather your cold frame or mini hoop house made need to be opened during the day and closed at night.
Crops You Can Grow in an Unheated Greenhouse
You can typically grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, turnips, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, bok choi, chard, greens, mustard greens, kale, chives, chinese cabbage, english peas, and cilantro (may require a double layer growing system such as the cold frame).
To heat or not to heat? Well, that is really your decision and should be based on how much money you want to spend for winter heat and what crops you want to grow. Whichever way you go, fresh veggies year round can’t be beat! Enjoy!
Are you concerned about the quality of mushrooms you are buying in the grocery store? Do you wish you had healthier alternatives? Why not grow your own? It is not all that complicated if you have the knowledge of the requirements of the plants and a few simple tools.
What are mushrooms?
Mushrooms are a fungus. They are low in calories and carbohydrates. They are a great source of B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and even protein. They are high in antioxidants and they have anti inflammatory properties. They have also been linked to fighting cancer and supporting heart health. OK, and if all that is not enough, they are pretty darn tasty too.
Why should I grow my own?
I confess that I used to buy jarred mushrooms for when I was really lazy. One day, several years back, I took the time to read the label and found that they were not from the USA. That was the end of my jarred mushrooms. But, even if you are purchasing fresh mushrooms you do not know what pesticides may have been used. Due to the nature of the mushroom they absorb a lot of what they come in contact with. I don’t really want all of that. Plus, as an avid, long time gardener, I know the joy of harvesting your own crops. Not to mention the peace of mind that comes with it.
What do you need to grow mushrooms?
You will need either mushroom spores or spawn. The spawn are much easier to handle for a first time project. As you progress you may even learn how to harvest your own spores, but that is not something that you would want to take on as a new mushroom farmer. You need a growing area. You will want an area where you can cut the light off and keep the temperature at a pretty constant temperature. A basement, a spare room, anything of that sort. I remember talking to a man at a garden show years ago. He told me he had grown mushrooms in his hallway for years. You will need nutrient rich soil and a substrate. Materials such as straw, compost, wood chips, sawdust, newspaper, cardboard or coffee grounds are excellent materials for the substrate. You will also need boiling hot water and temperature and humidity controllers.
What kind of mushroom should I grow?
Oyster , shitake and button mushrooms are probably the easiest to grow. There are so many other beautiful, colorful and I am sure tasty varieties to try that are available as spawn. These may take longer to grow.
How do I grow them?
Some of the spawn that are available are meant to be inoculated onto stumps or logs. These take up to a year or more to produce. These are the exception. Most mushrooms will produce between 1 – 3 months depending on the size of mushroom you want. You basically sterilize your substrate which has been placed over your soil. You then inoculate the spawn or spores. Make sure to keep your temperature at the desired level for your species. At this point you will be misting the spawn 1 or 2 times per day. Once you see mycelia – which is a fungal version of roots, you will cut the watering down to once a day. The main thing is to keep out of light and drafts. For detailed instructions see Mushroom Growing 4 You.
If you purchase a kit you should follow the instructions with the kit. You harvest by cutting with a sharp knife. Once you cut the mushroom another may appear again in the same space. But, to ensure a constant supply of mushrooms you should plant a couple of weeks apart. If you are using a large enough growing bed you may just be able to place your spawn in different areas of the bed a couple of weeks apart.
Growing with Mushroom Kits
These have had pretty much all of the guess work taken out of them. Most of the kits are as simple as open and water. Some will even give you mushrooms in as little as 10 days. This is a great gardening project for a child. With the short turnaround time they will not tend to lose as much interest as with crops that take longer.
Can I make money growing mushrooms?
Absolutely. But, as with any farming operation, you will need to research your local market first. Visit your local farmers market and see if anyone is selling mushrooms. Ask the vendors if they ever get requests for them. Go visit your local chefs and see if they would be interested in purchasing them. If you have small local grocery stores you may be able to work with them. I am finding more and more that even the big grocery stores are trying to source fresh food locally. If you have the demand do not start out too large, especially if you have never grown mushrooms before. The best feature of growing these is that you do not need to invest in expensive equipment to get started. You will need your items as listed above, but they are not high dollar or hard to find items.
We are all concerned about the quality of our food. That is a given. But, there is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. Mushrooms are an ideal crop because they don’t require a lot of room or hard to obtain special growing conditions. Try your hand at growing mushrooms today. I think you will be pleasantly rewarded for your efforts.
What’s all the hype about hypertufa?
Have you been seeing “hypertufa” a lot lately? Are you unsure of what it really is? Would you like to learn how to make your own hypertufa projects? Then read on.
What is hypertufa?
Hypertufa is an excellent diy project. It is a long lasting and beautiful substitute for tufa. Next question – what in the world is tufa? It is a natural volcanic rock. Making hypertufa is the art of making decorative or functional garden items from a blend of cement, peat moss (coir can be substituted under certain circumstance), sand, perlite or vermiculite, and water. There are about as many hypertufa formulas as there are hypertufa crafters. You can vary your recipe and the amount of each ingredient added to meet the needs of your project.
Why not? It is an excellent substitute for heavier concrete planters. It is lightweight, it can be hand molded, sculpted, carved, and you can add decorative mosaic pieces or color to it. It is long lasting and will not freeze if it is cured properly. When the peat moss breaks down or decomposes it will leave pits and crevices making a natural looking pot. It is a porous material that is conducive to plant growth. Plus, the fact that your creative juices can flow and you can make a truly one of a kind, this is my creation, piece is just the topping on the cake. A small beginners project would be an excellent start to a child’s journey into hypertufa. They will love it. It has been compared to making mud pies! Don’t forget to wear old clothes.
What can I make?
You can make just about anything you can imagine. To name a few you can make spheres, steeping stones, birdbaths, planters, trough planters, garden art, hypertufa leaves, stepping stones, garden lanterns, birdbaths, etc. I am sure you can think of a few more projects.
What tools do I need?
You can probably scavenge most of the tools you need from your household items. You need mixing utensils (gloved hands work well for this) , a mixing container (maybe a wheelbarrow or smaller depending on your project), and molds. Some examples of molds are dish pans, oil pans, boxes, boxes you make, just about anything you can think of.
Can I find all of the materials locally?
You should be able to locate all of the materials that you need to do a hypertufa project. Portland cement is readily available at the big box stores. Please note: this is not concrete. It is an ingredient in concrete. Portland cement comes in white or gray. You will use the white when you are adding color or if you want a granite look. The gray will be used for all other projects. You should also be able to source all of the other items at big box stores or at local nurseries. We prefer to support the local nurseries whenever we can.
What formula is the best for my project?
Some of this will depend on how you are going to form your final art. If you are a beginner you are going to use the simplest and easiest to work with formula available. No need to burn yourself out with a tough project the first time. Do something small and attainable. Master this and then move on to your next formula. There are formulas that give added strength, that have wire mesh for even more strength, that will make the material easy to carve, that will make the material lighter weight, etc.
What is the most important part of this project?
Well, I would have to say that the artistic decisions are the most important part, but in all actuality it is the curing. A properly cured project will last for years through harsh environments. An improperly cured project may fail before you expect it to. Of course some of this is like gardening. There are “hard, fast” rules that we all have to follow. Then there are the “wonder what will happen if I try this” moments. Not all gardens in all areas grow in the same manner. I have even read about microenvironments where the conditions vary from neighbor to neighbor. But, you will reach a point when you know the proper feel to cured hypertufa. The secret is to cure it slowly in a moist environment. The first part of curing is done in a plastic bag for 2 – 4 days. You will not be able to scratch the surface of the tufa. At that point you can unmold it. You will leave it in the bag unmolded up to a month or more. The project is completed when it sounds hollow when tapped. The final step is leaching out the lime that could be hazardous to your plants. A simple method is to soak it in fresh water (that is changed every day) for 3 days. Next step, planting in your vessel or placing your garden art in the appropriate place.
Looking for extra income?
Hypertufa planters, garden art, etc are in high demand. This is due to the many beautiful configurations that are designed and made. Also, don’t forget the lightweight, durable, and porous attributes that make this a much desired item. They sell great at yard sales, garden shows, flea markets, etc. This is a great way to get your children involved in creation and the art of making money as well.
OK, did I entice you?
Hopefully by this point you are thinking, I have a great spot for a hypertufa sphere. Want to learn how to do this? Check out this thorough informational book. Everything you need to know for a successful project is covered in this 100 page book.
Tammy is a Diamond Ezines author and a 2018 Quora Top Writer. She loves gardening, writing about gardening, and sharing her gardening experiences with anyone who is willing to listen!
Build Your Own Polyfilm Hoop House Greenhouse
There are a lot of reasons to build your own polyfilm greenhouse rather than buying a kit. You may have a special feature or size that you cannot find in a kit. Maybe you have some materials you can recycle. Or, you may just enjoy letting your creative juices flow and making your greenhouse from your own hands with your own design. There are a few basic steps you should follow making decisions regarding your greenhouse whether you are using a kit or building your own design.
You should pick the proper location for your greenhouse. This should be a clear, sunny spot on a nice level location. The ends of the greenhouse should be situated facing north and south.
This is always a major decision when getting a greenhouse. The rule of thumb is – go one size larger than you think you will need. We are, after all collectors and experimenters. We may see the perfect plant at a sale that we just can’t resist. Or, we may find our next best go to variety of tomato or other vegetable that we just have to grow this year. Try to either mark out on your land how you think your plants will be arranged, or do this on a piece of paper. Consider whether you will be having raised beds, containers or hydroponic systems.
Will you build your frame using pvc pipe or galvanized pipe?
If you are using pvc pipe you should use schedule 40 pipe. The simple way to do this is to place a 3′ piece of rebar (sticking out of the ground 12″) where the ends of the hoops will be. Two people are needed for the next step. Place each end of the pipe over the rebar and make your hoop. Your hoops should be placed 4′ to 6′ apart. You will need to use purlins for your frame as well. These are what hold the pvc hoops together. If you skip the purlins you will just have a row of hoops with a cover over them. There is not much structure to this. A minimum of 3 runs of purlins should be used running from one end of the greenhouse to the other. Usually you have one right in the center of the greenhouse with one run along each side where the greenhouse is starting to “bow”. You can use special pvc fittings to tie these together. Most people will use treated lumber to run along the bottom of the long sides of the frames. You can frame out your ends with pvc or with wood. You can build your own door using pvc for framing, or use a purchased (or recycled) wood door. Please note: This style of greenhouse should not be used in high snow load areas. There is a tendency for this type of structure to collapse under heavy snow loads.
Galvanized Pipe –
There are pipe benders available to make specific width of greenhouse bows. Choose the appropriate one for your needs. You will install ground pipe 2′ into the ground with 2′ above the ground. Install your hoops at 4′ or 6′ increments. Install your purlins. You can use a board at the bottom of the sidewalls. The process is basically the same as with the pvc pipe, just different materials. The end walls can be framed out of wood. Although this structure will obviously not have any snow or wind rating, it will be stronger than the pvc frame.
Choosing Your Cover :
There are several different types of covers. The worst choice you could make is going to the box store and buying a roll of film off the shelf. This is great film, but it is just not designed to be used for a greenhouse. There is no UV protection on it. The sun is what breaks down the material. You will be lucky to get one year out of this type of covering. The most commonly used material is a 6 mil, 4 year greenhouse polyfilm. This means that the film is 6 mil thick with a UV covering rated for 4 years. There is also a reinforced polyfilm covering. It has a rip stop feature that will stop a tear once it hits the reinforced cording.
Single vs Double Cover:
You can use either one layer of polyfilm, or a double layer of polyfilm. For the double polyfilm a blower will add air between the layers increasing the insulation factor of the covering. Most people even say that they feel that this makes the film more resistant to tears because it makes it tighter.
Fastening Your Cover:
There are several ways to fasten your cover to the greenhouse. The piece over the top should go from ground to ground.
You can use batten tape to fasten the film to the bottom boards. You will place the batten tape over top of the cover and staple through the tape and the cover. Be sure to have your film tight, but not to taught. An overstretched cover has a tendency to tear.
Base and Wiggle Wire–
This is a 2 part system consisting of a metal base (kind of like a c configuration) with a w wire or wiggle wire. You can fasten the base to your side boards. The base will also bend enough that you can fasten it to your end walls. Pull the cover over top of the base and work the “w” wire in with a wiggle motion. This is a good secure fastening system and will work well with a double polyfilm covering.
Don’t forget to address ventilation. Most people will frame out an opening in the front walls and back walls for exhaust fans or intake shutters. The exhaust fan should go up high in the back wall with the intake shutters down low on the opposite walls. These are usually wired to one thermostat so that they come on at the same time. You may choose to go more low tech and use a roll up curtain along both side walls.These are also available as solar powered systems which require no electricity.
There are times when a heater is not necessary for a hoop house. It depends on the type of crops you are growing and what time of year you are trying to grow them. Cole crops can be grown in hoop houses in the winter often without any supplemental heat at all. On the other hand, if you are trying to grow tomatoes or peppers in the winter you will need supplemental heating.
Building your own polyfilm greenhouse will be a rewarding experience not only while you are building it, but also while you are using it to grow your own crops.
4 Absolutely Essential Kitchen Tools to Preserve Your Harvest
4 Essential Kitchen Tools to Preserve Your Harvest
After a long, cold winter, there is nothing that makes me happier than seed starting day. Gearing up for the new garden season. Getting ready for the cycle once again. I hover over my seedlings with great joy, watching and waiting. Then, Spring finally gets here and into the ground we go, seedlings and seeds. Oh, these are good times. But, absolutely nothing beats the euphoria of harvest season. When that first tomato finally gets red enough (you know the first one is always picked too early) to pick, slice and eat. That is why we garden. Then, when you finally reach the peak of harvest season there is the task? duty? nope, I think pleasure of preserving your food for consumption during the dark and dreary winter months. You can even make this a special family affair like my neighbor does. When the corn is ready to come off about 20 people show up to process it. They pick, shuck, clean the silk, boil, cut the kernels off and freeze. It is a full day event. Of course nothing beats the flavor of fresh picked out of the garden, but preserving your own food sure beats metal cans of overcooked mush out of the grocery store aisles. We use 3 basic methods of preserving our food. 1) Canning, 2) Freezing, 3) Dehydrating. We use 4 basic tools to do this 1) Our Food Saver Vacuum Packer 2) our Excalibur Dehydrator 3) Our Vitamix Blender and 4) my Grandmothers Porcelain Canner. It even still has most of the label attached! Those are all of my personal items in the picture above.
Food Saver vacuum packer
We have had a Food Saver vacuum packer for about 20 years. We love it. We have had a couple of them wear out and we have had to replace them through the years. We use it for meats as well as our veggies and fruits. Your food will stay much fresher, you can keep it in the freezer up to 5 times longer than with regular freezing methods. We have found through the years that if we pre-freeze our produce it will not smunch in the bag when we vacuum. We place our fruit or vegetables on a lined cookie sheet in the freezer overnight. We use this method for blueberries, strawberries, peppers, green beans, garlic cloves, apples, pears, figs, blackberries and persimmons.
This is another tool we have owned for about 20 years. We are still on our original model. This is a great, simple to use item for food preservation. We use this for herbs, vegetables and fruits. I dehydrate cilantro, basil, sage, principe borghese tomatoes (great for drying), strawberries, carrots, green beans and parnsips. We have used this method for zuchinni and eggplant, but have never really been satisfied with those results. Although we did make zuchinni chips one year. They were pretty good. You salt the slices pretty heavy before you dry them. It is a great alternative to potato chips.
Again, this is a tool we have used for about 20 years. We are still on our original model of this product as well. This is no regular blender, this is a very powerful machine. We use this a lot. We vrrmph (technical term) our tomatoes to make tomato sauce. We then just go ahead and freeze these. When it is time to make spaghetti sauce we heat this up, spice it, and add our principe borghese dehydrated tomatoes to the mix. We take the dehydrated tomatoes and grind them in a coffee grinder. We find that when we add this to our sauce it thickens it and intensifies the tomato flavor. We also use our Vitamix to make smoothies from our frozen cantaloupes, melons, strawberries, blueberries, etc. We simply add some ice, our frozen fruit or veggies, some protein powder, a banana (usually found in the freezer in a vacuum bag), and a little bit of water as needed. What a yummy breakfast or treat. The Vitamix cookbook that came along with our machine has a recipe for tomato ice cream. We keep saying that we need to try it, but haven’t ventured there yet.
We probably don’t and probably never have canned as many foods as some people. We always can some jellies. In fact this weekend we are in the process of making some pear butter (from an apple butter recipe) that will be canned. We do can tomato sauce, diced tomato and pepper mix and jellies, but that is pretty much all we do. I am thrilled to be able to use my Grandmother’s canner to do all of this. Some things change all too often, but the basics of canning has never changed. You can also can peaches, green beans, pickles, beets, tomatillos, to mention a few. This really is quite a simple method, but there are a few basic rules that must be followed. All of your equipment, jars and lids should be sterilized in boiling water before beginning. Be sure to follow recommended canning times for all foods that you can.
Preserving your food is a way to enjoy healthy, home grown food year round. This does take a little time and effort, but it is well worth the effort. Make it a family project like my neighbor does and it will not seem to be such a daunting process. Like I said, this is my absolute favorite time of the year in the garden. (Second place is planting day)!
This pear butter is just coming out of the canner.
Dehydrated Pricipe Borghese Tomatoes
Vacuum Packed Blueberries and Blackberries
Vitamix with tomatoes ready to be processed
5 Best Composter Reviews: Black Gold For Your Garden
Best Composters for your garden
We participate in the Amazon affiliate program along with several other affiliate programs. If you purchase a product once you click a link in this article we will be compensated in the form of a small commission. This does not and will not influence our opinions and/ or reviews. Thank you.
considered by some gardeners to be the best thing since sliced bread, is caused by the breakdown of organic materials. There are several different ways to do this from just piling stuff up and waiting for it to break down, to turning or tumbling your materials to get the process moving along faster. Compost is often confused with having the same purpose as fertilizer. Not so. Fertilizer will feed your plants, properly composted materials will feed your soil.
5 Best Composters
The Most Beautiful Composter in the World, Made in the USA, Food Safe, BPA and Rust Free, No Assembly Required, Envirocycle Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker
Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter, Black
Lifetime 60058 Compost Tumbler, Black, 80-Gallon
EJWOX Composting Tumbler 43 Gallon, Dual Rotating Compost Bin
Greenes Fence RCCOMP36 Cedar Wood Composter, 23.25 Cu ft/173.92 gallons
TOP PICK – Envirocycle 4.5 Composter
These beauties are made in the USA of food safe materials. They are available in a smaller 17 gallon size and a 35 gallon size. They are nice and neat and can be used on a back porch for easy access with kitchen scraps. You simply add your material in the proper ratio and rotate 3 times every 3 days. Once the compost is ready you can take the drum off and roll it to the spot where you will be using the materials. There is absolutely no assembly required.
Materials are food safe, BPA and rust free
Materials are UV and antioxidant protected for longevity
Available in black and pink (for the discerning composter)
Absolutely no assembly. Take the drum out of the box in put it on the base. Period. You can add plugs for the compost tea feature in the base according to your needs.
Easy to turn, just roll the drum with your hands
Opening conveniently sized for a shovel to fit
Only one side, no place for finished product and product in the process
What is compost?
Compost is an end product from the breakdown of decayed organic matter. It is dark and crumbly and should have an “earthy” smell. It acts as a soil conditioner or amendment.
There are many positive attributes to compost, but probably the most important is that it helps keep your plants healthy. It is a natural pesticide for soil and helps to attract beneficial life forms such as earthworms. It also helps your plants to make better use of the nutrients in the soil. Soil moisture is retained better. If you use compost regularly you may find that you are able to cut back on your usage of fertilizer and that would result in a cost savings. An original application should take placed approximately 2 – 4 weeks before planting in the spring. It may be applied again in the fall. Compost will release its nutrients slowly throughout the garden season, so no need to reapply. But, you may want to side dress your plants during their peak growing season.
How do you compost?
No matter what type of system you use there are a few basic rules to follow when composting. You need a proper mix of nutrients. Brown materials will supply the needed carbon for energy for the microbes. Green materials will supply the nitrogen that is necessary for the growth of the microbes. A general rule is 3 parts of brown to 1 part of green.
newspaper or cardboard
hay or straw
kitchen waste (vegetable peelings, etc)
A compost pile will get high temperatures in the center when it is working (up to 150 degrees F). For this reason some will say that it is safe to use meat trimmings and greasy foods. My opinion is to leave this items out of the compost bin. But, that is my personal opinion. I also like to keep diseased plants, weed seeds, etc out of my pile, but again, some will say this is safe due to the high temperatures.
The other things you need for a properly functioning compost pile are adequate aeration and proper moisture. You must either mix or tumble the materials at regular intervals. There is a simple way to troubleshoot your compost if you are having issues – If it is stinky like rotting eggs or a musty smell, add more browns. If your compost isn’t getting hot enough you can add more greens. There are actually thermometers to take the temperature of your compost pile .
A properly maintained system should yield compost in 6 – 8 weeks depending on your method used.
1) Envirocycle 4.5
2) Worm Factory 360
Want compost but don’t want the work associate with turning and maintaining? The worm factory is for you. Let the worms do the work. The tower has a thermo siphon air flow design for the proper mix of oxygen. The worms are breaking down materials all hours of the day and night. There is a spigot to collect compost tea. It has been proven that this type of compost will have 10 times the nutrients of compost created in a traditional manner. Better for your plants, your yard, etc.
Maintain in less than 15 minutes a week
Uses approximately half food scraps and half fiber and paper
Indoors or Outdoors
Made in the USA
Worms not included – don’t forget to buy some
Must be maintained at 4 0 to 80 degrees or your worms will die
Takes about 3 months for first batch of compost
3) Lifetime 60058 Compost Tumbler, Black, 80 Gallon
This is a heavy duty, large capacity tumbling composter that is made to last. With a large 36″ x 36″ door it is easy to tip the barrel into a wheel barrow to move your finished product. The easy to rotate barrel has indentations for both hands for ease of handling.
Heavy Tip Free Stand
Large Tumbler – 80 Gallon Capacit
Double wall panels to maintain heat
Internal bar for mixing and oxygen
Made from HDPE and powder coated steel
Pin to catch tumbler after turning
Only one side
Assembly can be difficult and require more than one person
Requires some drilling during assembly
4) EJWOX Composting Tumbler 43 gallon dual
This 2 sided composter is ideal for having finished product on one side while you are actively making compost on the other side. The sliding doors open easy. It has a powder coated steel frame. With an economical price, what could be better. This tumbler has passed the PAHS (Patan Academy of Health Sciences) and ROHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Test, but has not been tested as BPA free.
The stand is sturdy
easy to slide door
Small door opening
Assembly required – although it should be completed in an hour or so.
5) Greenes Fence RCCOMP36 Cedar Wood Composter, 23.25 Cu ft/173.92 gallons
Well, this is the way we always used to make compost. We had connecting wood “bins” that we turned and moved as it was ready. Except, we had to make the bins ourselves. What a delight to find them premade out of non rotting cedar.
non rotting cedar wood
only need a rubber mallet for assembly
you can vary the number of boards in the front of the bin to allow for easier access
expandable to a 2 or 3 bin system
May be tight to put together
Does not slide easily once together
Some of the edges could be sanded down smoother
No matter what method you use, you should start composting your kitchen and yard scraps for the health of your plants, our planet and yourself.