Small space gardening

A big thank you to Mother Nature for beautifying my window boxes with the first snow of the season here in Central Illinois today!

I must also thank my sister, Dee. She knows I can’t turn down cast offs like some lanterns she gave me that were damaged when a tree fell on their house during a storm this past summer. I don’t think she throws much away without asking her hoarder sister first. And just to clarify, I prefer to call it recycling. And recycling her lanterns made for a beautiful winter window box.

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

My “window” boxes are technically planter boxes, since I didn’t have the nerve to mount boxes to my bricks. Here’s one naked right after I made it.

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

To decorate them for winter, I thought the most convenient way would be to leave the pots inside the boxes,  cover the tops of the planters with a couple of boards and then mount my Christmas items on top of the boards. You can see in the four corners there are the recessed boards that form the legs.

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Those are what I rested my boards on to form a “table” for my goodies. Plywood would have been easier, but I didn’t have any on hand. Sorry there are no pictures. It was way too cold out there to be lolly-gagging around taking photos.

After I set the boards in place, I screwed the lanterns onto the boards and then drilled holes where necessary to insert stems of greenery. I also used screws to attach garland and berries and such. We’ll see what’s left after the winter winds take their toll!

 Winter Curb Appeal With Window Boxes/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

These were very cheaply done, since everything in the planters was either recycled, free or purchased at garage sales. This doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. Thrift shops would be another great place to find greens and ornaments for window boxes. I’m guessing I paid no more than $10 or $15 to decorate both of these.

Since my landscaping is new and very small, these planters will be the only form of curb appeal I’ll have in the wintertime for a few years, so they’re pretty necessary.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Yes, Merry Christmas!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a Journeyman Painter, Certified Home Stager/Redesigner and avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

If you’ve always wanted beautiful window boxes but were afraid of the installation, planter boxes are a DIY-friendly alternative. They’re easy to build, and can be decorated seasonally with non-plant items if you live in a planting zone that doesn’t allow for live plants in the winter. You don’t have to leave them stark and empty in the off-season!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I moved into this house this past winter, and it was in desperate need of some curb appeal. I had all of the half-dead, overgrown trees and bushes removed, and decided to start from scratch. How sad and lonely she looks. Window boxes will cheer this house (and me) right on up!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Unfortunately, I did have a problem with my window box idea. The actual construction of the window boxes wasn’t an issue, but my fear of drilling into my bricks to install them certainly was. And to be honest,  I wouldn’t have been all that excited to drill into vinyl siding, wood siding or any other siding for that matter. Thinking about mounting a window box securely enough to handle the weight of the wood, the dirt and the plants made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

So I decided that instead of window boxes, I would make free-standing planter boxes. And when I say free-standing, I mean “$free$”-standing.  I recently had a screened porch added to my house (click here to view) and wrestled some of the wood scraps away from my builder. Wood scraps = free planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I decided to build the planter boxes so that pots that my son, Ross, gave me a few years ago would fit inside of them. You don’t necessarily have to have pots inside of planter boxes, and if I hadn’t had these already, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to buy some. I would have just lined the boxes with a weed fabric so that dirt wouldn’t seep out of the cracks, and filled them with dirt. These pots have seen better days, but I love them, and they were perfect for putting inside the planters.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I wanted to use treated 4 x 4’s for the legs, but I only had four that were long enough, and I needed eight. I did, however, have some treated 2 x 4’s left from the porch that I decided to double up and use instead. I knew if I ran a bead of caulk where the two boards met, and then painted them out, they would look just like the 4 x 4’s. My goal here was to not buy anything in order to make these planter boxes, so I had to be creative.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The actual sides of the boxes were built using leftover shiplap that was also left over from the screened porch. It was already primed and painted, but I still had to give it another quick coat after I finished assembling the boxes.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I don’t know how long this shiplap will last out in the weather since it’s pine. The primer and exterior paint should protect it for a while, but if it rots after a few years, I can replace it. I’m also hoping that by using pots inside of the boxes, the shiplap will last a little longer since there won’t be wet dirt resting up against it.

Here are my first two sections I put together after measuring how tall and wide I wanted the planters to be. You can see that the section on the right is made up of the sandwiched 2 x 4’s, so I used that section for the back side of the planter.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here I’ve added a second piece of shiplap.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since I was too lazy to go to the basement to get my super-duper saw horses that my son, Brandon, got me for Christmas, I just used my cute little Honda Fit (Love that car!) to steady my two sides while I screwed in the end pieces. And yes, I was careful not to scratch the car.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

In this photo, you can see that I cut the legs a couple of inches shorter than the finished height because I wanted to be able to rest pieces of wood on top of them. I wanted to be able to decorate these boxes for fall and Christmas using non-plant items like pumpkins, ornaments, birdhouses and such. Wood laid across the tops of the legs would give me a hidden platform to set items on.  The pots with the dirt will only be used in the spring and summer for live plants.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next, I took 2 x 8’s (because that’s what I had on hand–a curb score) and notched out spaces with a jig saw in order to accommodate the legs, and toe-nailed them in from underneath. I chose to leave a space down the center so the water from the drainage holes in my pots would run through onto the ground rather than sit on the wood. If I decide at some point to fill the planters with dirt without the pots, I’ll add another board to complete the bottom.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And it fits! My plan for when my square pots go to pot heaven some day, is to buy pre-potted arrangements and just set the pots inside the planter boxes.

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

The planters looked a little blah-zay to me so I decided to jazz them up a bit. I had these scraps that were already cut at a 45 degree angle on one end. The 45 inspired me to cut another 45 on the other end, and I tacked them on the front of the boxes to add a little interest. In addition to the 45 degree angle adding some interest, it also helps the rain run off rather than sit on top of the boards.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Can you tell it was getting dark outside? Well, it was, so I did the painting the the next day. I primed the raw wood first, then I painted the primed wood, then painted the whole thing one more time.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I caulked around the decorative pieces and some other areas that I didn’t want water to get into. Some of the 4 x 4 legs had splits in them, so I caulked those, as well as the cracks where I joined the 2 x 4’s for the back legs. Then, a fresh coat of paint. It always amazes me what a fresh coat of paint can do.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I looked through my stash of goodies, and found some white, decorative iron pieces I’d bought a few years ago at Hobby Lobby, and added them to the fronts after rubbing some watered down gray paint on them. And wha-la! Here are my 100% free window box planters!

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

See what a difference these make for my once sad little house! Before–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And here they are all decorated for fall. I put these together after I realized mums were not happy living in my planter boxes due to lack of sunlight. I had my heart set on mums, but these will do just fine!

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

And yes, I painted my shutters and gave them some jewelry. Now, for your viewing pleasure, another set of before and after photos!

Before–
 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After–

 Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s the second planter box. Even the fall pretties I used to decorate with were budget-friendly. I grew the pumpkins myself, the hydrangea were given to me by a friend, and everything else you see in the planter boxes was from my stash or from garage sales.

Window Box Substitute/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I like the planters better than window boxes because I can move them to the back yard and fill them with flowers or veggies if I want to. I was also able to make them bigger than most window boxes would have been–a window box this large would have been very heavy. If I get tired of them (fat chance), I can remove them and there’s no damage to the house underneath. And God forbid, if I ever move again, I can take them with me!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a Journeyman Painter, Certified Home Stager/Redesigner and avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

The heat index is a miserable 103 today here in Central Illinois, so what better time to sit in the air conditioning, and write a post about beets? I’ve never bought a beet in my life, but last summer I decided to grow them just for fun because that’s what we gardeners do. Last year my beet planting was an experiment, but this year I got serious. Here’s what I’ve learned in my two beet-planting (and eating) years.

Number one, beets are easy to grow. Number two, beet leaves and their beautiful crimson-red stems are gorgeous as they grow. And number three, beets and their leaves are yummy! Oh, and number four, they’ll turn your pee a lovely shade of pink.

In zone 5, it’s safe to plant beet seeds after May 15 when danger of frost is past. My planting space is very limited so I only planted a short row of beet seeds, and thinned them when they were a couple inches tall to about 4″ apart. I planted them in a side yard raised bed along with some onions. I’d already harvested most of them by the time this photo was taken.

 Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I also am trying the “scatter” method in a window-box-type planter, where I just sprinkle the seeds and then thin them as they grow. These are a second batch I planted after the others, so they’re still small.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After about two months, I had some that were big enough to harvest. During my experimental year, I left them in the ground too long and they got to be the size of the Goodyear Blimp. They have a much better flavor if you eat them before they get too big.

 Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They’re just so beautiful!

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

To fix the beets, cut off the leaves, leaving some of the stems intact at the top of the beet. If you cut the stems off too close to the beet, they’ll bleed. Same goes for the tap root. Don’t cut him off either. If you do, your kitchen will look like a crime scene, and beet blood stains like the real thing.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

To fix the greens, I cut off the stems, and sauteed the leaves in some olive oil and garlic cloves until just wilted. Salt and pepper is all they need. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the greens! They’re sort of “spinachy”. The stems go into the worm-composting bin.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I boiled the beets in some salted water in a pan that was just big enough to accommodate the beets. Size-wise these were bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a baseball, and I boiled them for about 35 minutes. I searched and searched for some idea of what “small” and “big” beets were in different on-line recipes, but no one would elaborate on what constituted “small” and “big”, so there you go. I kept a close eye on them to make sure the water didn’t evaporate too much. They need to stay completely covered with water.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Remember what I said earlier about how beautiful beets are? Ok, not so much now.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After they cooled off a bit, the skin peeled right off.

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Once the skin came off and the stems and root were removed, they were beautiful again!

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I brushed the slices with some butter, and added salt and pepper. They really were amazing!

  Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Beets / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you didn’t get a chance to plant beets in zone 5 in the spring, they can still be planted in August for a fall harvest. If they are planted late, and don’t have time to fully mature, they can still be eaten when they’re small too!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

If you’re a newcomer to herb planting and harvesting, here are some quick tips to get you off to a good start. This post is specifically about basil, but the process would be the same for many of the most commonly grown herbs.

Meet my basil plants that live on the south side of my house. They replaced some ailing spirea bushes, and look right at home among my other foundation plantings. The sun there is brutal, but they appear to be happy and well-adjusted because they’re getting the required six to eight hours of sun per day. The photo is actually of two plants, planted a foot or two apart that have mingled together beautifully.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’re hoping to plant your herbs in a tiny space or a small pot, I hate to burst your bubble, but you might want to re-think that idea. Basil, as well as most herbs, when given enough room to mature will grow to the equivalent of a medium-sized bush.

I have a tiny suburban yard, so I have to get creative and be practical with my limited space. I like to use my little slice of the planet for plantings that are not only beautiful but edible too. There’s no reason why basil can’t be used as a foundation planting.

Many people have the standard evergreens, spireas, boxwood and such around their foundations, but here you can see from left to right are a tomato plant, a barberry bush, and some basil instead. Not pictured, to the left of the tomato plant are pickling cucumbers that grow up onto a trellis to save space, and to hide an ugly air conditioning unit.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Another view from left to right shows barberry, basil, burning bush, onions and peas (in the upper right). Also planted in this area are beets, a pepper plant and some red cabbage. All of this in a tiny side yard!

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

OK, back to the herbs. The best time to harvest herbs such as basil and oregano, is before they flower. Once they flower, it takes a little more time to prepare them because the blooms need to be snipped off. But it’s not a big deal to cut the flowers off with a pair of scissors, and the herbs will still taste just fine. If you look closely at the top of the stem in this photo, you can see there are no flowers forming yet.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

When the flowers form, it’ll be obvious because they’ll look like…well…flowers. Basil blooms can be pinkish/purple or white.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Basil can be harvested in the spring in zone 5. The stems can be cut at the ground, and new ones will grow right back. If harvested in fall, basil will return in the spring.

After it’s cut, I remove any grass, weeds or critters that may be mixed in, and then give the stems an extra shake for good measure. I don’t use any chemicals on my basil since nothing insect-wise or disease-wise ever seems to bother it. That being said, I don’t soak the leaves in water before I dry it. Mother Nature’s rain keeps the basil clean enough for me, and a little dirt (protein) never hurt anybody anyway. (I do inspect it for dirt, but it seems a little counterproductive to me to unnecessarily wet down something that’s supposed to be drying out.)

If you cut a large amount of basil, and lay the stems in a ginormous pile, you won’t live long enough to see them dry out because, yes, it’ll take that long. I’ve also heard that they can mold if they take too long to dry, but I’ve never had that issue. I spread them thinly on a cookie sheet for drying.

A more efficient way to dry herbs is to tie the cut ends together, and hang them in small bunches so the air can circulate on all sides. I don’t have a good spot for hanging herbs, but I wish I did so I could be all glamorous like Martha Stewart.

Drying them in the sun is a no-no because they’ll fade and lose their flavor. I’ve read that you can dry them in the oven, but why? I prefer to go au naturale.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Within 24 hours, you can see in the photo they’ve wilted quite a bit, but they’ve got a long way to go. I flip the stems over, and fluff them up often so the bottom leaves will be exposed to the air too.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s the basil after two weeks of drying time. You’ll know it’s ready when the leaves crumble when you rub them between your fingers–anywhere from two to four weeks. You may be wondering if a person might get tired of having a pile of wilted leaves on their kitchen counter for weeks. The answer is yes. But I do it anyway in hopes of being a tiny bit Martha-glamorous, a little more healthy and a few dollars richer.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

To strip the leaves, I hold the cut end of the stem, and pull my fingers down the stem to the tip and the leaves come right off. If you try to strip them by going the other direction, the small branches can prick your fingers. I strip them directly into my food processor bowl.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s what’s left when I’m finished. The stems go into the compost pile or my worm-composting bin.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Now the leaves are ready to be chopped. Some people believe they have more flavor if left whole while stored, and that they should be crushed when you need to use them. I’m thinking a shriveled up leaf is going to have the same amount of flavor whether whole or chopped, but more importantly, they take up much less room in if they’re chopped. You be the judge.

 How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s the finished product. Being a sort-of-hoarder, I’ve got a decent stash of spice containers that I save for storing my own dried herbs. It’s nice to have the containers if you’re giving your basil to friends too. If you put it in a Ziplock bag, your herbs could be mistaken for an illegal drug and you could find your little Martha-self in the slammer (just like Martha, in fact). Food for thought.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

As was mentioned earlier, the leaves shrink up considerably after they dry, and after they’re put through the food processor, they really shrink. So although you may cut several stems thinking that you’re going to end up with a crap-load of basil, keep in mind that you’ll probably be surprised when your crap-load of basil does not end up being a crap-load of basil at all. (I like the word “crap-load”). Just giving you a heads up on that.

And here’s my home-grown basil. I’m good to go until next year.

  How to Grow and Dry Herbs / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Planting small seeds can be a challenge. And there are lots of seeds in the gardening world that are tiny–lettuce, cabbage, onion and many varieties of flower seeds to name a few. These little guys in the photo are radish seeds, which are also small, and here are some pointers on how to plant them.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Radishes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They’re good for beginning gardeners because they germinate easily and mature quickly–only about 22 days from start to finish. They also don’t take up too much space, and other vegetables can be planted in their place after they’ve been harvested.

I’m planting mine in a pot because potting soil is nicer to work with for small seeds, and pests aren’t a problem in a pot. But if you’re planting in the ground, be sure to remove any big clods of dirt, sticks or rocks. You’ll need to break up the soil so you’re planting in fine, clump-free dirt.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Here’s the seed packet I’m using.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

The instructions tell exactly how to plant the seeds.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

They also tell when to plant according to the particular planting zone you live in. In zone 5, radishes will only grow in the spring and in the fall when the weather is cooler. If the weather gets too hot, radishes can be leathery or the tops can bolt and the radish will remain a skinny root and not develop into a ball.

These seeds are two years old, but they’re going germinate just fine. There’s no need to ever throw away unused seeds. I just stick my leftovers in a closet until the next year. Some gardeners like to refrigerate their leftover seeds, but I’ve never done that and have had no problems getting them to germinate.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

There’s no need to dig a bunch of small, half-inch-deep holes, fill each of them with these tiny little seeds and fill each one with dirt. Gardening is supposed to be fun, not an activity that makes you want to tear your hair out. There’s also no need to plant in rows and waste garden space. Instead, seeds can be scattered on top of the soil.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

After scattering the seeds, about half-an-inch of soil needs to be spread over the top of them, because the package gives half-an-inch as the seed-planting depth. Next, the soil needs to be firmly pressed down (without moving it around), to give the seeds good soil contact. I use a watering can or a spray bottle to water the seeds. If I were to use a garden hose, the seeds would be splashed all around, and could end up in clumps or on top of the soil for our fine-feathered friends to feast on.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Important tip–you must water the seeds every day in order for them to germinate. Every day. If they don’t stay moist, the seeds are just going to hang out in your garden soil and that’ll be the end of them.

Here are the seedlings after a few days.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

As you can see, they’re not perfectly spaced. But while they’re small like this, the crowded seedlings can be carefully dug up and transplanted into bare areas. Or if you don’t have a conscience, you can just pull them out and leave them on top of the ground to shrivel and die. (No pressure.)

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

They need proper spacing in order to grow, and a sunny location where they receive at least six to eight hours of sun each day. Here are some I planted in actual garden soil a couple of weeks prior.

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

As radishes grow, the tap root stays down in the soil, but the actual radish grows up and out of the soil. Onions grow the same way. The first time I planted radishes, I kept throwing dirt on them so they wouldn’t die. After seeing that trying to keep them covered was futile, I realized they weren’t going to die, and that’s just how they grow. Hello.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

Here’s a pot with a pepper plant in the center, and radishes planted around it. After the radishes are pulled out, the pepper plant will have the pot all to itself and will have plenty of room to grow.

How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

I used the same method of scattering and covering seeds for planting this tray of lettuce.

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

This method of randomly sprinkling the seeds and adding soil over the top of them, is the best way I’ve found to plant small seeds. I also prefer sprinkling the seeds rather than planting in rows since I have a tiny garden. More seeds can be sown in a smaller area this way, and it’s especially beneficial if you have a container garden. I find that when I plant this way I waste fewer seeds, but end up with more vegetables.

I hope you find this method works for you too. Happy planting!

 How to Plant Tiny Seeds / My Urban Garden Oasis

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

The subject matter of this post was originally going to be about what worms like to eat in the world of vermicomposting. However, when I was doing my research, I stumbled across some hanky-panky in my worm bin, so we’re going to take a slight detour.

A few weeks ago, I reluctantly started putting avocado shells and pits into my bin, knowing full well that they would be of little interest to my slimy friends. I couldn’t imagine those delicate little creatures chomping into either one of them. We humans won’t even eat them after all, and we’ve got teeth!

 Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

Last week when I added kitchen scraps to my bin, I poked around a bit in the bedding. As I expected, my instincts were correct. I found the in-tact shells and pits still floating around. Some of the pits had started to grow roots, and they were still hard and untouched by the worms as far as a meal goes. So out to the “real” compost bin they went.

Feeling a little defeated, I decided to remove the shells as well, but when I went to dump the dirt out of one of the shells, I found a big ball of worm “spaghetti” inside of it. I’ve never seen so many worms compacted into such a small space. By the time I got my camera, many of them had made a run for it, but here’s some of the slower moving ones still in a tangle.

Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

I completely underestimated my worms. The shells were clearly a delicacy, so I decided to leave them in the bin.

Today at feeding time, I decided I’d try to get a better picture of the massive game of “Worm Twister” for all of you, but I was met with another surprise. When I dumped out the avocado shells this time, they were full of little baby worms! Again, the little camera-shy creatures started slithering away before I could snap a group photo.

 Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

 Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

Clearly the original worms weren’t playing “Twister” at all. They were playing something else, if you know what I mean. Uh-hum.

Worms are neither male nor female–they all have both sperm cells and egg cells, but they still need a mate to reproduce. And let me tell you from the looks of that tangled mess, there was a lot of cellular exchanging going on. Apparently the avocado is an aphrodisiac in the worm world.

Either before, during or after their romantic episodes, the worms clearly were eating the shells because they were very thin, and crumbled in my hand.

 Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

 Romance in the Worm Bin / My Urban Garden Oasis

So getting back to the original point of this post about what to feed worms in vermicomposting, avocado pits are a no. Avocado love-shack shells are a yes.

As far as other foods, I had always read no citrus, but my worms eat my lemon rinds with no problem. I don’t have a lot of them, but I do throw a few in. I also throw in onion scraps on occasion against the advice of other vermicomposters, and they disappear too.

I’ve noticed my worms won’t eat leaves of Brussels sprouts, and they won’t touch peperoncini peppers. I’ve had a whole one in the bin for a few weeks that I dropped on the floor when I was making pizza, and it’s faded in color but is still whole. (Clearly, they don’t honor the 10-second rule.) They love grapes, but the stems from the grapes just seem to hang around.

I’ve thrown shredded newspaper into my bin a few times, but if the worms have plenty of kitchen scraps, they aren’t too interested in the paper–although they did gobble up a toilet paper tube once. Paper towels (non-greasy) and coffee filters seem to get eaten pretty quickly too.

Of course any fruit or vegetable scraps are a go, but no meat or dairy.

And there you have it folks. A post about the eating preferences of worms with a side order of how to put your worms in the mood with an avocado shell. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the Nobel Prize for this one (or at least a nomination).

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

You’ve planted rows of vegetable seeds, and now it’s time to thin your seedlings. If pulling out those precious baby plants makes you queasy, take heart. You no longer have to feel like a serial plant killer.

I’ve been re-planting my throw-aways for a few years now, and with great success. I’ve done this with pretty much every vegetable seedling there is—spinach, radishes, lettuce, green beans and cucumbers to name a few. In this post, I’ll be thinning and re-planting peas.

First let me stress that it’s a total waste of seeds to plant them closer together than what the package recommends. I used to think more is better with seed planting, but it’s not. And I strongly suspect I’m not the only gardener that has over-planted for fear of not having enough seeds germinate. And besides wasting seeds, transplanting your thinnings is another reason not to plant too closely or you won’t be able to get a spade in between the seedlings in order to dig up the ones you want to save.

I also used to plant seeds too close together because what was I going to do with all those leftover seeds anyway? May as well use the whole pack, right? Wrong. I’ve learned that you save the leftovers and plant them the next year. And the next, and the next…I’ve planted seeds four and five years old with no problems. I just stored the packets in a closet. No need to refrigerate them as far as I’m concerned.

So here’s what I’ve got. My peas are ready to be thinned to about four to six inches apart. At the moment, they’re about two inches apart.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If I don’t thin these peas, they’ll be a tangled up mess because the tendrils will grab onto the plant next to them instead of my metal fencing. Then I’ll have a glob of pea plants that are all stuck together independent of the fence. Once that happens, it’s all over. Trust me folks, you need to thin your peas.

I bought these bamboo stakes at a garage sale, and they’re perfect for peas to latch onto.

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

First, I stick them in the ground where I want my peas to grow. Then at the base of each pole, I remove some of the soil where each seedling will be planted.

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I put the excess dirt on this cardboard lid so I can carry it with me.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Now I very gently dig up the extra seedlings by pushing my trowel down into the dirt, three to four inches on each side of the plant, making a square in the soil around each one. Then I dig up the seedling and place it on my cardboard.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I use the excess soil I brought with me from the original holes to fill in each hole I create when I remove the transplants. I push the soil down firmly after I fill each hole with dirt.

Then I plant the seedlings into the original holes. Here they are!

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They now have four to six inches of space in between each plant to spread out and grow.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since peas are considered a cool-weather crop here in zone 5, they’re going to bite the dust when it gets hot. They’ll quit producing, turn brown and be pulled out of the ground by yours truly. The beauty of that is, I can plant them close to other plants that will take over their space when they’re gone. In this case, my tomatoes will grow into their space.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I was fortunate enough to have a cloudy day to do this, which is less stressful for the plants. If the sun is out, it’s best to move them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Unfortunately, it’s a windy day (we can’t have everything), so I used some twist ties to very loosely tie the taller transplants to the poles to keep them from flopping over.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Soon enough, the tendrils will grab onto the bamboo and they’ll climb on their own like this little guy is learning to do. FYI – since the tendrils aren’t very long, they need something small to grab onto. Lattice, for example is too large for peas to grasp.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here are a few other places I moved my transplants to. My front flower bed…

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I planted some in a pot with some cucumber seeds that haven’t germinated yet, but will take over after the peas are finished producing.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And in an empty spot near a dwarf lilac bush was another place to plant them.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’ve never planted peas, and are considering taking the plunge, I highly recommend the edible pod variety. They’re great for stir-frying if you pick the pods when they’re young and tender, and if you let them grow, the shelled peas are great eaten raw on salads. In zone 5, you’ve got until the end of May to plant them, or you can also plant a fall crop when the weather cools.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Happy thinning!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

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