Vegetable Garden Planting Calendar – When to Plant What

Yes, it may be frigid, raining and cold or even snowing outside, but now is the time to begin working on your vegetable garden planting calendar. Even though you may not be able to plant outside yet, all the preparation that you do now will ensure that you have a delicious selection of vegetables for the spring and summer. Many organizations, websites and apps provide tools for free that will ensure that you are successful whether you are interested in a moon or lunar gardening calendar, an organic gardening calendar, an astrological gardening calendar, a bio dynamic gardening calendar or even the tried and true Farmers Almanac gardening calendar. Let’s take a look at some tools that are available to you.

Lunar and Astrological Gardening Calendars

At Rhythm of Nature, you can find both a bio dynamic calendar and a gardening calendar to help you decide when to germinate, propagate, transplant, fertilize, etc. Why would you be interested in gardening by the moon? When you use the correct lunar phase for planting and fertilizing, plants will have increased strength because they are growing optimally. These plants are not prone to set backs that can affect less healthy plants. In addition, you can often harvest earlier with larger more abundant crops that will not go to seed as quickly.

Rhythm of Nature provides an easy to understand, icon-based bio-dynamic calendar and gardener calendar that will guide you through moon gardening. If you would prefer to do your own calculations on when to plant, try Gardening by the Moon for a detailed description of how to determine moon gardening dates for your area. In addition, they have an abundance of research and information on moon or lunar gardening.

The Farmer’s Almanac provides additional information about using lunar phases for gardening as well as access to a moon gardening calendar if you are interested in pursuing this method of gardening.

Organic Gardening Calendars

It is helpful to know generally what to do each season for gardening so that you can pre-plan ahead for each season. Dummies offers a simple and generic seasonal calendar to get you up to speed on what to do year-round. As they recommend, their organic gardening calendar will help you to work with nature as you grow, rather than against it.

Urban Farmers offers planting schedules for each state in an easy to use map that includes states and zones for planting. They provide a wealth of information on all aspects of growing as well a non-GMO seeds and other gardening products.

The National Gardening Association offers calendar information about garden planning with details for your specific area. This organization began in 1971 with a mission to teach people how to garden and to improve their skills. Their organization has the largest social media website dedicated exclusively to gardening. The site contains online tools for gardeners to teach, share and even trade with each other. In addition, the site contains a multitude of research and information for the gardener.

Other Gardening Calendars

Burpee also offers a gardening calendar by zip code that can be printed for your individual use. In addition, they provide first and last frost dates for your area. The calendars are based on location and growing zones and allows you to select calendars for vegetables, herbs, fruits, perennials and flowers. The site contains an enormous amount of other information for the home gardener.

Each extension office provides information and growing calendars for your area. The extension offices have a non-formal educational program provided by each state’s designated land-grant universities. Extension services are implemented in the United States to assist individuals in using research-based knowledge to improve their lives. You can either visit extension offices online or you can visit them in person for details on when to plant what in your location and zone. It is easy to find your local extension agent here by entering your zip code. If you have never taken advantage of the resources available at your local extension office, you are missing an invaluable resource.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that vegetables from the garden taste better than produce you buy in the stores. I cannot imagine anyone who has ever tasted something just picked off the plant disagreeing with this. While it can be more time-consuming to grow your own vegetables, the positive outcome can be well worth it. All the tools mentioned above will help you as you move forward on your gardening journey.

DIY Cold Frames Gardening – How to Have Fresh Produce Almost Year Round

One thing that challenges most gardeners is what to do in cold weather to either start seeds or protect seedlings and plants from freezing. Rather than shut down in the winter months, building an inexpensive cold frame could be a solution. Cold frames gardening will extend your growing season – and who doesn’t want fresh produce on their table in dreary cold weather?

Cold frames are typically unheated. They use solar energy stored within the structure and in the soil during the day to maintain warmer temperatures at night. Generally cold frames have a light-permeable cover like glass, Plexiglas, or greenhouse plastic for the top. The sides can be made of any material that is strong enough to support the cover. Generally cold frames do not have a bottom because they use the soil to maintain heat. If a bottom is built on the cold frame, it is important to have drainage holes in them so that water does not stand.

You may think building a cold frame would be too expensive, but they can be built on the cheap from recycled, reused materials – my favorite way to build. Starting from scratch, cold frames can be constructed using PVC pipes and plastic for an inexpensive cold frame. For larger cold frames, the cost can be a bit higher, but still a good alternative for those who want to start their gardens early or who want to have fresh veggies year round. Take a look at some of the ideas and go get creative this winter and begin exciting cold frames gardening in your back yard. .

A Free and Fast Cold Frame Idea

Kevin Lee Jacobs has been using water bottles as mini-greenhouses and cold frames for almost a decade. To start seeds, these cold frames are almost effortless because you pretty much plant the seeds and forget them. They work great in the coldest climates – even covered in snow, they retain enough heat to protect the seedlings. In warmer climates, such as we have in east Texas, the greenhouses are easy to open up on those days when it suddenly turns 80.

In addition to water jugs, you can use milk jugs or soda bottles. Jacobs provides extensive directions for how to build and use your new cold frame, both indoors and out, with numerous examples of how successful using these mini greenhouses has been.

In addition to having a great way to start seeds early and to protect seedlings from cold extremes, by using your empty water jugs, you are being friendly to the environment.

Biodegradable Cold Frame

Grow Journey offers a unique biodegradable cold frame made out of straw that is actually used for three different purposes throughout the year. They use straw as the sides of the cold frame and then cover the inside with recycled windows.

Grow Journey details how they use the straw as mulch for their blackberries, then feed for their chickens once they no longer need the cold frame. Although they do not recommend this cold frame for below USDA Zone 6, it is a good idea for those who have a plentiful supply of straw and are above Zone 6.

Easy to Build PVC Cold Frame

For beginners or those who do not have tools for woodworking, a small PVC cold frame can be built cheaply. This one has a hinged lid that can be opened in warmer weather as needed.

Complete plans are available for building this little cold frame.

Inexpensive Cold Frame for a Square Foot Garden

This inexpensive cold frame was built to fit over a square toot garden. Hinges on one end allow the gardener to raise the top when it gets warm.

While the blogger does not give detailed instructions on this cold frame, it would be easy to build and he provides enough direction that you would be able to easily replicate this cold frame. With this cold frame over your raised beds, you will be able to extend the growing season in the fall and start your garden early in the spring. More fresh veggies for longer is a good thing.

Empty Water Bottle Cold Frame

Looking for something to do with your empty water bottles? This simple cold frame will keep water bottles out of the landfill and provide a great service to you in extending your gardening season. Washington State University Recycler Composters of Lewis County provide detailed directions for building this cold frame from empty water bottles.

You can adjust the size to fit your needs. In fact, you could even build a whole greenhouse out of empty water bottles. All it takes is initiative, imagination and a lot of empty water bottles.

Simple to Build Plywood Cold Frame

This simple to build cold frame costs a bit more than the previous ones but will last for many years. You might have to replace the plastic on the top, but that will be simple to do.

BHG offers detailed plans for this cold frame that extend your growing season for many years.

Your Imagination is Your Only Limitation

As you can tell from these examples, building a cold frame can be accomplished in a weekend or two at the most. The concept is basically simple – a box with a plastic lid that will hold in warmth and moisture. The ideas and plans listed above should give you a great start on building your own cold frame. You will find that having that cold frames gardening will extend your growing season – in some areas to year round gardening – will be a welcome addition to your table. If you build a cold frame using one of these plans or come up with an idea of your own, then please share your design.

Five DIY Garden Trellis Plans – Inexpensive Ways to Garden Vertically

A trellis is an architectural structure for your garden with a purpose: a vertical support for training plants to grow up and around it. Trellises make it easier to access some vegetables – like cucumbers – and make an attractive structure in your garden when full of trailing vines, fruit and flowers. Because trellises encourage upright growth, they can actually give you more space in the garden since plants are growing up rather than out. Generally trellises have an open framework or lattice of interwoven pieces of wood, bamboo or metal or really any found object that you may have.

There are many types of trellises that can range from very inexpensive to hundreds of dollars. But, you can make a trellis yourself for very little. Many DIY garden trellis plans are available that will add an attractive flair to your garden or landscaping. Whether you make one or several of the designs, definitely consider looking at them all.

Garden Obelisks

No DIY garden trellis plans would be complete without designs for a garden obelisk. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite types of trellises. They stand tall in the garden and allow your crop or flowers to stand tall too. They can be natural colored or painted a variety of colors to match your color scheme or tastes.

Leo from Cottage at the Crossroads shares his detailed plans on how to make the garden obelisk.

Very Easy DIY Garden Trellis

Gina Michele gives detailed directions on how to make this easy and inexpensive garden trellis. It is made out of 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 strips of lumber and will easily attach to your wall. It would be easy to change the configuration to fit the space in your garden.

This could easily be made in one afternoon and would provide a great trellis for morning glories or passion flowers. Plans on how to build this trellis are available here.

Easy Lattice Garden Trellis

This is another easy to built garden trellis that you could build in an afternoon. Lorraine from Of Faith and Fiber shares her plans with you on how to build this trellis.

This would be a great trellis for a vertical garden of veggies – peas, cucumbers, squash or beans. But, it would also be quite attractive as a privacy screen with flowers growing on it. Directions for the design are found in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

TeePee Trellis for Under $5

Angela from the Coupon Project shares her design for a very simple three-pole trellis.

Angela uses bamboo poles and twine for these very easy to build trellises. They are easy to put up at the beginning of the season and easy to take down at the end. The directions are pretty simple, but she provides additional tips on trellises.

Simple Wood and String Trellis for the Garden

A trellis can be as simple as tying some string onto a wooden frame using nails, screws or hooks as anchors. If you use reclaimed wood, it can be virtually free and easy to construct.

You can watch a video about how to construct this simple trellis or just look at the ample plans on the site. Jute twine was used for this trellis because it is inexpensive and can be cut down and thrown in the compost bin at the end of the growing season. This simple trellis can be attached to a raised bed or be freestanding.

Five Plans to Build Your Vertical Garden

These DIY garden trellis plans are by no means the only ones that are available. I will have continuing posts on additional plans that are available. The good thing is that you can spend as little or as much time building trellises that will allow you to grow plants up instead of out. The trellis will give you more garden in the same space, thus improving your harvest. Trellises also give the plants air and room to spread out as they grow. You don’t have to worry about stepping on plants or fruit as the growing season progresses. In addition to making your plants happy, trellises just make your garden look great! Try some of these ideas and let me know how your garden grows!

7 Best Garden Hand Tools – Top Tools For Beginner Gardeners

 

Pruner and seeds

As with any hobby, gardening requires a few tools to get started and be successful. Luckily, the tools needed to get started with gardening are relatively inexpensive. With a little careful shopping, the seven best garden hand tools can all be purchased for small change. Having said that, if you are going to purchase hand tools, you may want to save up to get the best ones you can afford.

While tools can be found cheaply, the wear and tear of gardening will cause less expensive tools to break quickly – ending up in frustration and – well – wasted money. On the other hand, purchasing better quality tools from the beginning can ensure you are well-equipped for many years and gardens to come.

Below I will discuss the top tools that I recommend for beginning gardeners.

Gloves

Admittedly, gloves may not generally be considered a tool. However, gardening can be hard work and is hard on the hands – the skin, the muscles and the nerves. Not only will gloves keep your hands (and nails) cleaner, they will also protect your hands from cuts, bruises, scrapes and thorns. Not much is worse than grabbing a vine or branch only to find sharp thorns gleefully poking through your skin. Wild blackberry thorns are some of the worst!!!

For those who are not sure of the creepy crawlies you may encounter, gloves also protect you when you run into a rogue spider or reach for an earth worm only to find it is a snake. While running into wildlife is part of gardening – and in gardening we like to see worms and bugs inhabiting the soil – you may not always want to pick them up with your bare hands.

With many women suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand ailments, like a sprained thenar eminence muscle, gloves provide a measure of protection from injury and when injured. So, put a good pair of gardening gloves at the top of the list of products to buy. If you want more information on gloves, check out the post on gloves for gifts.

Pruners

While pruners are typically separated into three types: bypass, anvil and ratchet, by far, the most popular one is the bypass pruner. Bypass pruners make a nice clean cut much like scissors do – except they are much stronger and can cut through branches and stems. In the bypass pruner, a sharpened blade sweeps past the lower jaw which avoids crushing the stem.

Anvil pruners work similar to the principal of a knife on a cutting board. The top blade pushes through the plant onto the anvil to cut. If not sharpened regularly, the anvil pruners can mash the stems and sometimes will not cut all the way through leaving you to wiggle, twist and turn to get through the stems.

Ratchet pruners have a ratchet built in that makes cutting tough or thick stems easier. While this is a handy pruner to have in your toolkit, a beginning gardener would probably want to have at least a bypass pruner on hand before branching off to get a ratchet pruner (no pun intended).

Pruners come in all sizes from very tiny ones to loppers – large pruners used for bigger branches. Start off with a medium-sized pruner and when you find the need for closer work or are cutting large branches or trees, you can move into a palm sized pruner or a lopper.

Hori Hori Knives

Hori-horiI debated whether to add trowel to this list of tools and decided since it is basically for the beginning gardener, I would instead recommend a hori hori because it does the work of a trowel and so much more. This tool basically does it all from weeding to planting, digging, cutting, sawing, scooping, separating, splitting and anything else you can think of. The hori hori is smooth on one edge and serrated on the other – so it will saw through tough stems and roots easily. The hori hori also comes with depth markings on the blade so you can easily tell how deep you are planting.

The hori hori design comes from Japan.  Hori means dig and hori hori is an onomatopoeia of the sound of digging. The shape of the sharpened blade allowed foragers to harvest by digging deep and slicing through plant roots and tough vegetation. It comes in equally handy for the modern gardener.

Most hori hori knives are solid with blades made of stainless steel that will last for years. Once you use this handy tool, you will never be without it. One caution, the serrated blade is sharp, so handle with care.

Rakes

I probably don’t need to explain what a rake is – and if you have a yard, you probably have one (or more) lying around. There are various kinds of garden rakes, and after gardening for while, you will probably find that you need more than one kind. While the leaf rakes are great for fall leaves, for gardening you will probably need one with shorter, stiffer tines to help you level dirt or break up clumps of dirt when preparing soil. Also, when raking up those pesky weed piles that you will have, a rake with stiffer tines will be ideal.

While you can probably find a garden rake for around $10.00, try to spend as much on getting a good one as you can. Also, when selecting a rake, consider the weight of the rake. If you are a smaller person or you have physical limitations, carefully consider how heavy the rake is. If the handle is made of wood, it will generally be heavier and may be tiring to use for an extended period of time.

Shovels

There are so many types of shovels that you can be overwhelmed when trying to decide which shovel to choose. So, for a beginner, I Shovel and rakerecommend the digging shovel as one of the best hand garden tools. The digging shovel is just that – a shovel to dig. They have a curved scoop for holding materials and edges that slant up. Choose one with a point – shovels with flat tips are pretty useless for most gardening – unless you have the perfect soil. Again, while you can get an inexpensive shovel, look for ones that are steel and sturdy. Wood is the best material for a handle, although you have to keep it out of the weather. Plastic will break easily and metal is durable, but heavier. Unlike a rake, you won’t be using the shovel for extended periods of time, so you don’t have to be as concerned about the weight. In fact, a nice heavy shovel can be your friend in clay or other heavy soils.

Tool Belt or Apron

As you are working in your garden, using all your tools, you will find that you want some way to keep them handy and accessible to you. The best way to keep them handy to use and safe from being lost in the dirt, left alone to rust, is to have an apron or a tool belt that will hold all your tools.

There are probably as many choices for tool holders as you can imagine and some are even made to fit over a 5-gallon bucket. Depending on your size and how many tools you use regularly, you will have to explore the many options available. One of the best things you can do to save money in the future is to get into the habit early on of keeping all your tools in the belt and put them back in when you are finished using them. It is incredible how easy it is to lose a tool in all the gardening materials you are working with.

Work Made Easier with the Best Garden Hand Tools

Gardening is a healthy activity and a fun form of exercise for those who do not like to go to the gym and lift weights. But, don’t kid yourself – gardening can be hard work. While rewarding, and definitely worth the effort, having the right tools can make your work a lot more enjoyable and help you stick with it when times get rough.

 

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Gardening Gifts for Women – Great Glove Ideas for Digging in the Dirt

Gift basketEveryone loves to receive presents, and women who love to garden are no different. Sometimes, giving a gift can be a stressful experience for the giver. As you are trying to find the perfect gift, you may wonder, “Will she like it, will she use it, will she hate it, will she just throw it away or tuck it in the closet?” Let’s face it, we all want our gifts to be appreciated and loved – yes and used.

Luckily, gloves are a great gift idea for any gardener. You will find that it can be very easy to find one or more pairs of gloves your lady will love to receive and will use over and over. Kind of like shoes, a gardener can never have enough gloves. Even when a gardener has a favorite pair, a gift of several different types of gloves would be appreciated as well. Many styles and types of gloves can be found in all price ranges. And if you want to add a more personal touch, you can include gloves with an assortment of other items in a wondering gardening gift basket. Let’s take a look at some gift glove ideas.

Gardening Gifts for Digging in the Dirt

Gloves are an obvious choice for gift-giving. While women usually don’t wear gloves socially anymore, they certainly are needed in the garden. Dare I say again, a gardener can never have too many gloves. There are many ways to look at purchasing gloves. Your gardener may have a favorite pair of gloves and in that case, you can simply find out what it is and buy her an extra pair.

Why buy an extra pair when she already has a favorite? While some gloves may last a long time, they will all eventually wear out when usedOld gloves over and over. They deteriorate from exposure to the sun, from friction as the fingertips are being rubbed against the ground and weeds, and from exposure to water or punctures. If you have a Labrador puppy like the one dropped off at our gate, they also can be ruined by enthusiastic chewing. So, if your gardener really likes a certain brand of gloves, they will always be happy to have one waiting for them when the old and tattered glove no longer protects their hands.

Gloves for Gardening with Friends and Family

Many women like to garden with their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and even friends visiting. Yes, gardening is indeed a great form of bonding, communication and fun. It is always nice to have extra pairs of gloves set aside for visitors – so a selection of gloves in various sizes and styles is always nice to have around.

For the extra personal touch, you can even try out a pair of the gloves by offering to help dig in the gardener with her when you give her the present. Not only will she have a wonderful gift that enables her to share gardening with others, she will have a wonderful day full of memories with you sharing work in her garden. This would truly be a gift that would be remembered.

Some different types of gloves are discussed below.

Nitrile Gloves for Gifting

Lavendar nitrile glovesDifferent types of gardening require different types of gloves. Even with a favorite pair of gloves, gardeners have varying needs when digging in the dirt. Nitrile gloves have become very popular lately for gardening. These gloves are generally made of a thin fabric-like material on top that is coated with a flexible coating of nitrile on the palms and bottom of the fingers. This nitrile coating gives the gloves extra grip that is very handy for pulling up weeds. They are lightweight but can be pretty tough in preventing punctures and even some small thorns.

Plus, these nitrile gloves come in a wide array of bright, happy colors and designs for gardeners – often with flowers and butterflies worked into the design. (How do they do that?) Even better, nitrile gloves can be thrown in the washer to clean them after use. These gloves are relatively inexpensive and having several extras on hand would make any gardener smile. They would be a good choice if getting an assortment of gloves for visitors to use.

Gift Gloves that Protect

Practical gardening gifts for women include gloves that go above and beyond in protection. While nitrile gloves can resist some punctures and thorns, they are not hardy enough for working with roses and other thorny plants. Plus, when working with thorny plants, the gardener often gets scratches and punctures on the arms as well as the hands and fingers. Some gauntlet or long-armed gloves will be the best gift you can get any gardener because they not only do a super job of preventing punctures, they also provide that protection up to the elbow. No more tears as your gardener is reaching through the rose bush to prune it, or in my case, grabbing the evil, thorny Greenbrier vines to pull them out of trees.

In addition to gauntlet gloves, you can also purchase Kevlar arm protection sleeves to wear under any gloves. These arm protection sleeves are generally about 18 inches long and have a thumb slot to hold them in place. These sleeves will provide an extra layer of protection most of the way up the arm.

Gloves with extra padding can also be a welcome gift to any gardener. I found this out when I injured my thenar eminence muscles in my hand. That is a big name but they are group of muscles on the palm of the human hand at the base of the thumb. In essence, it hurts when you use your thumb and in gardening – you would be surprised how much you actually need to use your thumb. High performance gardening gloves are now made with extra foam padding in the palm and knuckles to alleviate some pain caused from using the thumb repetitively.

Unique Gardening Gift – Clawed Gloves

Another unique gardening gift for women would be the glove with built-in or removable claws on the finger tips. OK, a great idea for Halloween costumes – I can just see the Evil Gardener costume being a real hit this year. But, these gloves are very handy for digging in the dirt to pull out weeds and leaves without having to switch over and use a hand tool. They have a breathable design that protects the hands without becoming hot and uncomfortable. This just might be a small gift for the gardener who has everything.

Gardening Gifts for Women – A Bushel of Gloves

Who would have thought that you could find a treasure-trove of gifts for women simply by looking for gloves? But, while seemingly a practical idea, glove-giving can also be whimsical and thoughtful. And very much appreciated by the gardener. To jazz it up a bit, you can give the gloves in a gift basket you create along with special essential oil soap for gardeners, a soothing hand lotion, a loofah and a nail scrubber.

These thoughtful and useful gifts will be treasured, used and remembered by your special gardener for years.