Small space gardening

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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When the first warm days arrive in spring, I’m ready to get my hands in the dirt. Although some garden seeds can be sown outdoors now, it’s too soon to plant many of the common container plants in mid-April here in zone 5.  I can prepare my pots now though, so when the time comes, I’m good to go. It’s not one of my favorite projects, but it has to be done. Here are some of the pots that need tended to.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I started getting more into container gardening a couple years ago after finding a couple of large, killer pots at some yard sales that were ridiculously cheap. And since my yard is small, it gives me another avenue for planting so I figured why not give it a try. Now of course, I’m hopelessly addicted. No worries about bunnies, insects or crappy soil.

It’s a good thing my garage sale pots were almost free, because I was shocked, disappointed, frustrated, and then amused to find out how expensive potting soil is. It’s dirt, after all. In my mind it’s like buying water to drink when it comes out of the faucet for free. But I realize potting soil is a whole different animal, and is a necessity for healthy container plants.  Since I almost had to take out a second mortgage to buy lots of potting soil when I first started this adventure, I decided rather than dump out all of my potting soil and start over each year, I would amend what I have and save some money.

To illustrate why you shouldn’t re-use potting soil without amending it, check this out. Here’s what came out of my window boxes. It was just like popping an ice-cube out of an ice-cube tray.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasishoto IMG_4922.jpg

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Solid chunks like that one came out of every pot when I dumped out the soil. Here’s a clump of roots that came out of one of my larger pots after I shook all of the soil loose.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Plants aren’t going to be very happy trying to find their way through all those old roots. I promise.

It’s easiest to dump the pots into a wheel barrow, and remove all of the chucks and roots. Those go into my compost pile. I have a pretty large wheel barrow (!!garage sale find!!), but I could only dump a few pots at a time, or it would be too difficult to mix it all up.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The old potting soil can be amended with either some fresh potting soil, or as I’m doing this year, worm castings and composted manure. Here are some castings I’ve been saving from my worm bin.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

What you don’t want to add to your potting soil is dirt from your yard. I tried that one year when I ran short of potting soil. I thought just a small amount of “earth” mixed in with it wouldn’t hurt, but I was wrong. The soil became hard as a rock and the plants didn’t do well.

So now I have my amended soil ready to put back into my pots.

Some of my smaller pots that I love, don’t have drainage holes in them. I won’t purchase any more ceramic pots without drainage holes because plants don’t seem to like them all that much. I’ve tried drilling holes in ceramic pots with a specialized drill bit, but it’s nearly impossible to do. But since these pots are among my favorites, I still want to use them–drainage holes or not. I use Styrofoam peanuts in them to allow for some drainage space. Even though the pots are medium-sized, they’re still heavy, so peanuts are the way to go. Here’s two of them.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s much less mess if you just put the pot right into the wheelbarrow (if you have one) to fill it.

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

For larger pots, I do pretty much the same thing. The lightweight “fake” pots are easy to drill through, and often do not come with drainage holes. After I drilled holes in the larger pots, I duck taped a small section of screen over the hole to help keep the soil from running out.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I know they look like garbage cans at the moment, but for the bigger pots, I add big chunks of Styrofoam and/or empty plastic bottles (with the lids on) so I don’t have to use so much soil. The plants grow just fine in several inches of soil–they don’t need two feet of it. And of course it helps keep the pots from getting too heavy. Also, in the bigger pots, when it’s time to refurbish your soil, it’s much easier to fish through and pull out large bottles and chunks of Styrofoam than it is to pick out a couple hundred packing peanuts.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I went to a local garden shop today for a few seed packets. I started some lettuce, radishes and onion sets in some of my pots.  I couldn’t help myself and bought a four pack of annuals for one of my smaller pots. Here’s my instant gratification for all my hard work. If it snows or freezes again, yes snow is a possibility–anything can happen in Illiniois–I’ll bring my one pot inside with me for safe keeping.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’re not a container gardening person, but want to try your hand at an in-the-ground garden, now in mid-April is the time to sow some of the cool-weather crop seeds outside. (See the “Planting Timeline” in the margin of this web page to find out what can be planted now in zone 5.).

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.

Ahhhhh, Morning Glories! One of the most beautiful and fastest growing annual vines in zone 5. They’re practical too if you’re landscaping for privacy. If you happen to live in zone 5, now is the time to start them from seed indoors.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’m a proponent of growing plants from seed whenever possible, because it stretches your budget in a big, big way. The seeds I’m using now are three years old, which means I’ve gotten three years worth of morning glories for about $2.00. Based on how many of the three-year-old seeds germinated when I planted some last week, I’d say the germination rate was 90% or better.

I used to try starting plants indoors by putting a pot on my kitchen table in front of a south-facing window. Even with southern exposure, my seedlings were always tall and lanky, and the first time I put them outside on a windy day…well…there were few survivors.

So here’s what I’ve learned. To avoid raising weak plants, I move the pots outside on decent days (over 60 degrees), and then bring them in at night. That way, they get the sun they need, but don’t freeze to death at night. This makes a significant difference on the thickness and strength of the stems.

Seeds can be started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, which for zone 5 is May 15. To plant Morning Glories, soak the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. The outer shell on a Morning Glory seed is built like a tank, and it helps the seed to germinate more quickly if it’s soaked first.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I re-use my potting soil every year, but add some sort of compost/fertilizer to the old soil. This year, I’m adding worm castings from my worm bin. I plant several seeds in one pot by making a ring about a half of an inch deep in the dirt, and plant the seeds in a circle.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I add my seeds.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I cover the seeds with dirt, and lightly press the soil down so that I have good soil to seed contact. Then I water. I add a small trellis to this pot to give the vines something to climb onto. This was a pot I saved from a plant I bought last year, and it’s perfect for starting my vines.

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

After a week, the seedlings are about two inches tall already! Since so many of the seeds germinated, I’ll probably move half of the seedlings to another pot. If I plant this many vines in this small of a space, I’ll be left with a nightmarish tangle of unhealthy vines.

After re-potting half of the seedlings, I’ll keep an eye on the remaining half, and before they get too wrapped around the trellis, I’ll probably whittle the remaining ones down to about three or four survivors. (Looks like the little guy in the front left is taking a bow!)

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

When I plant the Morning Glories outside after all danger of frost has passed, I’ll remove the soil, vines and trellis from the pot in one, big bunch, and plant the whole shebang in front of another trellis that they can latch onto.

I’m happy to report that last spring, I had some Morning Glories that re-seeded on their own. Not only did I have an unexpected Morning Glory explosion, I had blooms that were a color I didn’t plant. I always plant Heavenly Blue, which is shown in the first photo posted, but they came up purple last year. I’m not talking a bluish purple, I’m talking in-your-face, Barney-the-dinosaur purple.

I’ve read that a change in the pH of soil can change the color, but I noticed a lot of purple Morning Glories in my city, and no blue ones, so I’m thinking some other environmental factor may have come into play. I was a little disappointed because I love, love, love the blue ones.

Since too much nitrogen will stimulate the foliage, but will stifle flower production, you’ll want to forgo the fertilizer. Other than the worm castings I put in my pot to get them off to a good start, they won’t get anything more to eat at my house once they’re in the ground. They thrive in bad soil.

You can also plant Morning Glories in a large pot with a trellis. I pulled these vines out of the ground last spring when they were little and put them in a pot.

 Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Nothing against Barney, but I sure hope I get my Heavenly Blue ones back this year!

Morning Glories Planted From Seed / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

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.

After about a month of vermicomposting, my friend Cinny came over to see my beautiful worm bin. I pointed out to her the little white dots that had just started showing up in my bin. I’m talking, many white dots. Eggs, maybe, I thought. She picked one up on her index finger, and I grabbed my magnifying glass. Since her eyes are much better than mine, I let her analyze the situation.

She said it was a bug. It had legs, and it was moving. Great. At that point, I grabbed her finger and smashed that nasty white dot. One down, 2,000 to go. I was thinking my vermicomposting adventure was certainly short-lived, and was wondering what was I going to do with a bin full of worms, bedding, poop and bugs in the middle of the winter. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of having worms in my house in the first place, let alone bugs! Here they are on a piece of decaying cantaloupe.

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

What we learned was that the bugs were actually soil-dwelling mites. These eight-legged decomposers are supposed to be a welcome addition to a worm bin. I learned they love wet, acidic soil, and since I always added coffee grounds to my bedding, they were loving the environment. I, however, was not loving them.

Mites that are white in color will not attack or kill worms. They will, however, feed on dead or dying worms, and that’s a plus. Mites that are red, however, will eat your worms so you don’t want those!

But a bin with a huge mite population isn’t a good thing because they will compete with worms for food. The truth is, I’m really not interested in having the little buggers in my bin, regardless of color or number of residents. That’s just gross. (Like worms aren’t gross?! I knew you were thinking that.)

So here’s what I did. Since they obviously loved the cantaloupe, I put some rinds, flesh-side down on top of the bedding.

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I left them for a couple of days, and unbeknownst to the mites that swarmed the fruit, they were chowing down on what was about to be their final meal. The mite-infested rinds were promptly thrown outside into a snow bank in my backyard vegetable garden area. Hope they brought their mittens.

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since my bedding was a little on the wet side, I left the bin sitting out under a light in my kitchen for a while with the lid off, and fluffed up the bedding every now and then to help it dry out a bit. This definitely cut down on my mite population, and mites were no longer a problem after that. Even before the mite issue, I would leave the bin out with the lid off to help it dry out a little from time to time. I don’t have drainage holes in the bottom of my bin, so I try to keep a close eye on the moisture content.

Since we’re on the subject of cantaloupe—unless you’re trying to grow a cantaloupe forest, I would advise against putting the seeds in your bin. Imagine my surprise when I pulled my bin out of the closet I keep it in, and I see this! (This was my original bin.)

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The “trees” grew about three to four inches tall in as many days. They were actually pressing against the lid. Had it been planting time, I would have transplanted some of the starts outside and had one heck of a cantaloupe patch! So note to self–no more cantaloupe seeds in the worm bin. By the way, I just pulled up the little guys, and left them in the bin to decompose.

White Dots in My Worm Bin?! / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I hope this post doesn’t discourage anyone from giving vermicomposting a try, because mites really are not a big deal, and are easy to get rid of if they bother you. It’s full speed ahead for me! Even Nicole Ritchie (Lionel’s daughter) has a couple of worm bins. I saw her on The Ellen Show the other day, and she mentioned that she has two at her house.

In closing, I wish I would have had this worm bin when my children were little. I think it’s such an interesting process, and it demonstrates how our environment takes care of itself naturally. It’s amazing how these little poop machines work to clean up, aerate and fertilize our soil. Any teachers out there? Building a worm bin would be a great classroom project. It doesn’t take much time, and the kids “mite” just learn something. (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)

To see how to build a simple worm bin out of a recycled container, click here.

To see an easy way to harvest worm castings for fertilizer, click here.

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.

Ever heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder?” I’m all about that, especially when it comes to something as icky as collecting worm poop.

For those of you who haven’t had the nerve to try vermicomposting because of the harvesting process, let me say I’ve found a way to harvest the castings without a lot of time, mess and effort. Let’s get down to it.

If you missed my original post on Vermicomposting and how to set up a bin, feel free to check that out here because I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on that in this post.

I decided now, during the harvesting process, was a great time to move my lovelies to a brand new “resort”. When I ventured into vermicomposting a couple of months ago, I started with a recycled cake container because I must admit I wasn’t sure if this was something I was going to do long-term. The idea of cutting up a brand, new Rubbermaid container made me crazy(er). So my worms are going to go from a shanty to a high dollar condo during this first harvest. Here’s the condo I found at Wal-Mart. This container was a good choice because it’s opaque, and keeps the light out.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s only been about eight weeks or so since I started this process, and I’ve read to harvest the castings every three months. But my container was starting to get pretty heavy, and I’m not too keen on the idea of that flimsy container splitting in two, and having worms and poop all over my kitchen. I also read it’s not good for the worms to be in bedding where the casting concentration is too high, so I decided to just do it now.

I saw some amazingly messy and time-consuming videos on the internet on how to harvest using a tarp and making little piles, and I dare say I’m just not up for that. So here’s what I did.

First I washed my container and cut holes in the lid and lined them with window screen. I added fresh sphagnum peat moss about three inches thick and added about 12 cups of the “snow water” I used in my original post. My peat moss was very dry, so it absorbed this amount of water quickly.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I added some nice decomposing kitchen scraps I’d been saving, some used paper towels and some coffee grounds (I get used grounds from Starbucks) so my slimy new tenants could have a nice housewarming dinner.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Next I filled some mesh bags I’d saved, with the old bedding–worms and all. I took everything from the original container and filled all the mesh bags I had, and set them on top of the new bedding.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This photo shows how dark and rich the old casting material inside the bag is, as compared to the new peat moss.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I had just the right amount of bags to hold all of the bedding and worms from the original container.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I let them sit for a while under my kitchen light. Worms are like mini vampires in that they don’t like light, so they burrowed down into the bags. After giving them some time to burrow, I carefully removed the top few inches of old bedding from the mesh bags, putting it back into the original container. I checked to make sure no worms were in the bedding as I dumped it back into the original container. I did see several of what I assumed were worm eggs. When I saw these, I put them into the new condo with all the mommy/daddy worms.

 Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I didn’t try to rescue all the eggs because it would have taken forever. I figure they’ll hatch into the old bedding, and end up in my garden so it’s all good. I did notice many, many babies in my bedding that were about a half an inch long, which is good. My friend, Cinny wants to give this a go at some point, and I offered to share my “friendship” worms with her. I don’t give my worms to just anybody. (Smile, Cinny!)

I continued the process of letting the bags sit for several minutes, and scooping off the wormless bedding from the tops of the bags. If I didn’t want to mess with this, I could have let the bags sit all day, and all the worms would have eventually moved into the new condo on their own, but I couldn’t resist removing the bedding to encourage them to move along a little faster.

Here’s what happened when I would lift the bags. You can see they were finding their way out of the mesh and into the new peat moss.

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Harvest Worm Castings the Easy Way / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After they all made their way out of the bags, I dumped the remaining bedding/casting mix out of the bags, and back into the old container. I was quite happy with the amount of castings I had after such a short time. I’ll use the castings in a month or so when I’m ready to start planting. Since potting soil is so pricey, I’m hoping to use it mostly in my outdoor pots to avoid buying more soil. Here’s my ready-to-use fertilizer.

 photo IMG_4868.jpg

You may be wondering what percentage of the mix was castings, and how much was the original peat moss. The answer is…I’m not quite sure. It looked like it was all castings, but I realize it couldn’t have been or the worms would have died. It’s very dark, rich-looking and crumbly, and smells like normal dirt.

I know it’s difficult to believe, but I would like to stress that these bins have no odor other than the smell of dirt. I make sure to bury the food scraps, but buried or not, I have put some pretty nasty scraps into mine that I can’t believe don’t make the bin smell like a cesspool. When I add coffee grounds, however, sometimes it does smell like coffee. I always had a hard time believing these bins didn’t smell, but it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.

I didn’t know if vermicomposting was something I was going to stick with originally, but now that I’ve been through one very painless harvest, I’m hooked. I find this whole process fascinating, and if this magical poop makes my plants happy, I’ll do it for a very long time. I’ll be posting at a later date to report how my fertilized pots fared. Stay tuned.

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 HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I would like to introduce you to my very good friend, Mr. JB Weld. If you’re a DIYer, or a person who likes to restore broken treasures, you must meet JB. He’s been around for 40 years, but I just discovered him a couple years ago. JB Weld is a cold-weld, steel-reinforced epoxy that has a strength of 3960 PSI. Move over, Popeye! It’s just what I need for my latest “rescue”.

Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

As I was walking my dog not long ago, I noticed a pile of treasures on a curb that included a beautiful bird bath. Beautiful and broken, that is. Initially, I was going to take only the base of the birdbath (which was in perfect condition), because the basin was broken into three pieces. I knew I could find a pretty plate or bowl or gazing ball to put on top of the base.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

But at the last second, I decided to go for “broke” (funny), and snatch the pieces of the broken basin too, to see if it could be fixed. I searched high and low for my Gorilla Glue, which I’ve found works pretty well on smaller items. I must admit I was leery about using it on this project though, because the ceramic pieces I needed to glue together were thick and heavy, and the glue would be exposed to water. Thank goodness I didn’t find the Gorilla Glue, because I decided to try the JB Weld that I had on hand instead.

I was introduced to this product by a friend when my apple corer broke. I used my brand new corer once, and when I put it back in the box to store it, I somehow managed to break the handle right in the middle of the metal. I used JB Weld, highly doubting it would work, but it was the most amazing thing ever! I’ve since used my apple slicer/corer to make some crazy-good apple pastries, and it works like a champ.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

My next experience with JB was on one of these super-cool metal pumpkins I purchased at a garage sale. One of the pieces of iron had broken loose at the weld. I slapped some JB on it, clamped it, and it was good as new.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

So here’s the skinny on JB Weld. It’s a two-part epoxy that comes in two toothpaste-like tubes. One tube is actually steel paste, and the other is hardener. All you do is mix equal parts of the two tubes together, and apply the concoction to your item. I wasn’t so sure about using it at first because this bird bath is going to be full of water, but on the package it says JB Weld can be used for marine repairs, so I should be good to go. It can be used on metal, wood, plastic, tile, pvc, ceramic, fiberglass, concrete and Lord knows what else.

Here’s the whole, simple process. First I brush the rough edges of the three broken pieces to get rid of any crumbs.

Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I make sure I have some pieces of wood ready to use as supports while my pieces are drying. Because of the angle of the basin, there’s no way to use c-clamps to hold the drying pieces together.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I squeeze out equal parts of the hardener and the steel on a throw-away lid. (Foil works fine too.)

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I mix the two parts together with a toothpick until it turns a medium gray color.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I apply a generous amount to my first broken piece.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I hold the piece for a minute, and then push the wooden wedges underneath to help hold the piece in place.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I wipe off with a damp rag, any excess goo that squashes out. I left the excess on the apple corer and the pumpkin hoping it would add strength to those items, and appearance wasn’t an issue for either of those.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I was only planning to glue one piece, let it dry a few hours, and then glue the second piece. But it adheres quickly and firmly enough that I’m able to epoxy one right after the other.

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

After I feel the pieces are secure, I use the JB Weld to fill in any chipped areas near the cracks where little pieces of ceramic are missing. I find a close match of red paint from my stash, and I paint the tiny areas that I fill in since the JB Weld remains gray in color after it dries. My paint seems to adhere just fine to those areas. If I inspect the basin closely, I can slightly see the crack on one of the pieces, but the other crack disappeared completely. And guess what–the birds aren’t going to care about a hairline crack while they’re tending to their hygiene issues!

And here’s my gorgeous bird bath, rescued from the landfill! The iron “Peace” garden stake with the red, glass ball behind the bird bath in this photo was “saved” from the same curb pile as the bird bath. I scored a two-fer!

 Curbside Bird Bath Restored With JB Weld / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’ll be several months before I can report back as to how well my restored bird bath full of water survives in the summer heat. I’ve brought all my “yardifacts” in for the winter that’s just around the corner here in Central Illinois. I’ll try to publish an update at the end of next summer. But my feathered friends and I will be happy if we can enjoy it even for a summer. It was free after all!

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

If you’re a die-hard gardener or composter, you may have heard of vermicomposting. If you’re not a die-hard gardener or composter, this idea just might make your face scrunch up. Vermicomposting is the process of composting organic matter such as kitchen scraps using worms, and using the resulting worm castings as a fertilizer. Worm castings have the highest nutrient content of any fertilizer.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

And here comes the face-scrunching part–most vermicomposting is done indoors. Ewwwww! Yucky. For worms to survive, they must be in an environment where the temperature stays between about 40 and 85 degrees. Otherwise the worms will die. I realize how disgusting this sounds, but I’ve been wanting to try this for several years after reading about restaurants that practice vermicomposting.

Since the possibility exists that this great idea could turn into a bad idea, I’m going to make my first composting bin out of an inverted, recycled cake container that is 5 inches deep and measures 15 by 20 inches. If this experiment is successful, I’ll upgrade to Rubbermaid bins.

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

All I did to construct my bin was cut a large hole in the lid (which was actually the bottom of the original container) and tape a piece of screen over it to contain any prospective deserters. I actually saw a video of someone who made a worm bin and suggested not putting a lid on it, but I’m thinking this whole process is scary enough with a lid. A lid for me, thank you.

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If the environment in the bin is unsuitable, the worms will make an attempt at freedom. I saw another video of someone’s bin that had hundreds of worms up near the lid, trying to make a run for it because he didn’t drill air holes in it–another face-scruncher. Incidentally, I filled the bin with about an inch of water to test for leaks, as sometimes liquid can accumulate in the bottom.

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If your bin doesn’t have enough air circulation, condensation will form inside the tub. And if your compost gets too wet, it will start to smell. I’m also assuming the worms would eventually suffocate. A clear bin like this one isn’t ideal since worms don’t like light, but I’ll be storing mine in a dark place. If this is a success, I’ll be using a dark-colored bin for subsequent batches.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I’m using sphagnum peat moss for bedding as was suggested by Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, where I purchased my red wigglers.

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s wintertime, and it’s a blizzard here in Central Illinois right now. The worms I ordered were supposed to be shipped to the post office, and held for me to pick up so they wouldn’t die in the cold in my mailbox or get buried in a snow drift on my porch. However, the package wasn’t held at the post office and was delivered to my house. Thank goodness for those little worms I happened to be home when the box that looked like an elephant stepped on it, was delivered.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The worm farm was having a winter sale on worms, and a thousand worms cost me $20.00 plus shipping. Most women buy shoes on clearance. Not me. I buy worms.

There’s a variety of bedding that worms will thrive in. I’m thinking they’re really not all that particular. Many people use shredded paper or cardboard scraps for bedding. I’ve read that most black newspaper ink (not colored) is safe for your worms and for your soil, but I can’t get past the fact that ink just seems “chemical-ish”, and I can’t bring myself to use it. The worms actually eat the bedding too.

I filled the bin with a couple of inches of peat moss, and added enough water (about 5 cups) so that the moss is moist, but not dripping wet. And to make the worms feel right at home, I used melted snow at room temperature instead of tap water. We’ve got plenty of that right now!

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Red wigglers are surface dwellers that travel horizontally in the top layers of soil or organic matter, which makes them perfect for composting in shallow bins. I’ve read not to use worms from your yard as those are tunnelers, and won’t survive in a compost situation like this.

Here are my 1000 little poop machines! I’m wondering who counts all those worms…Just kidding! Worms are weighed, not counted, and 1000 worms weigh roughly one pound.

 Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They came in this nifty little fabric bag.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I dumped them into their new home, and they were a tangled mess. I spread them out a little bit, and then read the instructions that said not to spread them out. So…don’t spread them out. After several minutes, most of them disappeared under the peat moss. It’s recommended that you leave them under a light after you release them, so they’ll acclimate faster to their new home. Since they don’t like light, they’ll burrow down to get away from it, and get settled in.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Next, I added some chopped up food scraps I’d been collecting, and buried them to avoid a fruit fly party. It’s going to take some experimentation to know how much to feed them, but I’ve read about three to four pounds of scraps a week for 1000 worms. Am I gonna weigh and puree my scraps like some people do? Not a chance. We’re gonna wing it on the amount, and my worms are just going to have to chew their food like everybody else.

Indoor Composting With Worms / MyUrbanGardenOasis

This is an odor-free process if done correctly, but if this turns into a stinkfest that I can’t get under control, I’m probably gonna bail. And by bail, I mean release them into my garden when it’s warm enough for them to survive. Their castings will be great for my soil.

Worms will compost anything that you would throw into a normal compost pile with a couple of exceptions. Do not feed worms onion or citrus scraps. Leaves are good, but no sticks. And, as with a normal compost pile, you don’t want to add any meat, dairy or greasy foods. Coffee grounds and ground up egg shells are good for worms, because like chickens, worms have gizzards, and these gritty foods aid in their digestion. Feel free to throw in tea bags, paper towels, and coffee filters too.

Castings should be ready to harvest in about three months, which will be just in time for spring planting here in Illinois. I’m guessing 1000 worms aren’t going to produce enough castings to service my whole garden by any means, but they should produce enough that I can make worm tea. That is, adding castings to a bucket of water, letting them steep for a few days, and then using the nutrient-rich water to fertilize plants.

It’s February at the time of this writing. The holiday buzz is over, and I’m really missing my garden, so vermicomposting gives me some semblance of gardening–something new to try. It’s sort of like taking an aspirin when what you really need is surgery, and all I’ve got right now is aspirin. Sigh.

If my slimy little friends survive, I’ll publish a follow-up post on how to harvest their castings. If they die, I’ll have a funeral to which all of you will be invited.

One Month Later: My bin is doing well at the one month mark. Amazingly enough, I can confirm that despite the fact that I fill it with rotting food scraps, there is no smell other than the smell of dirt. So far, so good.

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 Redesign, please feel free to check her other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

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