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Monday, December 10, 2007

Michigan Bulb's Christmas Specials

Michigan Bulb is offering up to 50% off regular prices on holiday plants and bulbs. Place your order now so they will arrive in time for Christmas. Offer Expires: 12/15/07.

Potted Amaryllis, Twinkle Twinkle Holiday Star
1 Bulb $9.99 (Normally 19.99)
3 Bulbs $19.99 (Normally 39.99)
Click Here for More Selection of Amaryllis Kits

White Azaleas
6-inch Pot $21.99 (Normally 39.99)
Pink Azaleas
4-inch Pot $13.99 (Normally 24.99)
6-inch Pot $21.99 (Normally 39.99)
Other Azaleas

Mini Alberta Spruce Christmas Tree $24.99
(Normally 39.99)
Tree is 18 to 22"tall and is set in a 1-gallon-foil-wrapped container. There is a choice between 2 decoration motifs.

Kris Kringle Tulips $9.99 (Normally 19.99)
Set of 6 bulbs are potted in a 6" container wrapped in green foil will arrive already sprouted and will bloom in just a few weeks.

For more 50% off Holiday Bulbs click here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Vacation Watering Tips for Potted Plants

One Week Vacation
Most of my plants are in unglazed terracotta pots so water evaporates quickly. I normally have to water my plants daily during our hot, dry summers. I once unexpectedly had to leave my plants alone for a week during the summer, which is pretty much a death sentence to a container garden. I didn't have time to work out a drip system so I moved all of my plants to a shady area of my patio, watered them thoroughly, and wrapped them in plastic bags. I was pleasantly surprised to find all of my plants alive and in good condition. Not only were they all alive, but one of my lilies had bloomed.

Plastic Bag Wrapping Method (Recap):

  • Plastic Bags. I used the kind that stores use to bag your purchases. Just make sure there are no holes in the bags.
  1. Move the plants to the shadier side of your apartment patio/balcony.
  2. Just before you leave, water the plants thoroughly (i.e., until water begins to drip from the bottom of the container).
  3. Wrap each pot in plastic bags to prevent water from evaporating. Just set the pot in the bag and then tie the bag around the base of the plant. Try to tie the bag as close as possible to the trunk or stem of the plant. As water rises it will hit the plastic ceiling, and drip back down to the plant. Just make sure there are no holes in the bags you use.

Three Week Vacation

It is chilly and humid now so there will be less evaporation. Some of my plants are dormant now so they will not be needing as much water as they did during the summer. However, I do not believe my plants will be able to sustain themselves for 3 weeks on the wrapping method alone. I'm going to combine the wrapping method with a drip system for my large potted plants. Then I'm going to have a friend care for the bulk of my seedlings. I will use some of my duplicate seedlings to see if they survive the 3 weeks in a green house system I have in mind for them. I'll report my findings in January. Happy Holidays Everyone!

UPDATE: My experiment worked! Click Here to learn how you can make your own Container Watering System.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Free Garden Diary

What is a Garden Diary or Garden Journal?
A garden diary is a book where you can write down your thoughts and observations of your garden. In my garden journal, I track the progress of my plants, and I keep a detailed account of my gardening experiments. I make note of signs of distress (e.g., disease, pests, etc.), treatment and solutions to plant problems, response to certain water/light conditions, plant pairings, first blooms, fruit sizes, etc.

Download Your Free Garden Diary.
You can transform a 3-ring binder into a personalized Garden Diary by slipping one of the Cover Pages I provided you (or you can use one of your own) into the plastic sleeve on the front of the binder. I designed the diary pages so that you can easily update your garden journal. Just simply print pages as you need them and slip them in the appropriate place in the binder.

If you're thinking about making this as a gift or would just like to liven up your own book, you can:
(1) Print the journal pages on colored paper or 8.5" x 11" stationary sheets that are sold at craft stores, or
(2) Create a "book" by (a) printing the cover on thick craft paper or print the cover on thick photo paper, and (b) use a 3-ring hole puncher to punch holes in all papers and cover page, bind pages together with brads, and then cover brads with a pretty ribbon.

To get your Free Garden Diary, download the files by clicking on the links below.

If you do not have Acrobat Reader, you can download a Free Acrobat Viewer here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Get Free Seeds

~Free Milkweed Seeds to Save the Monarch Butterflies
Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for Butterfly Seeds to:

Live Monarch Foundation – Seeds
3003-C8 Yamato Road #1015
Boca Raton, Florida 33434
For more information visit:

~6 Packets of Seeds to Winter Sow for Free
Send a self-addressed #10 business-sized envelope with two first-class stamps for postage to:

WinterSown.Org Six Pack
1989 School Street
East Meadow, NY 11554
For more information visit:

~Free Heirloom and Hybrid Tomatoes
Send a self-addressed #10 business-sized envelope with two first-class stamps for postage to:

WinterSown.Org Tomato SASE
1989 School Street
East Meadow, NY 11554
For more information visit:

~Free Poppy and Shasta Seeds
Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with two first-class stamps along with your 1st and 2nd choice to:

Free Seed Offer
P.O. Box 31342
Walnut Creek, CA 94598
For more information visit:

~Free Wild Flower Seeds to Save the Bees
Visit Burt’s Bees and fill out the online request form to receive your free seeds.

~Free Four-o’clock Seeds to Show Support for Cancer Survivors
Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Four-o'clocks Around the World
P.O. Box 8931
Metairie, Louisiana 70011-8931
For more information visit:

~Free Flower Seeds (e.g., cosmos, bachelors buttons, marigold, etc.)
Supplies are limited, and are given on a first come, first served basis. There is a limit of 1 order of 10 seeds per mailing address per year. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Free Flower Seed
P.O. Box 394
Robbinsville, NC 28771
For more information visit:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Seed Organizer

I purchased a set of two 7.5" x 7.5" photo albums for $4.99 at my local Target store. The 3.5" x 5" photo pockets are perfect for storing and keeping track of my seed packets. I write down the names of the plants, the date I received the packets and/or the date I sowed the seeds, and other important information about the plants in the margins.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Living Sculpture: Potted Succulent Art

I was shopping for some electrical tape when I saw these succulent beauties perched on a rack outside the store. I could not help but notice the vibrant colors, and striking contours of these plants. I was surprised some of them were flowering even in this cold weather. Anyways, at $3 a piece, I couldn't resist. They are just what I need to liven up my apartment.

There were too many to choose from, and I only have a limited space in my apartment garden so instead of potting each plant individually, I decided to create a large container featuring a medley of plants. I toyed with the idea of adding tumbled glass and rocks as a decorative element, but I preferred the minimalist look.

Creating this live sculptural art is easy! I provided step-by-step instructions on how to create your own succulent art below. I also included some helpful preparation and planning tips.

  • Large, shallow container (At least 10" wide)
  • 3-4 succulent plants (depending on size of plant)
  • Coffee Filter or 4" x 4" Mesh Screen
  • Well-Draining Potting Soil
  • Decorative Elements like tumbled glass, large rocks, etc. (optional)

1. Plant Selection. This is probably the most difficult part of this project because you need to do more than choose plants that have interesting shapes and colors. You have to consider the watering and sunlight needs of each plant. Succulents will need more water during their growing period, but some succulents are summer growers and other succulents are winter growers. You also have to consider the plants' growth properties; will it grow vertically, horizontally, rapidly, etc.? If you have any doubts, you can read the plant description or ask a store employee.

2. The Container. Choose a container that is wide and shallow. You can use a deep container if you wish, but it will be a waste of space. Succulent plants tend to have shallow roots and do not need a deep container. My plants came in plastic containers, but I like using terracotta containers. Terracotta pots are porous and allow water to evaporate quicker than plastic containers. Because succulents tend to die more from over-watering than lack of watering, I feel safer using the terracotta pots. I did not seal my pots for this reason and also because I like the earthy-dry look for these plants.

3. Lining the Container. Line the bottom of the container with a coffee filter or a 4" x 4" mesh screen to prevent the soil and minerals from leaching out from that large hole. The coffee filter is biodegradeable and will eventually break down with time so if I decide to bring this one inside, I will set this container on a plain 5" terracotta saucer.

4. Arrange the Plants. Fill up about a 1/4 to a 1/2 of the container with soil. Then place the plants on top of the soil. Play with the arrangement of the plants until you are satisfied with a design. Remember to take in account the plants' growth characteristics.

5. Finish Planting Plants.
Fill dirt around the potted plants (and also below) so that the potted plants are snug and all have a level soil line. Remember to leave at least 1/2" of space from the soil line to the rim of the pot. You do not want water and debris overspilling every time you try to water your plants.
Remove one of the potted plants. Gently roll the bottom of the container in your hand until the plant slides free from the container. You can gently loosen the roots on the sides and bottom before placing the plant in the soil. Repeat for the other plants. When you are done gently pat the soil down around the plants and water pot thoroughly.

Note: Succulents are hardy plants. They do need to be watered, but they should not be over-watered. If you do the succulents will rot. You should only have to water the plant when the soil is thoroughly dry.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Habanero Plant

Featuring Mature Habanero Pepper (in Orange);
Unripened Green Habanero Peppers in Background

Earlier this year (April 26, 2007), I saved some seeds from a habanero pepper that I was using to make a spicy vinegar, and planted them in a container. I watered the soil thoroughly, and covered the container with a plastic ziploc bag to help the soil retain its moisture and create a greenhouse effect. These plants grew without any fuss at all. About seven months later, I have five healthy plants that have several little peppers that are finally maturing.

This is a great plant to have in your garden even if you do not like spicy foods. The habanero plant is aesthetically pleasing all year round. In summer the plants will have pretty white blooms with dark green centers. And in the fall, you will get additional color with these pretty 1" to 1.5" orange peppers. You can just give away the ripe peppers to a friend who will appreciate the spicy fruits or blend the fruits with water to make an organic insecticide.

Habaneros are suitable for container-gardening. My plants are only a foot tall, but the average height is 2-feet tall and the average width is 18-inches. You do not have to water the plant very often. In fact, over-watering the plant may ruin the taste of the fruit. This plant likes full sun, but if you are growing your plant from seed place the young plants in indirect sunlight to avoid frying the plant. I fertilized my plants as soon as they began to bear fruit. I used a low fertilizing solution about once a month.

Caution: These peppers are EXTREMELY HOT. I wouldn't recommend growing them if small children will have access to these plants. I also do not recommend eating the fruit alone or handling the fruit with bare hands. The inside flesh of the pepper is scorching hot, and will remain on the skin for a very long time. It's heat score is rated over 300,000 Scoville Units (COMPARE TO: The Jalapeno Pepper, which is rated around 3,000 Scoville Units).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dixie Cup Seedling Starter

Seedlings (from left to right): Red Bell Peppers, Sweet Basil, Plum Tomato, Black-Eyed Susan

This is an inexpensive and convenient way to start your seedlings indoors.
  • Dixie Cups
  • Seeds
  • Potting Soil
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Water
  • Empty Water Bottle
  1. Fill a Dixie Cup at least halfway full. Leave at least 1/2″ space from soil line to the top of the cup.
  2. Press your pinky finger (or use the end of a pencil) to make an impression in the center of the soil. The depth of the impression will depend on the seed sowing instructions, but is usually between 1/8″ and 1/2″ deep.
  3. Place 1 or 2 seeds in the impression, and then lightly cover the seeds with soil.
  4. Gently pour water onto the soil.

    • Caution: Do not over-water the soil. You want moist soil, not soggy soil.
  5. Write down what you are growing on the cup to keep track of what you are planting.
  6. Place the cup on a sunny windowsill.
  7. Check the plants daily and keep the soil moist. The trick to getting seeds to germinate is to keep the soil moist and warm.

    • Tip #1 (Transporting Seedlings): You can place Dixie Cup seedlings on a tray or in a shallow box (e.g., shoe box) so that you can move several seedlings around at once. If you keep them in a box, make sure there is proper air circulation to prevent the growth of fungus.
    • Tip #2 (Watering Seedlings): When seedlings begin to sprout do not pour water directly on the tender seedling shoots. Spoon water directly on the soil around the seedling shoots.
    • Tip #3 (Retaining Soil Moisture): You can rest a piece of plastic wrap or other transparent material over the cups to help the soil retain moisture. If the plant shoots above the cup line, place clear plastic bags (like Ziplock bags) over a group of seedlings to create a mini-greenhouse tent.
    • UPDATE: It is a lot easier and more economical in the long run to use re-useable seedling starters.  The great thing about these miniature plastic pots is that they help keep the soil from drying out and they can be used over and over again.   
  8. Transplant seedlings when they are 3″ to 4″ tall.

    • Fill 4″ or 6″ pot with potting soil leaving about 2″ or 3″ of space. Place Dixie Cup in the center of the pot and continue to fill pot with soil. You want to leave about a 1/2″ of space between soil line and top of gardening pot. Water plant thoroughly.
    • Tip #4 (Removing Seedlings from Cup): Position the cup so that the seedlings point to the ground at about a 45-degree angle. Then roll the bottom half of the cup in your hand to loosen up the soil and slightly tap or shake until the seedling falls in to your hand. Place in the new pot.