Ali Lawrence has been gardening since she was five. She was born and raised in Alaska but now resides in Pennsylvania where her family grows a large garden every year. Her passions include writing haikus and finding new ways to use her essential oils! Read more articles from Ali at HomeyImprovements.com and connect with her on Pinterest.
 

 

Gifts for the Gardener in Your Life
by Ali Lawrence - posted 11/22/16

best gifts for gardeners

If you know someone with a green thumb, buying a gardening-specific gift can add a special touch to any occasion. No matter what your budget, there is a unique gift you can find for the gardener in your life.

1.    Succulent Terrarium

Succulents are easy to grow and durable, and they transport well. If you have to mail the gift to the gardener, a succulent will be hardy enough to survive the trip. A succulent terrarium can sit on a gardener’s desk at work or be displayed in the home, so your gardening friend can enjoy a bit of the outdoors in a small container.

There are many different types of succulent terrariums. While you can buy terrariums for around $15-$60, it would make the gift even special if you make it! Here are instructions on how to making hanging terrariums.

2.    Garden Themed Charm

If the gardener in your life also loves jewelry, consider a garden themed charm. If the person does not yet own a charm bracelet, you could purchase both the bracelet and the first charm for it. If they already own a charm bracelet, take notice of the brand.

Go to your local jewelry store or check out charm collections online to find a charm that would fit their bracelet and would remind them of both you and gardening.

3.    Heirloom Seeds

If your gardener enjoys growing tomatoes in the summer and worries over GMOs, then a terrific gift is heirloom seeds. If you want to gift the person with a number of seeds at once, EcoFarms offers a gift set of organic, non-GMO heirloom seeds. Seeds that come in the boxed set include corn, carrots, broccoli, pepper and tomato. The set costs $21.88 with free Prime shipping.

4.    Self-Watering Herb Garden

How much fun is a fish tank with an herb garden on top? Put a beautiful beta fish in the base, and add an herb garden on the second tier. The water is nutrient rich because of the fish, so it will feed the plants as they grow. The plants also help to purify the water, so the entire mini-environment is low maintenance and creates a healthy environment for the fish and the plants. The garden kit is $60.

5.    Cute Watering Can or Gardening Tools

Even though your friend won’t be able to use the item for a few more months, gifting a cute watering can or other fashionable garden tool is a great way for them to remember you whenever they are working in their garden.

Creating a unique and memorable gift for your gardening friends is as simple as knowing what tools they already have and what they’d like to utilize. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll choose the perfect gift!

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4 Plants to Try to Grow During the Colder Months
by Ali Lawrence - posted 11/10/16

cold climate cabbage

If you love gardening and fresh vegetables, it might be hard to see winter arrive. After all, the garden is going to be gone once frost hits, right?

Well, some crops will be gone — tomatoes and corn, certainly. But a surprising amount of vegetables and other crops can be grown in the fall and even into the winter. Try these for variety.

Leafy Green Vegetables

If you have an idea that leafy green vegetables are delicate and shrink at first frost, think again. It’s true of some leafy greens, but not all. Leafy greens that are low to the ground absorb heat from the earth because of the proximity. They are therefore slow to freeze. The greenery also augments their energy absorption from the sun. Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and kale will all grow nicely until the weather hits a steady 20 degrees Farenheit. Look for late summer and Fall varieties of cabbage, such as vantage point.

Root Vegetables

Why does it seem like root vegetables and cold temperatures go together so nicely in cooking, as in pot roasts with carrots and potatoes? Well, in the days before vegetables could be flown in to your local grocery store from all around the world, they were the only vegetables that kept growing once the weather got cold. The ground protects them, to some degree.

Beets, carrots and radishes will grace your gardenuntil the temperature hits the high 20 degrees Farenheit. Rutabagas and turnips can grow until the temperature hits 20 degrees Farenheit.

Herbs

If your green thumb cries out to be used during the colder months, turn to herbs. They will also go well with the vegetables.

You can also have an herb garden during the colder months by growing them indoors, in containers. Be sure that any container you buy has excellent drainage at the bottom. The bottom of containers need to be covered in porous material, so draining can take place and root rot — a condition caused by too much water — doesn’t set in.

Basil will thrive indoors in winter in containers, as long as it can receive 6 full hours of sunlight. It grows well indoors for the winter in well-drained containers. It’s an herb that complements most dishes, from pasta to roast meat. It can also be made into pesto for pasta and other sauces.

Chives also grow well during the winter. They’re slightly onion-like in flavor and go well with soups, potatoes and dips.

Rosemary will be robust in the winter as long as there is enough sun. It needs a few hours of sun or partial shade per day. Rosemary is a great herb for roast meats.

Ornamentals

Many ornamentals are another plant that can be grown in colder climates.

Evergreens are good choices for winter, and they will make your garden look vibrant even during the snow. Wintergreen, for example, tastes like mint and can be harvested for the flavor. Holly is another ornamental that will grow all year and sprout jewel-like red berries in the winter.

Container gardens are also a good way to grow ornamentals. Dwarf spruce and cypress are particularly hardy during the winter months.

Growing doesn’t stop because the weather turns cold. You can be rewarded with healthy eating and vibrant gardens all year long. 

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Preparing the Garden for Winter
by Ali Lawrence - posted 11/01/16

cat in garden during fall

Now that the hot weather is over, fall is truly settling in. As the leaves start to fall in earnest and the first frost looms on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your garden. The changing of the seasons can be especially daunting for beginner gardeners. If it’s your first winter, it can be hard to know where to start or how to begin preparing for the colder months.

The following basic steps can take the stress out of your winter garden preparations.

Tidy Up

With any project, gardening or otherwise, you should start off by getting rid of any junk that’s in your way, so you can focus on prepping healthy plants and clearing soil for the coming months.

Start by removing anything that is dead or dying. Pull diseased plants and gather debris like branches and dead-heading plants. Next, pull your annuals — roots and all. One-year-only plants shouldn’t take up space and attention. Cleaning up will help narrow your focus, protect your healthy plants and give you a fresh slate for spring. For any diseased plants, throw in the trash. But all other plants or brush can be added to your compost pile.

Address the Plumbing and Water

Once you’re done watering or irrigating for the year, it’s time to winterize your water system. To avoid frozen pipes, drain water from hoses and lines. Turn off the water to your outdoor faucets and store drained hoses in a shed or basement until spring.

If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or obtain specific instructions from a trusted tutorial.

Mulch

Mulching your garden beds helps stabilize the ground temperature. A thick layer of mulch isn’t meant to keep the ground from freezing. It ensures the ground stays frozen, rather than thawing and refreezing as temperatures fluctuate.

If you have lots of downed leaves in your yard during autumn, consider mulching them to create or supplement your mulch. For more delicate items like bulbs, consider adding evergreen branches for increased protection.

Fertilize

Place a layer of fertilizer in the fall to ensure existing plants receive the nutrients they need to make it through winter and come out strong in the spring. Not all fertilizers are the same. They all contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash, but your specific needs will determine the optimal ratio of ingredients in your fertilizer. Choose a product that will meet your needs for winterizing your lawn and garden.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead for next year as your amount of daily garden work dwindles. Planting bulbs for spring is one of the most common pre-winter tasks. There are plenty of bulbs you can plant now that will give your garden a variety of blooms all year round. Be careful not to leave standing water in barrels or bird baths, water is breeding ground for mosquitoes so by eliminating standing water you can stop mosquitoes come spring.

If you want to expand your gardening repertoire, consider using the winter to start on or expand your composting project. You could start your first hot compost pile, build or buy a permanent compost bin. Click here to learn how to compost your fall leaves.

Remember to check out your local nurseries and garden shops for advice on plants and answers to Pennsylvania-specific questions. Local experts are a great resource for understanding the specific needs of the region.

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