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Tuesday, March 10 , 2015

Don’t Plant Your Garden Wrong

Depending on what climate you live in, you might be getting ready to sow some seeds or plant some seedlings! Here's the word on what to put where, based on how much sun you get.

If a section of your garden is bathed in sunlight, consider growing corn, melons, peppers and/or tomatoes. They thrive in the sun.

If a section of your garden doesn’t get much sun, consider growing lettuce, pumpkins and/or spinach, which all thrive in the shade.

More help with your garden…


Wednesday, August 27 , 2014

The Right Way to Ripen Tomatoes

We love it when our local farmers' market has freshly picked tomatoes right off the garden vines! Or maybe you grow your own and are in the middle of a delectable harvest. Here's what to do to ripen your picked beauties quickly and to enjoy them more.

To ripen tomatoes quickly, place them in a brown paper bag with a banana or a few apples. The ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will help the tomatoes ripen fast. Check the bag frequently (every day) because you don't want overripe tomatoes.

Best way to slice a tomato for an unsoggy sandwich: Tomatoes have ovary walls, and when you cut into them, the pulp and juice tend to slosh out. But if you slice a tomato vertically—from the top of the stem down to the bottom of the fruit—the slices will stay firmer, which will keep your sandwich drier. Also, vertically cut tomatoes will not juice up your salad as much.

More help in the kitchen...


Friday, August 08 , 2014

How to Grow Wonderful Radishes

Radishes are a very easy vegetable to grow, and they love coolish weather. So you can start a very successful crop in late summer or even early fall. Here's what to add to your soil to help radishes thrive...

To invigorate your radish plants, serve them a weekly tonic made from one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one gallon of water. They'll thrive on the trace minerals that the apple cider vinegar has to offer.

More help with your garden...


Friday, July 11 , 2014

Protect Your Hands While Gardening

There's nothing like a relaxing afternoon in the garden. But hot weather makes you sweat, and moist hands blister easily. Then there's the occasional scratch or bug bite that can really make you uncomfortable. Here's what to do...

When your hands get sweaty from working with a shovel, hoe or pruner, rub your palms with some soil to help keep them dry and blister-free.

Soothe the sting and stop infection: It's not unusual to get a scrape...a scratch...a nick...a gash...or an insect bite while working outside. However, you don't want to run into your house to tend to every little abrasion. The answer is to keep a small spray bottle of full-strength white vinegar and a few adhesive bandages in your garden tote. Spritz the minor wound with the vinegar—which will help prevent it from becoming infected—then cover the boo-boo with a bandage until you go indoors and can clean and dress it properly.

Bonus sweet secret to help your hands: After gardening, add one teaspoon of sugar to your soapy lather, and wash your hands with it. The sugar acts as an abrasive to clean away grass and garden stains.

More help in the garden...


Wednesday, June 18 , 2014

Garden Cure for Achy Feet

Were you on your feet all day and now your dogs are barking? Or maybe there's some weird ache around your ankles or shin area, and you need a little natural soothing. Here's a healing vegetable for those achy feet.

Boil or roast a large turnip until it's soft. Then mash it and spread half of it on a white cotton handkerchief. Spread the other half on another handkerchief. Apply the turnip mush to the bottoms of your bare feet, bandage them in place, and sit with your feet elevated for about half an hour. This "sole food" should draw out the pain and tiredness.

More help for foot pain...


Monday, June 09 , 2014

How to Keep Rabbits Out of Your Garden

Are you having a "bad hare day"? What a drag it is to see your chard or cabbage coming up, only to be chomped on by bunnies (or other critters)! Here's what to do...

To stop rabbits from enjoying a salad in your garden, wet down the leaves of your vegetable plants and sprinkle ground cayenne pepper on them. Repeat after every rain shower...and remember to wash your produce well before eating (but you were going to do that anyway).

To protect your seedlings, sprinkle baby powder on them. Rabbits hate the smell of talcum powder. Or sprinkle human hair all around where your plants are just coming up. Remember to ask your beautician to save the clippings when you (or a family member) get a trim.

More ways to a great garden...


Monday, June 02 , 2014

Lettuce-Growing Secrets

Want to grow a tasty, less bitter batch of lettuce? Here's how to do it...

Let your lettuce plants grow in a shady patch of your garden. The Farmers' Almanac suggests planning your garden so that lettuce will be sheltered by taller plants, such as tomatoes or sweet corn...and consider planting rows of chives or garlic between lettuce plants to control aphids. (The chives act as "barrier plants" for the lettuce.)

What, you've already planted your lettuce? Then go find a shady spot and plant some more. Lettuce plants mature quickly, so you can sow a new set of seeds every two to three weeks for a continuous harvest. If you keep the lettuce cool as a cucumber, it will mature without any bitterness...but then again, wouldn't we all?

More help with gardening...


Thursday, May 22 , 2014

Give Your Geraniums a Boost

Geraniums are easy-to-grow perennials that bloom beautiful, bright colors. And, according to the National Gardening Association, deer pass them by! But geraniums are picky about one thing…

They love lots of water! But, as with any plant, you have to careful not to overwater—the roots should never sit in standing water.

Here’s a way to keep them happily hydrated without overwatering: After preparing your morning coffee, rinse off the coffee grounds to cool them and remove any residue. Then distribute the grounds in an even layer on top of the soil surrounding the geraniums. The grounds become a marvelous mulch that helps keep in moisture. Note: Be sure to use coffee grounds on full-grown plants only. Geranium seeds have a hard seed coat, and the grounds can inhibit germination.

More help with plants and gardens…


Monday, May 19 , 2014

Easy, Nontoxic Weed and Patio Moss Killer

Personally, we think it's charming to see a feisty plant pop up through sidewalk cracks or in between patio stones. But if you're not charmed by pavement weeds and green stuff growing on your patio and want to get rid of it all without harsh chemicals, here's what to do...

Pour distilled white vinegar on the weeds—enough to get them good and wet—but don't hose it off. Let it stay there, and in a few days the weeds will be dead. Vinegar will also get rid of patio moss. Splash on a half-cup wherever you see green growing where it's not supposed to. This is safe and effective for wood and slate patios. Reapply as needed, usually after a heavy rainstorm.

More garden know-how...


Monday, May 05 , 2014

Free Fertilizer for Your Rose Bushes

Every rose grower should know the secret to a healthy and beautiful rose crop—banana peels! The peels are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium and silica...so they make a great fertilizer. Here's what to do to feed your flowers...

Save your banana peels, and air-dry them until they're crispyish and crumblyish. Figure on using about three peels per rosebush. Cut the peels into small, half-inch pieces, and bury them around each bush a few inches deep into the soil. Do this once or twice in late spring and again at the end of June or beginning of July.

More great garden ideas...


Tuesday, April 15 , 2014

How to Use Epsom Salt in the Garden

It's time to clean up your plots and get ready for gardening! It may be a little early to plant, but it's not too soon to start thinking soil enrichment. Here's what to do...

Some gardeners will not sow their crops (or anything) until they've enriched the soil with Epsom salt. It is said to help grow stalks stronger, leaves greener and blossoms more substantial. It also makes plants less vulnerable to disease.

Sprinkle about one cup of Epsom salt over every 100 square feet (or 10-foot-x-10-foot patch) of garden. You can do this while you're preparing your land or just before you plant your seeds or seedlings (after the final frost is the best).

You can also sprinkle one-half cup of Epsom salt around mature plants, such as rose bushes, which will help strengthen the color of the flowers and yield blossoms sooner, due to the magnesium content. For new rose plantings, feed your up-and-coming bushes according to their height—one teaspoon of Epsom salt per foot—worked into the soil around the stem. Expert rose growers suggest doing this during the first and third weeks of May and during the first and third weeks of June.

More help with gardening...

Thursday, March 13 , 2014

Keep Plant Seeds for Years

Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may be itching to get planting! Many gardeners like to start seedlings indoors four to six weeks before the final frost. Most seed packets have way more than you need. You can share with a neighbor, or do this...

Whenever you finish a bottle (opaque plastic or dark glass) of vitamins or other supplements, save it, along with that little, moisture-absorbing silica gel packet that came in it. They are good to use when storing seeds.

Put any leftover seeds in your selection of saved bottles along with the silica gel pack. Close it tightly, and keep it refrigerated until next year. Most seeds will stay viable for two to three years. If you want to test before planting, just remember that dud seeds will float in a small bowl of water.

Note: Be sure to label the jar clearly so your seeds don’t become a salad topping.

More help with your garden...


Thursday, September 19 , 2013

Protect Your Bulbs from Critters

It's fall (already), and most of your gardening is winding down...except for bulb-planting strategies. The planning is the fun part! Before planting bulbs, protect them from burrowing insects and rodents by dusting them with medicated baby powder.

For great gardens and lawns...


Thursday, July 11 , 2013

Give Your Melons a Lift

Here's something nice you can do for those beautiful balls of fruit slowly appearing in your garden. Put melons on a pedestal while they’re growing, and they'll happily ripen early. Your "pedestal" can simply be an empty coffee can that has been turned upside down and pressed into the soil. The metal attracts and holds onto heat from the sun, which speeds up ripening.

More great gardening tips...


Monday, July 01 , 2013

Get Ready to Pick Raspberries

If you like to pick your own raspberries, wait a little after you wake up. The best time to pick ripe raspberries is early in the day, but only after the morning dew is gone, for the simple reason that dry fruit is less perishable than damp fruit. But you don't want to wait too long, or the midday sun will make the berries warm and squishy. Also, gather your raspberry harvest in wide, shallow containers so that these delicate berries aren't piled high on each other. Stacking what you pick will create mush in the bottom of your raspberry-picking container!

Delicious, healthful ways to use berries...


Monday, June 24 , 2013

To Grow Sweeter Tomatoes

Did you know that tomatoes are the most popular homegrown vegetable? You probably aren't surprised. The vine plants are easy to grow in containers on patios or decks or in a simple backyard patch of dirt…and a fresh, homegrown tomato tastes light-years better than what you'd get in the grocery store. Would you like your tomatoes to taste even sweeter? Here's what to do: Lower the acidity of your tomatoes by sprinkling baking soda (one-quarter to one-half cup, depending on the size of your plants) around your maturing plants and working it into the soil (about an inch or two below the surface). Do this once a week, and your tomatoes will taste sweeter.

More gardening magic…


Wednesday, May 29 , 2013

Keep the Deer Out of Your Yard

If you have telltale signs of big beasts roaming around your yard— small trees chewed to bits and massive damage to flowers and other greenery (not to mention droppings)—hang scented car air fresheners on trellises, trees, shrubs, bushes and fence posts…anywhere the deer and the antelope play on your property. The smell—especially mint—will chase them away. Or, if you have some old CDs or DVDs that you don't use anymore, tie a string through the center hole of each, and attach them to bushes and trees so they can swing and spin. The shiny glint and constant movement of the CDs will scare off most animal trespassers.

More great yard-care ideas...


Monday, April 22 , 2013

How to Tell If Seeds Will Grow

The word "magic" aptly describes a seed. And if you love gardening (whether you have a nice plot of land or a pot on your fire escape), you probably can't wait to get those seeds in the ground. Here's a test to make sure all your seeds are healthy and ready to grow. This test works best with larger seeds…

To weed out any seeds that may be infertile, fill a bowl with tepid water and empty the seeds into it. The fertile seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl…the duds will float. Just strain the floaters out and discard.

For more home help and gardening how-tos:


Tuesday, August 28 , 2012

Change Lanes with Your Lawn Mower

Each time you mow the lawn, start at a different place. That way, you won’t keep rolling over the exact same lanes, which means you won’t be making permanent tire ruts in your lawn.

Tuesday, July 31 , 2012

More Uses For Your Garden Hose

If your garden hose has sprung several leaks and is beyond repair, recycle it by poking additional holes into it and turning it into a sprinkler (also called a “soaker hose”) for your lawn or garden.

You can also cut up an old hose and use it to brace newly planted trees—it will protect their bark.