Small space gardening

Archive for the ‘Early cool-weather crops’ Category

How to Re-seed Cilantro for a Fall Crop

Mother Nature’s timing in the garden isn’t the greatest when it comes to the herb/veggie team of cilantro and tomatoes. They’re a match made in heaven (think peanut butter and chocolate), but cilantro is a spring producer, and tomatoes aren’t generally ready until mid-summer in zone 5. So for those gardeners out there who love to make fresh salsa with cilantro as an ingredient, I feel your frustration. Cilantro is a dried-up hot mess by the time tomatoes ripen.

Thankfully, I’ve discovered a couple of ways to work around these poorly orchestrated harvest times. One easy, cost-free way is to “assist” your cilantro in re-seeding in mid- to late summer in order to have a second batch while tomatoes are producing. My cilantro re-seeded on its own one summer, and I’ve been encouraging the process every year since.

Here’s what cilantro looks like in the early spring.

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Cilantro is a cool-weather crop. That is, when the heat kicks in, it poops out. The nice full leaves shown in the photo above will start to develop into a lacy, thinner leaf when it starts to get hot, and the stems will begin to thicken as in the photo below. The plant will also grow taller very quickly (called bolting). Many plants will bolt when they’re stressed due to heat or lack of water.

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Here’s another comparison of the leaves before and after cilantro bolts. You can eat the lacy leaves, but they’re bitter.

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It’s hard to believe the last two photos are the same plant only a few weeks apart. Cilantro will also develop dainty white flowers after it bolts. I guess the flowers are some consolation for losing the plant as an edible! It has a Queen Anne’s Lace appearance when in full bloom.

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Cilantro then starts to dry out and get a little ugly. Okay. The truth. It gets real ugly. It looks like a dead plant, which it actually is, but let it be and you’ll be rewarded!

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After the flowering is finished, seeds known as the spice coriander, will form. They’ll be green in the beginning.

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Then they’ll slowly start to turn brown. They generally get to this stage by July or August in zone 5, depending on the weather.

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It’s at this stage, the seeds can be collected and used as coriander if that’s a spice you like to use.  Or they can be scattered for a late summer/fall harvest. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to leave the dead-looking plants in the ground as they are (or in their container if that’s how you choose to grow your herbs), and I place the stems with the seeds on them, between my palms. I rub my hands together as if I’m trying to warm them up, and this will twist the seeds off the stems, dropping them onto the ground. Then I pull the remaining dry, seedless plants from the ground and compost them.

Another way to do this is to simply pull up the plants and give them a good shake, and many of the seeds will fall off onto the ground. I’ve tried both ways, but prefer the first method because if you pull up the plant and shake the seeds off, it’s harder to control where the seeds will drop. In addition, not as many seeds will come off the plant this way.

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I work the seeds into the soil, breaking up any clumps, press the soil lightly so there’s good seed to soil contact, water daily and wait for them to germinate. The looser the soil is, the better your chances are of the seeds germinating. Speaking from experience, this doesn’t work well if the soil has compacted over the course of the summer and you just throw the seeds on top of the soil.

I typically scatter the seeds in my garden in early to mid-August, or wait for a stretch of somewhat cooler weather even as late as mid-September.  The cilantro is up and usable within two to three weeks. Since our average first frost comes around mid-October, and cilantro can handle hard frost, this gives me a whopping 2 to 3 months more of cilantro! It will usually survive until the ground actually freezes. Some of the buried seeds will sleep through the winter and surprise me in the spring if I don’t disturb the soil, and if I keep my current space reserved for cilantro.

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Another way to be assured of having cilantro when the tomatoes finally make their appearance is to freeze your spring crop, leaving some in the garden to bolt if you want to re-seed some. I’ll bet you’re thinking, “It won’t be the same.” The truth is, it’s not the same, but it’s surprisingly close!

Cilantro is so amazing when it’s fresh, that freezing those delicate little leaves would seemingly turn it into a disappointing mush pile.  But if it’s blanched first, it holds its texture without turning into mush. Don’t stop reading now. It’s easy. Really.

To blanch and freeze cilantro, boil an inch or two of water in a large skillet. I think a skillet works best because the cilantro can be spread out and will lay flat, and it’s easier to remove if it all stays running the same direction. It’s also easier to see in an open skillet. Add cilantro to the boiling water for a few seconds–just until it almost starts to wilt and turns a beautiful, deep green color. Remove the cilantro (tongs work well) from the boiling water, and plunge it immediately into a pan of ice water to stop it from cooking.

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I arrange it in a single layer in a Ziplock bag. I remove the air from the bag, seal it and put it in the freezer. The leaves can be removed from the stems before you blanch if you don’t like the stems, but I prefer to leave the cilantro intact and then chop it up, stems and all, when I’m ready to use it. Bonus–It chops easily when it’s frozen.

It’s great for soups and stews in the winter, and frozen cilantro retains much more of it’s flavor than dried cilantro.

The moral of the story is don’t give up on planting cilantro because its early spring life seems short-lived. It actually does better in the fall, depending on our unpredictable Midwest weather, of course. Leave a designated space in your herb garden for it and not only will you be rewarded twice a year, but it’ll be there to greet you in early spring when it re-seeds itself.

I hope you found this post helpful! If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit my other blog at https://HomeStagingBloomingtonIl.wordpress.com.

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How to Plant Tiny Seeds

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.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings

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.

Repurpose a Shepherd’s Hook for Small Space Gardening

Well, here they are. Ugly utility boxes on the side of my house that are messing with my curb appeal (I live on a corner, and this side of my house faces the road). They’re making my new, small-space garden area look bad. I have a dream-like vision of how I would like my side garden to look, and the picture in my head doesn’t include a miniature power-plant.

Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

I would pry those suckers right off the side of my house, but I’m not too keen on living without electricity. I’ve come up with something much more sensible to make them “disappear”.

In my stash of gardening treasures, I found the shepherd’s hook shown in the above photo, that I wasn’t using, and I had an epiphany. In one square foot of earth, I can make use of my hook, grow some veggies and cover those unsightly boxes. Genius. I’m certain P. Allen Smith would be impressed.

It’s a simple process. First I loosen the soil where I’ll be planting, being careful not to destroy the cables that are under the ground in the area. I amend the soil as needed, and insert my shepherd’s hook. Out of respect for my hard-working meter readers, I make sure to leave plenty of space in between my hook and the meter so it can be easily accessed.

I need some twine, and this’ll do the trick.

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

I tie it to the base, like so.

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

I then bring the twine up to a hook, and tie it tightly so there’s no slack in the twine.

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

Next, I find another place on the base to tie another string.

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasisg

Again, I bring this string up to the top, and tie it tightly. I repeat the process until I have four strings that form a fan shape.

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasisg

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening /MyUrbanGardenOasis

I planted cucumber seeds at the base. I prefer pickling cucumbers because I like the flavor of them, the seeds are so small that you don’t even know you’re eating them, and because they’re easy to grow on a trellis since the fruit is lightweight. I plant them from seed because they germinate easily, grow quickly and are cheaper than transplants. And a packet of seeds will last me a few years if I store them in a dry place. So after I plant the seeds, I mulch over them. Not to worry. Those little powerhouses will push their way right through the mulch–no problem.

Because cucumbers climb and attach themselves to structures via tendrils, they need very little coaxing to crawl up the twine. All I have to do in the beginning is keep each vine growing on a separate string. If I don’t watch out for this, they’ll quickly grab onto each other instead of the twine, and become a tangled, droopy mess.

Here you can see they’re on their way! If you look closely, you can see their little arms (aka tendrils) grasping onto the twine.

Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Re-purpose a Shepherd's Hook for Small Space Gardening / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Unfortunately, I wasn’t on the ball enough to take a picture of the vine fully grown all the way to the top, but you get the idea. Other veggies that could be grown this way are pole beans and peas, but you could also grow flowering vines like clematis this way. What makes my heart go pitter-pat is the fact that I can grow veggies in such a tiny space. I had more cucumbers than I could eat, and some lucky neighbors ended up with the overflow. I also like that the shepherd’s hook disappears as the plant grows, and all you can see in the end is a pillar of vines. I’m not sure what I’ll plant on “the hook” this coming growing season, but I’ll throw some photos your way if it’s something spectacular!

If you would like to see another easy DIY trellis for cucumbers, click here!

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

If you have an interest in home decorating, organization and home improvement projects on a budget, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget–Three Weeks Later

What a difference three weeks makes!

How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget--Three Weeks Later / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This post is a photo follow-up three weeks after my “budget” pots were originally filled with seeds, seedlings and transplants. I was planning to wait a full month before posting again, but some of my veggies in my pots need to be picked now, and I want you to see the pots before I start plucking! If you would like to know what’s been planted in each pot, please refer to my original post on how to fill pots on a budget.

If you missed the original post, these pots have been done on a budget because number one, I’m crazily frugal, and number two, I’m currently laid off from my job which makes me even more crazily frugal. I consider them budget-friendly because they’re filled mostly with transplants that would have normally been thinned from my vegetable garden and discarded. Many of the other plants were taken from my yard and placed in the pots, or were planted from seeds. I think the pots are beautiful so far, and it’s a nice change from the same old flower pots. And I get veggies from them! My first radishes–I can almost taste the vitamins now…

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

To be honest about my reporting, I must confess that I lost one spinach transplant, one transplant of lettuce and my tiny basil sprig. I’m not sure why they bit the dust, or bit the dirt, I should say, but no matter. I’ve still got lots of veggies to spare.

Next is a succession of photos. The first in each set of photos shows pots as they looked after being planted May 1st, and the subsequent photos of the same pots were taken May 20th. So three weeks later, here’s their progress.

Here’s my first pot.

Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasisg

You can finally see the red cabbage plant in the center that will take over the pot after the lettuce, spinach and radishes have been harvested. Unfortunately, I have to start picking my veggies because they are taking over the cabbage, and that isn’t what I have in mind!

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Remember this fern and stone crop starts that I took out of my yard?

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They’re looking great now!

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasisg

And here’s my cutie patootie radish pot three weeks ago.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And here’s my radish pot now.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

We’ve had a hot day today, and my poor pepper plant is a bit under the weather, but you get the idea.

Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

A Roma Window Box Tomato is the main plant in this pot.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

So far I’m pretty happy with my onion experiment in my planter boxes.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This little pot is one of my favorites. I love putting colorful lettuce varieties in a decorative pot.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

My stone crop seems to be flourishing despite the fact that this pot doesn’t have a drainage hole!

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This window box hasn’t changed too much.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Remember this pot is also full of plants that I pulled out of my yard.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The remaining pots are in this post just for fun–no veggies in these.

These next two pots came from garage sales. I love them, and have had them for years, but have lots of trouble growing plants in them since there aren’t any drainage holes in them. So far, so good, but I’m not getting my hopes up. It should be a law that all pots come with drainage holes.

The first pot has plants that I’ve taken out of my yard.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I put some bulbs in this pot a couple weeks ago that grow in full shade, which is where this pot lives. I’ve never put bulbs in a pot before, so this is a new one for me. I actually splurged, and bought these in the store! Lord have mercy. The package said it’s an annual, but I’m thinking if I stick the pot in my garage this winter, it’ll come back next year. One tiny sprout is finally showing itself. I almost gave up on this one!

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here are my newest garage sale additions. As a matter of fact, all but a couple of the pots in this post are from garage sales. It’s an inexpensive way to get some great pots, garden utensils, sprinklers, gloves, birdbaths, plants–you name it. Anything you can think of that’s garden-related, I’d be willing to bet I’ve bought at a garage sale.

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This garage sale bargain was purchased just last week, and took a bit of work to whip it into shape since it’s not really intended to be used outdoors with live plants. (I may post later on how I altered it to make it work for me.) It has a combination of store bought plants, and lamb’s ear from my yard.

Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you live in zone 5, now in mid to late May is a great time to get some pots going. Just look what you can have a few short weeks from now! It may be too late to be planting cool weather plant seeds like lettuce and spinach, but there are still lots of vegetable and flower seeds and transplants to choose from. So go check out some seed packets or head to your local nursery to see what can be planted now in your zone, and go for it! I hope to report back next month with new photos. See you then!

Be sure to check out my updated post, “How to Fill flower Pots on a Budget–Five Weeks Later“.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

If you have an interest in home decorating, organization and home spruce ups on a budget, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget

I’m currently laid off from my job, and am wondering how I’m going to afford flowers for my pots this year. In spite of my layoff, I’m pretty pumped because over the past couple of years, I’ve managed to find some great pots at garage sales for next to nothing. Big ones. Pretty ones. One of these pots was fifty cents. Seriously. God was smiling down on me that day for sure! Unfortunately, the pots I bought were different colors, and didn’t look so great together. But I painted them all the same color last week. Now they look a bit more cohesive, and I can display them all together. Here they are!

 How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

So I have some ideas on how to fill these pots, make them look great, not spend much money and have some great-tasting veggies too!

Before I fill my pots, I put some chunks of packing Styrofoam or foam peanuts in the bottom to help with drainage. I’ve read where that’s not really necessary, but it saves on the amount of potting soil I have to buy, and helps keep the pots as lightweight as possible. I had to drill drainage holes in a couple of the lightweight pots that didn’t already have holes in them. I also cut up a piece of screen and duck taped it over the hole to help keep the soil from running out.

It’s a must to invest in some good potting soil. Growing up in a rural area, I find it somewhat amusing that we buy dirt. It’s like buying…air. Dirt is everywhere after all! But if you try to put regular from-the-ground dirt in a pot, you’ll have a brick in no time. I’ve even tried to mix dirt with potting soil when I’ve run out, and that doesn’t work either.

Now my pots are ready for plants. And the cheapest way to grow any kind of plant is to grow it from seed. I know you’re groaning, and I understand the instant gratification of buying something already started for you, but just hear me out. Seeds germinate sooooo quickly, you have a much bigger variety of plants with seeds and any leftovers can be saved for years if you store them in a cool, dry place. So one packet that only costs a couple dollars can provide you with a few years worth of plants.

If you don’t like that idea, here’s another suggestion. I plant rows of lettuce, spinach, radishes, red cabbage, broccoli and so forth in my garden each year. And each year I cringe when I have to thin my seedlings as instructed on the seed packets. Pulling out healthy little plants sends chills up my spine, but if I don’t do it, I know my plants will be too crowded and won’t grow as big as they should.

Well, this year I came up with the idea of recycling the plants I thin out, and putting them into pots to keep from killing the poor little guys, and to fill my pots without spending any extra money at the same time. I won’t even have to use more seeds for goodness sake. I know…seeds are so cheap, so why bother? I say why not bother? It’s something new for me to try, and I consider it a challenge. But if you don’t want to take the time to use your thinned seedlings, you can still plant seeds into your pots and save yourself a lot of money that way too.

If you google information on transplanting seedlings, many sites will say you can’t transplant lettuce, spinach, radish, etc… Well, I’m here to tell you that you certainly can. Recycling your transplants instead of pulling them out and pitching them when you’re thinning, gives you more plants without using more seeds. You just need to do it before they get too big, and develop a long tap root. It’s also a good idea to do it on a cool day so you don’t shock the bejeebers out of them.

Since most of my seeds that I planted in April are for early, cool-season crops, they will only be in the pots for a short time and then will be harvested and eaten. So the main center plant in my larger pots will be a plant that will grow all summer, and will fill the pot on its own after the early plants are gone.

I’ve taken pictures of my three newly painted pots as well as other pots I’ve filled, but keep in mind they’re going to look very different in a month or so (I’m hoping.)

The main plant in this pot that is planted in the center is Red Express cabbage, which is a small-scale cabbage. Even if you squint, I don’t think you can see it in this photo yet. Around the cabbage is spinach, radish and lettuce—all taken from thinings from my garden. If all goes as planned, once the outer plantings are harvested, the head of cabbage will fill the whole pot.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The next pot is a fern I’ve taken from the ground and planted with some stone crop around it. It’ll look great when the stone crop spills over the edges of the pot. This pot was then “free” since these plants were taken from my yard.

 How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This cutie patootie pot just has a few radishes in it. I’ll need to find something else to plant in this after the radishes are finished.

The key to moving radish transplants, or any other transplant for that matter is to make sure you take your trowel down way beneath where you think the plant’s root ends, and then ever-so-gently pull it out of the soil with as much dirt attached to the seedling as possible. I did manage to snap one of my roots on my radishes, and it was a gonner. I suppose one casualty isn’t too bad.

You also need to have a spot ready so you can put it right back into some soil. I’ve done this in the garden soil with lots of success too. You just have to make sure the soil you’re putting the transplant into is nice and fine–no chunks allowed! And of course you have to water very gently right away too. Watering these little babies with a garden hose would be like a tsunami that would surely kill them!

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I planted a jalapeno pepper plant in the center of this pot that will grow and produce until the end of the summer. Jalapeno plants are gorgeous with their bright red and green fruits. Almost an ornamental plant! I don’t eat jalapenos, but I freeze them to use in Italian beef. I may try canning a small jar or two this year.

The pepper plant is surrounded by some chives that I thought I had dug up and gotten rid of, a tiny, tiny basil sprout that I again thought I had dug up and it regrew, a couple radishes, lettuce and spinach. The lettuce is both red and green and is going to look great once it gets going. I did try some carrot seeds in this pot too. Nothing like trying to plant a speck of pepper. Man those carrot seeds are tiny! Even I would not try to transplant a carrot! This pot will eventually be left with the pepper plant, the chives and the basil. The other veggies will be harvested at some point, and at the end of the growing season, the chives and the basil will probably be put back in the ground for the winter.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This one has a banana pepper plant in the center. I planted a circle of radish seeds around it that you can see if you look closely. (I ran out of transplants, so I splurged and planted seeds.)

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

My last large pot has a Roma Window Box tomato plant in the center. I’ve tried planting a tomato plant in a pot only once before, and I wasn’t impressed. But if at first you don’t succeed…Let’s just say I’m hoping I have better luck this time. Surrounding the tomato plant are the same types of cool-weather veggies as are in the other large pots.
Another advantage of putting cool-season veggies in a pot is that on really hot days, the pot can be moved out of the sun during the hottest part of the day if need be to prevent them from bolting and scorching. This way I can extend my growing season a bit.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

These window box type planters that my lovely son, Ross, got for me have onion sets in them that I’m hoping will grow into tasty bulb onions. In the past, I’ve only grown green onions, so this is an experiment.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This tiny pot has some colored lettuce in it that was transplanted from my garden. Colored lettuce in a pot is beautiful. I’ve done it before, and it’s just as pretty as coleus or any other colorful, non-flowering plant that you would put in a pot.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This pot doesn’t have a drainage hole in it, so I took stone crop from my yard and stuck it in here. Plants don’t like pots without drainage holes in them, especially glazed ceramic pots like this one because they don’t breathe like clay pots. But stone crop is like a weed—a very cool looking weed, I might add—and I doubt it’ll croak despite the drainage issue.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here’s a window box that I put inside my porch area that has primrose and creeping jenny.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Yet another pot of freebies from my yard has lamb’s ear, fern and burgundy coral bells. You can’t see the coral bells too well yet in this photo. It’s on the left. I’ll probably add something else to this pot when it gets warmer, but for now it’ll have to stay the way it is.

  How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

We’ve had a pretty wet spring so far this year, and as I’m writing this, I’ve moved my pots off my covered porch and out into the rain for some of “God’s water” as my sister calls it. Waaaaay better than the hose stuff.

Food for thought: Even we city folks have insects and bunnies, but pests are another reason to plant in pots. Pest problems are pretty much eliminated in a pot garden. (That didn’t sound so good, did it?) Pest problems are pretty much eliminated in a container garden, let’s say. Weeds–nonexistent. Also, I’m able to plant peppers and tomatoes a bit earlier than normal because if there’s a chance of frost, I can just move them inside my garage or my porch. You can also get creative with the type of containers you choose to plant in. You can use just about anything that can hold dirt and has holes for drainage.

If you can’t commit to daily watering, pots may not be for you. But if your heart desires fresh veggies in the summer time, and you have no earth of your own to dig in, and you’re sick to death of hearing about all the chemicals that are sprayed on our food, this may be your answer. There are many hybrids of tomatoes and other vegetables that are now made more compact specifically to be planted in pots for us urbanites.

Since probably 90% of my pots and gardening tools are from yard sales, I say hit some garage sales, buy some seeds and soil and you’ve got yourself an inexpensive garden!

Please note that a follow up post has been published called “How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget–Three Weeks Later” so that you can see progress of these pots! Here’s one of the updated photos from that post—

 How to Fill Flower Pots on a Budget / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you have an interest in decorating, home organization or DIY home improvement projects, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and a Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

My Midwest Garden and the Drought of 2012

The purpose of this blog was supposed to be a way for me to share with my fellow gardeners the changes my garden goes through in the course of a spring, summer and fall. I was going to post amazing pictures of how the plants change and grow. But unfortunately, this past summer the Midwest was plagued with a drought that pretty much made most gardens…well…suck (pardon my French). So then I’m pondering, “Do I post or not post about the few veggies and plants that succeeded in spite of the drought?” You know, a sort of survival of the fittest. Well, I say, reluctantly, yes I do. An interesting side note is that I’m publishing this post on March 24th, 2013 which is after the first day of spring, mind you. And we’re supposed to get 9 inches of snow today! Welcome to Illinois.

The trellis I built just for my green beans last summer (prior post) was in vain because they didn’t produce much. My green peppers didn’t produce until the weather cooled in the fall and my tomatoes were mediocre at best. I’m going to stop now because it’s depressing me. If you’re like me, you just can’t wait until that spring day when your garden goes in with the anticipation of a bang-up harvest. And when it flops, it’s like not having Christmas.

The good news is some of my early spring veggies like peas, radishes, strawberries and lettuce did well because they “beat the heat”. And some of those same veggies, I replanted in the late summer, and had successful fall crops. And of course, plants that always do well were also a success–onions, sunflowers, basil and oregano.

As if time doesn’t fly by fast enough already, I’m going to show some progression photos of plants and veggies that were a success last summer despite Mother Nature’s nastiness.

I’ll start with my ornamental grass. Here are pictures of what it looked like in early spring last year after winter had taken its toll, after I cut it back, as it started to grow and what it looked like at the end of the summer.

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Next is my clematis vine. It always grows like gangbusters, and this particular type of clematis is actually considered invasive in some areas of the country. I feel like a schmuck because I didn’t take a photo of it in the fall when it was flooded with beautiful, white flowers, but here are the photos I did manage to take.

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My stawberries are the June Bearing variety and they, of course, come up from the ground without any help at all from Yours Truly. This is the smaller of two strawberry beds I have in my tiny yard.

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Lettuce did well in both the spring and fall.

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Peas were probably my most successful crop. I always plant the edible pod variety, and love them in salads and stir fry. Please note that these are planted in a small side yard area by my garbage cans. You don’t need a lot of space to grow veggies! After they finished producing in the heat of the summer, I pulled them out, and planted pumpkin vines in part of the area, saving room to replant more peas in the late summer for a fall crop.

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I planted red cabbage for the first time this year, and chose a smaller head cabbage called Red Express. The heads were only baseball to softball-sized, and I loved them. I have some leftover seeds, and plan to plant more this year. I also planted these in my sideyard. I first scattered several seeds in a tiny area about a foot by a foot and a half, just to get them in the ground. I wasn’t sure where their permanent home was going to be, so I let them get a couple of inches tall, gave some to neighbors and then transplanted the rest in front of my peas. You can see some of the cabbage seedlings in the previous photos if you look closely. Towards the end of the summer, my pumpkin vines grew up around them.

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Here are my garlic cloves. I actually planted them correctly in the fall this year, and am hoping for bigger cloves next time around.

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And here’s my baby, my cilantro. I just discovered this herb a couple of years ago, and it’s now my favorite herb in the world. My FHW, if you will. It grows in the spring and the fall, and will bolt in the heat of the summer (that’s a bad thing because it’s bitter after it bolts). I found it difficult to get started, but once it grows, I spread its seeds back on the ground at the end of the season, and it comes back up every year. I have a cilantro “patch” now. I love to make Pico de Gallo in the summer with my fresh onions and tomatoes.

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Well, there wasn’t much to report in this post, but 2013 will be a better year, and I’m hoping it’ll be here before we know it. A snow plow just went by…

If you have an interest in decorating, organizing or DIY home improvement projects, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

This blog was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner (Home Staging Resource at http://www.HomeStagingResource.com) and a Journeyman Painter in the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. You can view her portfolios at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos.

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