Storing Your Garden Tools

Organizing Your Tools Makes Gardening Easier

Nothing bothers me more than to have a job to do in the garden and having to search high an low for the tool that I need to get the job done. I walk around scratching my head and wondering where I put that rake or my pruners. “It is in the garage somewhere,” I think to myself but where! So, the other day I said to my husband, “We need a better system to store our garden tools!”

Well, I found the solution for us and I thought you might like this idea, too. Goodness gracious, me oh my, I think I’ve hit the jackpot with this find!

I can store up to 40 tools in one place and it won’t take up much room in the garage, either. It is only about 3 feet long by 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide. It has casters that I can roll it around easily to a new spot if I need to and it is made of resin so it is not going to rust. Being able to pull it out easily to sweep the floor is an added bonus to me. You know how the garage just seems to accumulate dust and leaves and stuff so being able to roll it out of the way to sweep and then roll it back sounds wonderful to this gardener.

Rubbermaid 5E28 Deluxe Tool Tower Rack with Casters, Holds 40 Tools

I love the way the long handled tools like my shovels, brooms and rakes snap into a fitting in the side so that there is no trying to pull the tool up high enough to get it out! I also love that the bottom is grooved so that things like my snow shovel are not going to slip and slide around when I move the cart. Shoot, there is even an area for the weed eater that has a place to keep the cord out of the way.

No more wondering where my garden tools are, I will be able to go to the space and pick my tools. It won’t be difficult to put the tools away either, just go to my handy dandy tool tower and voila I’m done.

Five Great Recipes From The Garden

Better Green Beans

Tired of plain old green beans? You can add just a few ingredients to liven those up and your family will love them. I found this great recipe at Midwest Living and wanted to share it with you. Green Beans with bacon and onions is a recipe that takes around 30 minutes to make and I think your family will love the results. Those picky little nibblers won’t fight you about eating their veggies with this on their plates.

With only five ingredients, it is easy to prepare and will look great plated with whatever else you decide to serve to your family or guests.
Image Credit: From recipe page of  Midwest Living

Refrigerator Pickles

Make your own pickles with this recipe from Taste of Home. Refrigerator Garden Pickles that you don’t have to pull out the canning tools to do.

If you love tangy pickles, you are going to love making these from your garden or the produce you purchased at the local farmers market! It will take you about 20 minutes to prep every thing and then about 15 minutes to cook. Add the chilling time and you are ready to serve your family a great tasting treat!

Got Extra Tomatoes?

If you are like me, you always grow more tomatoes than you can possibly eat. Well, I give it a good old fashioned try but I am always looking for ways to use up those tomatoes. I love this recipe from Country Living for Sauteed Pork and Tomatoes. A hearty meal that can use not only the tomatoes from your garden but also those shell beans and green beans you grew.

Did you grow beets?

I hear people say that they don’t care for beets and I usually say, “I’ll bet you never tried fresh beets!”. I didn’t much care for them when I was a kid, either. My Mom bought them in a can and they were, well, awful! Once, I tasted fresh beets from a garden, my mouth changed it’s tune. I love ’em! Try this recipe from The Gardeners Network and I’ll bet you will change your mind on this colorful veggie! Beets ‘n Pineapple

Another recipe for tomatoes

My all time favorite lunch is tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. YUM! Guess what, you do not have to have that soup from a can with a red and white label! Nope, you can make your own homemade tomato soup and once you do… you will never eat canned tomato soup again! It is pretty easy and so tasty you won’t believe it! Try this one from : Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

So there you have it, five recipes that you can make from the produce you grew in your own garden. Didn’t have a garden? No problem! Get these ingredients fresh from a local farmers market or grocery store.

Clematis Offers A Variety Of Vines

Clematis: A Flowering Vine

One of my all time favorite flowering vines is the clematis. They just add a lovely color to any garden area that will take your breath away when they are in full bloom. What I did not realize is that there are a variety of colors and shapes to this lovely flower that will bloom at different seasons of the year.

Some varieties of the popular flowering vine will bloom in the early spring while many bloom in the summer months and still others offer color in the fall garden.

Blooms Begin In The Spring

A very pretty variety of clematis that begins to bloom in the spring and continues through to the fall is the Dr. Ruppel. Large 8 inch flowers in deep rose pink with a center of carmine red make this a lovely choice for an area in full sun. It will grow in zones 4 through 8 which makes it good for Indiana landscapes. It likes moist soil and will grow as tall as 8 feet under the right conditions. You can train it to grow on a trellis or any sturdy area that will support the vine.

Compact Size Clematis Blooms All Summer

I love the Bourbon Clematis for areas that need a more compact vine like around a mailbox. It grows to about 6 feet and offers the most gorgeous red wine blooms. This variety works well in a large pot on the patio as well, you just need to give it some kind of support structure for it to vine around that can hold the weight of the plant when it is full of blooms. It grows with a moderate amount of moisture in zones 4-9 in full to partial sun.

Late Summer And Fall Blooms

What a pretty little clematis the Sweet Autumn is! The first time that I saw one, I did not recognize that it was even a clematis. The flowers are not as broad as most clematis but don’t let that scare you because these showy little flowers that bloom in late summer and into fall are worth the effort. We don’t see many of these here in Indiana because we are about as north as you can grow to grow them successfully. Zones 5 through 10 works well with this citrus fragrant beauty.

Trellis Or No Trellis?

That is a matter of taste with most clematis vines. All work well on a trellis but you do not have to limit yourself to one. If a surface has something for the vines to climb around or attach to, most will grow on just about anything. Stone walls, standing mailboxes, fences, and the smaller varieties can be staked in a large pot and grow on the porch or patio. The lower growing varieties work best in the pots.

Be sure to read the directions for whatever variety of clematis you plan to use in your garden area. Most prefer full sun but some will tolerate partial and even some shade. The different species also have different watering needs. Some like moist soil, some moderate and some want well drained soil for their growing needs.

Also, make sure you understand the best time of the year for pruning your clematis. The best time to prune is dictated by when the plant blooms. Pruning is a necessity for any clematis as the blooms are formed on new growth. So, if you flowering vine is a spring bloomer, you can prune it after the blooms have stopped and give the plant plenty of time for new growth for pretty blooms the next season. That is the basic formula, after it is finished blooming for the year, prune it then for the best results for the next year.

Straw Bale Gardening

A Straw Bale: Garden In A Small Space

What is Straw Bale Gardening?

Well, in a nutshell, it is a different type of container gardening. Instead of a plastic, metal or terra cotta container you use a bale of straw to plant in. There is a bit of conditioning to be done to the straw before you plant but once you have it starting to decompose on the inside you have a wonderful environment to grow your plants. It takes about two weeks to get your straw bale ready, by the way, so you do need to plan a little ahead.

As I have begun to age, it is harder and harder for me to bend over to turn soil for planting and to be stooped over trying to pull weeds. Using the straw bale method, all of that is a thing of the past. Weeds do not grow in the straw and there is no soil to break up.

This system is perfect for people who want a garden but have a minimal space to garden in. A bale of straw can be placed on a balcony, patio or along the building. You will need to make sure that the straw bale is placed in the right place for the sun requirements for the plants you intend to grow but other than that, you don’t have to worry about it taking up a lot of room.

You do not have to live in a specific climate for this system of gardening to work, either. As long as you have sunlight and water, even the novice at gardening can succeed with the straw bale gardening.

Consider A Rose Groundcover

Groundcovers Do Not Have To Be Just Green

There are so many types of groundcovers available to plant in our landscaping. Many come in different shades of green and some will produce a flower but none will look as striking as a rose groundcover!

Did you even know that there is such an option for your landscape? Well, there are some options for a rose groundcover that will work here in Indiana. From my research it looks like we might be at the northern most acceptable climate for these lovely groundcovers.

The sweet little apricot variety shown above grows from 1 to 2 feet tall and will spread about the same in width. Plant it in full to partial sun in an area where you need some fill but do not want a tall plant. The variety of rose groundcover like the Apricot Drift is disease resistant and likes a soil that drains well.

Once established your rose groundcover will start to bloom in the spring and provide lovely color throughout the summer months. You will even get a slight fragrance from these little beauties!

The blooms are what I would consider on the frilly side when fully bloomed out. I think the little roses would look lovely in a small little rose bowl when you cut them. Don’t you?

I didn’t find a huge variety of color when it comes to a rose groundcover. Pale apricot, peach, pink and a pale red was what I found. But, honestly any of those colors are going to look striking as a cover for the ground!

My concern would be our cold winters here in Indiana. I know in the past when I had regular roses I needed to cover them during the winter. I’m not sure how one would go about covering an area with ground cover that would be protective enough during the cold and snowy months that we get here.

Still, I think I would love to give this a try in the front yard where people could see it from the street. Perhaps my local landscape shop could advise me on what to do for winter months.

Accenting Your Easter Bouquet with Dark-Hued Flowers

When it comes to making beautiful floral arrangements and centerpieces for Easter, most people think of white flowers, or perhaps an assortment of pastel colors. Few people realize that you can make a truly stunning floral arrangement by incorporating black flowers or dark-hued flowers into the mix.

Black flowers are not actually black, but rather very deep, dark shades of reds, burgundies, or purples. These dark colors can be added to a floral bouquet with white or other light colored flowers to add a dramatic accent to the piece. The use of black flowers within the arrangement will help to create a piece that is truly unique looking that will add a festive touch to your home decor or holiday table.

Featured: Deep Purple Queen of Night Chilled Tulips

Color Symbolism

When it comes to choosing colors for an Easter floral arrangement, it is important to keep in mind that there is a lot of symbolism behind the colors that are commonly chosen for Easter bouquets. White flowers typically represent the resurrection, passion, and rejuvenation. Good flower choices in white include Easter lilies, daisies, tulips, and Azaleas. The color red represents life and being victorious over death. By keeping this symbolism in mind, you can come up with some beautiful white flowers and add some dark-hued flowers in rich red tones to create a striking combination. One of the “black flowers” known as the Black Star Calla Lily, is a very dark shade of red, which would look perfect among white Easter Lilies.

Black Star Calla Lily

The color green symbolizes hope, while purple stands for spirituality. Consider adding some Queen of the Night Tulips to an Easter floral arrangement, for a dramatic touch of greenery and deep purple color. Orange and yellow flowers symbolize wisdom, light, and happiness. With these colors in mind, maybe add some Black Dahlia flowers with their dark-hued purple color to a mix of sunny yellow tulips, white Easter Lilies, and greenery.

Tastefully Using Accent Flowers

When creating Easter floral arrangements using black flowers, remember to use them sparingly. This will create a much more dramatic effect, while still keeping your bouquet looking festive. For example, if you are wanting to use a red flower, consider something like the above mentioned Queen of the Night Tulip or the Black Star Calla Lily instead of the usual “red” color most people would think of. Mixing one or two varieties of black flowers into the arrangement here and there among the lighter colors will really add a dramatic flare and draw attention to the bouquet. Be sure to include any combination of white, yellow, purple, orange, and red flowers, along with greenery. Pick the dark-hued flowers as a companion to or replacement for lighter shades of the red and purple flowers that are typically used for Easter arrangements.

Possible Flower Combinations

Imagine a bouquet with white, yellow, red, and purple tulips, with the addition of a dark red Queen of the Night Tulip. Or, picture an attractive centerpiece using bright yellow Lilies, white Easter Lilies, greenery, and the dramatic Black Star Calla Lily. Try adding some dramatic flare to your Easter floral creations this year and see what beautiful and striking combinations you can come up with.

What To Do With Clay Soil

I recently had a reader ask what to do with clay soil in her garden and I promised I would write about it for her and the rest of the gardeners in Indiana.

You might wonder if you have clay soil or not and I can just about guarantee you that you do unless you were lucky enough to have purchased a home where the previous owner amended the soil for you. I’ve had several homes in this wonderful State and every one of them had heavy clay soil. Trust me, when you want pretty flowers and luscious vegetables they are not going to work well in clay soil.

How do I know if my soil has clay content?

You could have it tested but you can determine it for yourself, too. Dig a hole. If you can take that soil and form a ball with it…it has clay. Another hint would be when you dig or till the soil sticks to your shoes or boots and your spade or shovel. Although clay is wonderful for pots to be made from it is not so great for most plants to grow in. Why is that? The clay content in soil is dense and hard for the small roots of most plants to grow through. It also hold moisture really well and that is not always such a good thing. It can cause some plants to actually rot from too much moisture.

Breaking Down The Clay

So, what do you do? Can anything be done? Yes, it is going to take some work but you can get your soil in a condition to grow things and in the very first season, too. Let me just say something first, if you have read or been given advice on treating one hole at a time; do not take that advice. In essence what you do with that method is you create an outdoor clay pot. If you only treat the soil where you are growing one plant the plant will do nicely for a while. The surrounding clay will cause it to eventually start to curl around in the good soil because it can not penetrate the clay. You virtually get the same thing as a potted plant that become root bound. So, just don’t do it.

Instead do an entire area at once. You can dig it by hand or use a tiller. Personally, although back braking, I like the good old fashioned shovel in hand method. For really large areas the tiller works but I don’t think as well as concentrating on an area with the shovel. You get a better mixture with less big clumps of clay to work with.

If you are going to be working in an existing bed, you will need to remove the plants that you want to keep before you start working the soil. Don’t worry, you will get to re-plant them when you are done. You are going to want to add about 6 to 8 inches of organic matter to your area. Break up the clay soil with your shovel and then add the organic matter. It can be just about anything you can find. Grass clippings (not treated with any chemicals), compost, or shredded leaves work very well. You will want to spread the organic matter over the soil and then start to work it in so that you have about 6 to 12 inches of the mixture of old clay soil with the new material you have spread around. The area will be a little taller than when you started but it will settle over time.

I like to work the soil, wet it and let it sit for a day or two. Then I go out and mix it up one more time. After that, my old and new plants can be planted. I also add another mixture a couple of times throughout the growing season; about mid-way and towards the end of the season. After a couple of years of doing this, the clay won’t be much of a problem anymore.

Clay soil that has not been helped along has a tendency to be on the alkaline side so adding some acid to the soil will also be beneficial in most cases. Unless I have true acid loving plants to treat the soil with, I typically apply the acidic food at half the strength. It is hard work in the beginning but you will never regret putting in the effort because your flowers and vegetables will grow better and produce more.

What To Do In March

Most of the time in the month of March we will have some days that are warm enough that we can begin to work a little in our gardens. It has not been that way this March to work on our “to do list” but there have been a few days that we could go out and play in the dirt.

March is a great time to do some clean up in the beds whether they are our flower beds or the vegetable beds. Start to rake out those dead leaves that fell last fall and generally clean up the area. It is also a great time to be making final plans for just what new things you will plant and where they will go.

As I write this to do list for March it is snowing and is just too darn cold to be out there working the soil. If it were warmer, I could in theory be planting some new perennials but they would need to be the hardiest ones available. Although the guys over at GardenEaze will tell us that we can begin to plant the seedlings that we grew indoors over the winter, I don’t necessarily agree with them. The premise is that if there is a chance of frost we must go out and cover them so that they don’t get their little feet burned with the evils of Mr. Frost. I’m sorry, that is a lot of work and it has been my experience that those plants that I have tried to put out in March just never do well, if they survive at all.

Even though the calendar tells us that it is officially Spring, here in my neck of the woods it is still cold and will be for a while. Oh sure, we actually had some days that got up to around 60 degrees but our weather is not going to sustain those kind of temps on a regular basis.

It is a good month to add some fertilizer to our old beds. You want a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of garden area. That would work out to be around 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer to a 10 square foot area (10 feet by 10 feet). Have any 1 pound coffee cans sitting around with nothing to do? Take one of those to help you measure. The can will hold 2 pounds of fertilizer.

March is a good time to get out there and cut back the plants from last fall. You know those sorry dead looking stalks that we didn’t get to before the snow started to fall. Cut them back now before they start to grow again. Not only will the area look better but the plants won’t be trying to “heal” the dead stuff and will use their energy to help the new shoots to grow.

Books will also tell you that this is the month to pull back the mulch that you put down to protect the plants over the winter. You can do that, but a word of caution. Don’t take it too far away, you will probably need to put it back if the weather turns nasty. If you have lived in Indiana for any length of time at all, you know it will still get nasty with cold for another month or so. Personally, I leave the mulch right where it is until the chances of frost are just about gone.

From my own experience in gardening here in the great state of Indiana, March is still a planning month for the most part. It is an exercise in patience for me because I want so badly to get out there and get my hands dirty but I hold myself back. I’ll do clean up but I do not set any plants out yet. I’ll fertilize but that is about the extent of my gardening in March.

Lily of the Valley The Birthday Plant For May

Sweet little bell shaped flowers with a pleasant fragrance, the Lily of the Valley is the birthday flower for the month of May. This little flower is associated with humility, pureness of heart, happiness, and sweetness. One legend of the Lily Of The Valley is that it was formed from the tears of Eve as she was banned from the Garden of Eden.

May’s Perennial Plant

The Lily of the Valley is a perennial plant that grows best in the shaded area of the garden. The plant multiplies through rhizomes underground. A hardy plant flowering in late spring. Favored for it’s sweet fragrance, it is often used as a ground cover in the shady areas of garden. All parts of the Lily of the Valley are considered to be poisonous. However, it has been used in medicines and herbal remedies for heart and epilepsy.

How To Plant A Lily Of The Valley Plant

Here is a nice video that show you how to plant the lily of the valley in your garden.

When I was a young girl, my Grandmother had Lily of the Valley growing on the north side of her house. The sweet little white bell shaped flowers were planted in front of large ferns and had a dramatic effect. It is funny how over 50 years later I can still conjure up that picture in my mind of the flowers in May at my Grandmother’s house.

In a Christian legend it is stated that the tears of Mary turned into lilies of the valley at the crucifixion of her son Jesus. Sometimes these little flowers are called Mary’s Tears.

Traditional Plants In White

At first glance it looks like the traditional plant with the sweet little white bells but what makes this option different is that the bells are actually doubles. They are fragrant and just lovely in any garden! You get three plants in one pot to start a lovely display in any shady area of your flower beds.

Lily of the Valley plants are believed to ward off evil spirits from the garden.

I know I get so excited when I start to see the green leaves of this sweet little plant start to sprout up out of the ground each year. The tiny little white bell shaped flowers look striking against that wonderful shade of green of the leaves! I don’t do much with them each year other than let them spread as a ground cover. Oh, occasionally I’ll find that they have started to spread in an area that I would prefer that they not be. That is when I just dig up that little one and put it in an area where it is welcome.

Lily of the Valley from Nature Hills Nursery

Lambs Ears A Nice Perennial For Indiana Gardens

A nice perennial for consideration in an Indiana Garden is the mound style plant known as Lambs Ears. It is one of many Stachys species that originally came from Turkey, Iran and Armenia but has thrived globally for many years. The reason that gardeners refer to it as Lambs Ears is because of the leaves being rather curved and covered with a white fur like covering that is soft. The silvery version can grow in partial shade to full sun and in Indiana you will find that it dies back in the cold months of winter. Don’t worry, it comes back nicely when the weather warms up! It is a slow grower but will spread over the years.

I particularly like this plant for borders and it does bloom in late spring or early summer with spike like flowers that are small and usually white or pink. I also like that even when not in bloom, they provide a nice contrast to some of the taller darker foliage from the plants that I have behind the lambs ears.

I believe that this particular species of Lambs Ears is what most people are familiar with. You might not have even known that it was called by the name but may know it as Stachys which is part of its botanical name.

Lambs Ear – Silver Carpet

This particular species of lambs ear produces some nice rosy lavender flowers on tall spikes in the middle of the summer. Unlike the other types of lambs ear the leaves on this plant are a dark green with a glossy look rather than the silvery foliage that we find with its cousins. If planted in full sun, you can count on this plant to spread over time. It makes a nice plant for rock gardens or borders.

Lambs Ear – Hummelo

I think that you will find that this is a very easy plant to grow. Many times it is a choice that adults give to children to grow in their own gardens because it is so easy to grow. The other reason is that kids love to feel the soft furry leaves. Lambs ear is actually a perennial herb but here in the US, we rarely use it to cook with but choose to just have it adorn places in our flower beds.

Have you ever used Stachys or Lambs Ears in your garden? If not, it is certainly one to consider as you plan your flower beds for the coming seasons. I don’t think that you will be disappointed.