Sunday, July 5, 2009

I apologize for any inconvenience but keeping up with 4 blogs has become too much for one person so as of now will be combining the 4 into one. For the latest posts and garden tips please visit
Faith's Blog or ByFaithOnly's Garden Site

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Growing Gourds Are You Out of Your Gourd?

by Faith Wright-Draper aka "byfaithonly"

We all know that means you are crazy or at least acting the part but gourds are actually getting a bad rap from that old saying, “Are you out of your gourd?” Yes, there are some gourds that look a bit strange, even somewhat crazy, but gourds can put on a spectacular display in a garden and create some very functional fruit. Gourds can be used as decorations, birdhouses and birdfeeders, dippers, containers and much more.

If you are considering growing gourds in your garden there are a few things you will want to consider as well as some simple tips to make your gourd growing experience a good one.

The first tip could well be the most important. You need to consider space. Gourds grow nicely on fences and trellises or they can spread across an open area on the ground. No matter which they are going to cover a lot of area. Gourds grow on trailing vines that can spread as much as 50 feet or more. If you have a small space to plant you may need to trim back these vines as the season goes on.

The next tip would be to choose what type of gourd you would like to grow. There are dozens of types of gourds from bushel sized gourds to small colorful gourds just a few inches long. There are many websites online where you can browse the different possibilities. Just looking at the picture may help you decide which kind of gourd you would like to grow. You may want to plant more than one variety.

Once you have selected your gourds and gotten your seeds either from a local garden shop or ordered online you will need to decide when you are going to start growing your gourds. You will need to consider the growing time for the gourd as well as your growing season. Most gourds take between 110 and 135 days for germination to maturity. If you live in the north where there is a shorter growing period you will need to start your seeds indoors.

To get your gourds off to a quick start you can start the germination process faster by placing the seeds on a moist towel such as paper towel. Place this inside a clear plastic bag and place it in a warm spot – the seeds need warmth to start germination. You can purchase special seed starter kits for this or you can place the plastic bag with seeds on top of your computer monitor (providing it’s on all the time). You don’t want to cook your seeds though just keep them warm.

You will need to check your seeds every few days making sure they are moist. Once you see roots start to poke out of the seeds you will need to plant them in soil. If you have a long growing period as long as there is no danger of frost you can put them right outside where they will grow to maturity. If not then you will need to place them in pots to start growing until it’s safe to put them outside.

After your gourds are in the ground you will want to check them regularly for any signs of disease or pests and remove any problems you may find. You will also need to make sure the gourds don’t get too dry. If you are planting in good rich composted soil you shouldn’t need to water too often but if the weather is extremely hot and dry you will want to water ever few days. Watering in the early morning at the base of the plant is best to avoid getting water on the leaves which can cause problems such as leaf mold or sun burn.

In the fall if you want to use your gourds for crafts or decoration then it’s best to leave them on the vines until the first frost which kills off the leaves. After that you will need to remove the dead vines and discard them making room for next year’s crop. The gourds can be washed and dried to use as you desire. You can find many suggestions and tips on using your gourds.

Beautiful plants and a harvest of gourds growing gourds can be a very rewarding experience and really not as difficult as some would have you believe.

Faith Wright-Draper (aka byfaithonly) has been writing for over 40 years as a journalist, ghostwriting, and freelancing. She currently writes for several blogs, freelances, and on her own website

Previously published on Associated Content Are You Out of Your Gourd?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dish Soap Fights Ants

This tip comes from a friend of mine on myLot (a social network I'm active on). Thank you ThinkingOutLoud I truely appreciate your help and the tip you can be sure I will be using it myself.

"I hope you won't mind if I interject but I have a suggestion -- try Sunlight dish soap (yep the one in the yellow bottle that has been around "forever").

My mom was an avid gardener and had a huge flower garden that became a bit of a sensation in her neighborhood. She was so proud of it and rightfully so. She taught me to use Sunlight for a few things -- put a good quantity in a sprayer and add warm water (I've seen recommendations to add a bit of oil to this mix but I never do that). Spray this on flowers, plants, bushes, she even used it on her hedges against pests. Worked beautifully.

I also use it very successfully in a small watering can to combat ants on my patio. I make up the mix and pour it into all the crevices between my patio stones. Takes care of the ants and ant hills for usually about two weeks max. No matter what you use it for, you obviously have to repeat the process regularly but it's really affordable (much cheaper than a lot of the commercial products I used to try) ... just a small investment in time.

We have a pesticide ban in my town so we have to find our own solutions. I'm not sure why Sunlight works... as I've mentioned in other discussions here, maybe citrus content? Not sure - but I rely on it:)"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Grow Pumpkins by Faith Wright-Draper aka "byfaithonly"

If you have never grown pumpkin before it is an experience like none other. It’s not recommended that you attempt growing pumpkins if the only garden space you have is a small patio or deck area. Yes, pumpkin can grow in pots or containers but the vines will take over your outdoor space fast if space is limited.

Your average run of the mill pumpkin plant will send out anywhere from 1 to 10 runners off one plant. These runners or vines can grow in length to as much as 50 or more feet. The vines themselves also send off sprouts that will twist and wrap around other plants or whatever they can reach and also root themselves in any soil they find.

On top of the vines you will find leaves developing that range in size from that of an average adult hand to 3 feet across. Yes, one leaf and each vine will be covered with leaves so thick that it may take some doing to find the pumpkins themselves. You will however be able to judge approximately where your pumpkins will be as large orange to yellow blooms will open before the fruit develops.

If you do have an open space where you would like to grow a few or a bunch of pumpkins it can be a very rewarding experience. Pumpkins come in a wide range of varieties offering the grower different sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest pumpkins being about the size of a soft ball to the largest being over 1000 pounds. Pumpkin colors are normally white, yellow, or the traditional deep orange.

Pumpkins grow well in most average soil and don’t require a lot of care once the plants are started. If you live in an area where there is a short growing season you may want to start seeds indoors but be warned if doing this don’t start them too early or you will need to repot several times before they can go outside and you may end up with pumpkins too early in the season to enjoy for Thanksgiving or Halloween.

Normally you can plant seeds outside after the danger of frost has passed. By placing a mini-greenhouse (a plastic jug such as a milk or juice carton with the bottom cut out) over your seeds you will accomplish several things. First it helps to remind you where you planted the seeds. Second it helps keep the ground warm at night. And, lastly it helps to hold moisture in helping the seeds to germinate faster and the seedlings to get off to a good start.

Once the seedlings pop up through the soil you can place mulch around the plant. This helps keep down weeds as well as hold moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often. In average soil pumpkins only require watering about once a week. If they do need watering they will let you know though as the leaves will start to wilt. Don’t panic though, just give them a good watering and the leaves will pop right back.

As the season progresses you will want to keep an eye on the pumpkin vines. As stated earlier they do tend to be invasive and it’s much easier to move them back where you want them early on rather than waiting until they have attached themselves to your favorite rose bush or garden hoe left in the garden. Just gently pick them up and direct them where you want them. You will want to wear garden gloves or some protection though as most pumpkin vines are prickly and although they don’t cause harm can be uncomfortable to the touch.

As your pumpkins start to grow you may want to also adjust the fruit themselves. The pumpkin will grow however they feel but by setting them up on end early they develop in much more uniformed shapes. Ones left on their side may develop flat spots or upside down ones may break the stem away from the vine and rot before they are mature.

You will know when your pumpkins are finished growing when the vines die off. First the leaves will wither and die then the vines. The stems connected to the pumpkin fruit will be the last to die. Once this happens simply cut the pumpkin stem 5-6 inches from the fruit and remove it from the garden.

Your pumpkins are now ready to cut and cook for pumpkin pie, carve as Jack-o-Lanterns, or set on your door step as autumn decorations.

Faith Wright-Draper (aka byfaithonly) has been writing for over 40 years as a journalist, ghostwriting, and freelancing. She currently writes for several blogs, freelances, and on her own website

Previously published on Associated Content
A Beginner's Guide to Growing Pumpkins

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Gardening: Don't spray those mushrooms, remove them by hand : Home Life : Broomfield Enterprise

Found this great article on muchrooms in the garden and dealing with them - highly recommend reading when you have a minute.

Gardening: Don't spray those mushrooms, remove them by hand : Home Life : Broomfield Enterprise

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Friday, June 12, 2009

What are Aphids and what do I do with them?

The dictionary describes aphids as "Any of various small, soft-bodied insects of the family Aphididae that have mouthparts specially adapted for piercing and feed by sucking sap from plants. Also called plant louse."

I describe aphids as life sucking itsy bitsy insects that can destroy a garden or plant in a short time. If you all of a sudden notice your normal green leaves turning yellow for no reason chances are you have aphids and had better get rid of the fast or you won't have a garden for long. And don't even think this is one of those garden pests you can pick a couple offenders off the plants and you'll be fine. They are hard to see and come in grooves - where there is one there will be hundreds.

I've found 3 methods for ridding your garden of aphids. One I have used for years and it works but with the big 'go green' movement I am going to try the other two this year.

#1 - Spraying the infected plants with dish soap to rid yourself of aphids. Yep you heard me right and I've learned that the least expensive soap will work just as well as the expensive brands so save your money. If only one or two plants are infected you can use a hand spray bottle. Simply fill it with water, add a few drops of dish soap, and spray the aphid infected plants. Aphids don't like the soap and although I'm not sure if it kills them or causes them to move to your neighbor's garden they are no longer in my garden.

#2 - Tomato leaf spray! I'm using this one as long as I have tomato leaves available. You'll need 1 or 2 cups of tomato leaves, water, cheesecloth or strainer (piece of old pantyhose will work doubled over), and a sprayer. To make your aphid spray first chop the leaves up and let them soak in two cups of water for a day. Strain out the leaves, then add a couple more cups of water and fill your sprayer.

#2 - Basically the same as above but garlic oil instead of the tomato leaves and you need mineral oil and still use dish soap. For this you soak the garlic for 24 hours in the mineral oil, strain, add water and soap, and spray the plants. Caution though do a test on your garden plant first as it says this spray can damage some plants. Spray just a leaf or two, wait a couple days and make sure those are ok before spraying a whole plant.

A word of advice though no matter which method you use when spraying make sure you spray the underside of the plant leaves because this is where aphids like to hide and do their damage from below.

Photo above included in ByFaithOnly's Gallery at Shareapic if you would like to earn money by sharing your photos with others CLICK HERE.

Although I've used the soap method for getting rid of aphids for years it was a fellow myLotter who reminded me of it thank you Snowy22315

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm Gardening and My back is Killing me!

I'm Gardening and My back is Killing me!

How many times have we gardeners said this 'my back is killing me'? All too often if using the traditional gardening method of digging up the dirt, putting out the plants or seeds, weeding through-out the year, then harvesting.

Today’s gardening tip won't solve all of these problems but it can help with one - planting seeds. If you plant from seed over any size of an area you know how back killing this gardening task can be. How about making your very own seed planter?

All you need is a section of PVC pipe, 1/2 inch works great. This can be purchased at your local hardware or lumber store very inexpensively if you don't have some lying around and it will last for years and years to come.

You will want the pipe to be long enough so you can comfortably hold it without bending. To get the proper length just put your elbow at your side and reach your hand out as if to shake hands - that is where you will want to hold the pipe. Measure from your hand to the ground and add 4-6 inches.

Now as you walk down your garden row simply place the bottom of the pipe where you want your seed, drop one or two seeds down the pipe and then use the end of the pipe to cover the seed with soil. Tah Dah! You’re now planting seeds without breaking your back. You can add a fancy handle by using a pipe tee or a funnel to the top but they are not at all necessary and personally are just added weight that is not needed.

Photo above included in ByFaithOnly's Gallery at Shareapic if you would like to earn money by sharing your photos with others CLICK HERE.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What to do with a Steep hill? Plant using Pantyhose

I've never tried this tip but read it some place and now wish I had a steep or rocky area I could test it out on. The biggest problem with these areas is keeping the soil on the area so plants can grow. How you solve this is by using old pantyhose (I always have those ones with runs that just can't be worn any more.

All you need are the legs of the pantyhose. Cut these off and fill the legs with your favorite mixture of soil. I would suggest what I use for plant pots a combination of topsoil, compost, and vermiculite (this helps hold moisture). To fill the pantyhose you can make a funnel from a coffee can with the bottom cut out - of course use the coffee first. Just slip the open end of the pantyhose over one end and start filling with soil then tie the end closed.

You now have a five or six foot 'tube' just lay it out where you want to plant, cut small holes where you want to place your plants and watch your slope come alive. If your working on a really steep slope you can make 'stacks' out of old coat hanger - make a 'U' from the hanger and poke it through the pantyhose tube and into the ground.

As I said I haven't personally tried this so would love to hear from any readers who have done this as to how it worked for you.

Photo above included in ByFaithOnly's Gallery at Shareapic if you would like to earn money by sharing your photos with others CLICK HERE.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What did I plant there?

How many times have we planted our seeds in the early spring and a week later forgotten what we planted where? This has been a common practice of mine. I've tried sticking the seed packet near the row or section I planted but with spring comes rain and those packets seldom survive the dirt, rain, and sun.

One think that works fairly well is collecting the plastic card holders that come with flower arrangements just insert the seed packet where the card would normally go and stick it in the ground by your newly planted seeds. If you don't get a lot of flowers sent to you ask your friends or family to save theirs for you. Another option is talk to your local florist and see if you could purchase a dozen card holders from them - most will be will to sell them to you for a couple dollars a dozen.

Another option I've used for some time involves 'Ziploc bags' I am convinced there is a never ending list of uses for Ziplocs (I learned this from my Mom). The sandwich or snack sizes work great just pop your seed packet in a bag, zip it, and place it beside your seed row. You do want to make sure you don't lay it on top of seeds you planted though and I like to add a small rock to the back before closing - this keeps the wind from blowing the bag and packet away.

A third method that works wonderfully for marking your seeds is pop-cicle sticks. Of course first you'll want to eat the pop-cicle but once that done wash the wooden stick, using a permanent marker label such as 'carrots', 'lettuce', or 'radishes' and stick it in the ground. These last for several seasons and are simple to store in the winter - I just collect them in the fall, wash and dry, then place in a zip-lock bag to store with my gardening tools.

Photo above included in ByFaithOnly's Gallery at Shareapic if you would like to earn money by sharing your photos with others CLICK HERE.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Monday, June 8, 2009

Square Foot Gardening

I was first introduced to 'Square Foot Gardening' growing method around 25 years ago through a gardening television show. I ordered the book offered at the end of the show and have it to this day although I haven't needed to refer to it in many years. This concept works as good today as it did back then and can be modified for all sizes of gardens.

The very basic idea is that just about any garden variety vegetable can grow in a 'square foot' of space. This works whether you have an acre garden plot or a couple planters on your high rise apartment patio. If you have a square foot of earth you can grow a tomato plant, any variety of pepper plant, or even your own fresh watermelon.

The "Square Foot Gardening" book recommends 4 X 8 foot raised beds which when measured out can accommodate 16 plants. Taller growing plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans must be provided a trellis to grow upwards and should be planted at the 'back' of the bed - furthest from the sun so as not to block sun from the shorter plants. Next would come peppers, eggplants, or bush beans and in the front vegetables such as carrots, celery, leaf lettuce, and radishes.

Remember though we are talking square foot so the smaller plants mentioned you will plant according to the seed package directions so you can plant a bunch of carrots in one foot - not just one carrot. Also remember when the smaller crops are harvested you can mix a little fertilizer in that square and plant another crop in that space.

While you can grow a beautiful cherry tomato plant in a 12 inch pot I recommend a 14-16 in one just to give that plant a more solid base because it will get big as long as you feed and water regularly. So if you are concerned about what you are eating and want fresh, safe produce you can grow your own no matter where you live. And as this is my favorite form of garden planning I will discuss this more in later posts but for now - happy planting.

Photo above included in ByFaithOnly's Gallery at Shareapic if you would like to earn money by sharing your photos with others CLICK HERE.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Make Your Own Seed Strips and Save Time Planting

Here’s a great gardening time saver tip. One of the most tedious tasks of gardening for me is planting seeds in the spring – I’m all for just throwing them out there and seeing what comes up. I tried that one year at the back of the garden and it didn’t work. I couldn’t figure out what was ‘plants’ and what was weeds.
To save time planting seeds take advantage of the winter months when you can’t be out in the garden. Make seed strips… It’s really easy to do, costs next to nothing, and is much nicer than the back breaking task of bending over planting seeds.

All you do is cut newspaper into one inch wide strips. Next mix up a concoction of water and flour (you can add a little water soluble fertilizer if you’d like). The mixture should be about the consistency of pancake mix.

Now the fun starts. You can do this at the kitchen table or on a counter but be forewarned you won’t be using the table for at least a few hours. Great excuse to go out to dinner! Place the newspaper strip on a flat surface and using a ruler or yardstick place your seeds on the paper at the proper spacing. I like to do one strip at a time and slide it back when finished making room for the next strip.

With the seeds in place you’re now going to glue the seeds to the newspaper. Yes you read that right. Using your flour mixture put a small drop on each seed. An eye dropper works great but you can let it drip off a spoon if you don’t have a dropper. Cover the seeds but you don’t want to use any more ‘glue’ than needed.

Once your seeds are glued to the paper leave them alone and let the glue dry. Suggest you go out to eat or watch a couple movies – DO NOT set and watch the glue dry. When the strips are completely dry you can roll them up and place them in plastic bags until spring.

Then, when you’re ready to plant just take your bags to the garden, roll out the seed strips, cover with soil as needed, and wait for them to grow. As the newspaper gets wet it will rot and can be worked into the soil at the end of the garden season.

Special Note: Make sure the strips are completely dry before putting in plastic – I didn’t one year and they got all moldy.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Use Cat Litter to Mark Your Spot

Am I the only one who’s done this: I was always planting bulbs and then the next year would forget where I had planted them – or that I had even planted the bulbs? I can’t remember where I read or heard this but it works.

When you plant bulbs such as tulips, crocus, or lilies sprinkle a little clean clay cat litter over the spot after you’ve finished planting. That way when you are digging around in the garden or flower bed when you spot kitty litter you know there are bulbs there and to dig around that spot.

Special Note: Especially helpful if you are planting in a location with poor drainage go ahead and some of the litter in hole under your bulbs this helps with drainage problems and your bulbs won’t rot.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Monday, June 1, 2009

Garden Tip - Protecting Young Plants

I’m going to kick this off with one of my favorite garden tips. This tip is particularly helpful for those of us who live in the northern climate concerned about the ‘late frosts’. When putting out new plants or seeds protect them with ‘mini-greenhouses.

My personal favorites are Sunny D plastic jugs but you can use plastic milk jugs, or any other plastic container that isn’t colored. If you can see whatever it is it originally held then it will work.

Cut the bottoms off the jugs or bottles (I like to clean them first so the ‘stuff’ doesn’t dribble on me as I’m cutting. If you cut as close to the bottom as possible you can continue to use your ‘greenhouse’ as the plant grows.

Now all you have to do is plant what ever it is your going to grow as usual and then place a ‘greenhouse’ over it. The greenhouse will protect the new plant from frosts, helps to hold moisture on the plant, and will help deter critters from getting to the young garden plants.

Depending on how large a garden you have you may want to start saving your containers through the winter or get your friends and family to donate theirs when garden planting time nears.

Special Note: Last year I did a test and plants under Sunny D bottles grew twice as fast as ones under plastic milk jugs. All I can figure is the type of plastic used lets in more sunlight or the thicker plastic keeps the temperature more uniform from day to night.

ByFaithOnly's Garden

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting ByFaithOnly's Garden Started

Wow this blog certainly does look 'empty'. Well, it won't be for long. The plans are to share tips on gardening, pros and cons, and anything that comes up related to the garden and gardening.

If you would like to contribute to this blog please feel free to contact me by comment here for now.

Over on ByFaithOnly's Garden Home in the meantime there are several Garden Articles on the ByFaithOnly's Garden home page.