There’s nothing quite like a fresh picked tomato when the weather outside is frightful – and it certainly has been here in Indiana. The catfish we put into the aquaponic system this spring didn’t make it – and with everything going on, I never bought more fish to put back in the tank. I did leave the tank running because there were plants that still needed water. I figured without the fish they would die off sooner or later. That is not the case. While it is true that the tomato plant has some dead leaves on it, it is full of flowers and fruit in different stages of ripening.
Oddly enough I have ignored that tomato plant only adding water to the tank below when it got low. I have not hand pollenated it however as we walk past to go out the door it does get bumped. Another thing I noticed is the fruit is in the center of the plant and on the far side that gets the least light. The flowers are nearer to the door so they do get some light, however they also get the first blast of cold air from outside when the door is opened. That happens twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening – when we feed the animals.
I really need to get some help to string the tomato plant up so it reaches towards the ceiling – and the grow light. That would give it more air circulation and allow me to remove some of the dead leaves. I did notice a few white fly caught in a spider nest today so I know I need to take action now instead of waiting. I certainly don’t want a white fly infestation in my greenhouse!
In the same container with the tomato plant I saw a coffee tree was still alive. The edges of the leaves were a little brown, but that is to be expected. Obviously the humidity level isn’t high enough for that particular plant. That is ok. The rest of the leaves looked shiny and green so it is thriving even under less than ideal growing conditions. I would love to harvest coffee one day. I don’t drink it myself but would get a kick out of roasting it and giving it as a gift.
If you’re wondering about the temperature inside my little greenhouse where the tomatoes are growing, I aim for no less than 50 degrees F. It seems to be staying in the 60 to 70 degree F temperature range right now, although there was a couple times it dipped below 50 degrees F – but not for long. I keep a thermometer in there and try to keep a close eye on the temperature especially at night.
If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can still grow tomatoes year-round – right in your living room! All you need is a five gallon bucket or pot of similar size and a good grow light. I use fluorescent lights. They are four feet long and take two bulbs. I use one from the hot spectrum (red, orange or yellow colors on the bulb package) and one from the cool spectrum (blue or green colors on the package). This works just fine and saves quite a bit of money compared to buying true grow bulbs and fixtures.
In the event you didn’t save a tomato plant from your garden this year, start one from seed. Yes, it will take some time to grow into a full size plant and start producing but come spring when the last frost has passed you can move it into your garden and keep on harvesting tomatoes. I guarantee you will get the first ones on the block with a mature plant!
Plant lovers know plants make the best gifts. You simply cannot have enough plants and there is always room to add “just one more” plant to the mix. This can drive the non-plant people in your life up the wall. Dodging bags of soil, large pots that don’t quite fit where we want them and that little matter of dealing with watering them in the winter – especially those really big pots that no one wants to move – is challenging to say the least. Usually I put saucers under my pots – but some of my pots – especially the larger or odd-shaped ones – are a bit harder to find saucers for. These require that someone move them into the bathtub at least once a month so I can shower them down.
Yes, I use the shower on my plants. It removes dust from their leaves, adds humidity for a short time and does a very good job of hydrating the soil. After I drench them for about 10 minutes four to six times, I allow the pots to sit in the tub for several hours to drain. I always end up tracking drops of water through the house when I get ready to move them back into their winter home, but those drops of water are easy to wipe up because I have a wood floor.
Yesterday another box of plants arrived. A friend had told me that another friend had the Heliconia ‘Lobster Claw’ that I so adore. I had this plant once, then lost it when my greenhouse was damaged by hail. I was so upset that I gave up trying to replace my lost plants. I was heartbroken because all the rare plants I loved and had worked so hard to keep alive died. In that one night I lost various bananas, heliconias, gingers, the true nutmeg, clove, a vanilla orchid, my Theobroma plants, a dwarf ylang-ylang and so much more. The only plants that survived were the ones in the house.
I kept those plants going but never stopped longing for the ones I used to have. I tried to focus on plants that would thrive here in Indiana but it just wasn’t the same. Winters were awful without my greenhouse – and I missed the fragrant, often brightly colored blooms. I was lost – and so – last spring I began to propagate a few seeds of tropical plants once again. Growing plants from seed takes time and patience, but I knew if I could get them into large pots and outside this summer they would take off – and they did – but – what about those plants I didn’t have seeds for? Well – ordering plants is very expensive – and if you live in the right climate many of these plants multiply quickly – so I needed to locate some of my friends again and see what they would be willing to share.
I drug my feet. Fall came. Then I started going back over my old blog posts, updating the information, changing the photos and sharing the links on social media. This was how I found out that Robert had the Heliconia I wanted. The next step was to contact him and see if he would be willing to send me a start – which he was – and he sent a whole box of cool plants to go along with it! Opening that box made my day yesterday! I can’t thank him enough! From one plant lover to another – plants make the best gifts!
Sometimes my plants surprise me – especially my roses. They don’t typically bloom until May here in Indiana, but when fall rolls around they just don’t want to stop. It is not uncommon for me to see roses in bloom in November or even December, as was the case today. Last night we had our first snowfall of the 2013-2014 winter season. The antique rose by the deck in front of the house had started blooming about a week or so ago. I figured – since temperatures had fallen into the 30′s F that the roses would be gone by morning. What a shock it was when the snow and ice began to melt and the roses held their own.
Although a lot of the plants – including some of the roses – in my garden were grown from seed, this one came from a garden club plant sale. The lady who owned it before me dug it up and sold it because it refused to bloom for her – and she had it for a number of years from what I understand. She had the name on this as Rose ’Rose de Rescht’ and I do believe that is what this rose is. I have no idea why it wouldn’t bloom for her because the following summer it bloomed for me.
I do not fertilize my roses with anything other than a top dressing of compost every couple of years or a side dressing of kelp. There is no rhyme or reason to the way I apply these amendments. I use what I have, when I have it – and given the fact that I garden on acreage, the plants that get it are the vegetables first and whatever is in the most need, second. It’s truly hit and miss.
I do prune my roses – not in the fall mind you, but in the spring once they begin to leaf out and I am sure the last frost is over. You see, I found when I prune in the fall, the roses die back harder than if I don’t prune. I wait until the last frost is over for the same reason. I have found when I prune too early, the canes die back even more and what I end up with is a tiny little rose I can barely see that doesn’t grow as vigorously or bloom as profusely as if I just wait a little longer in the spring.
Do you have roses that bloom so late in the year they get covered in snow? What about roses that bloom in early spring? I’d love to hear your stories and see your photos. Gardening is about sharing – caring – and learning from one another.
October in the garden in Indiana certainly looks different from year-to-year, but the monkshood (Aconitum) growing in the shade garden always looks good. Sometimes frost has already killed off many of the plants - while in other years, such as this year – the garden is still going strong. The plants that have died back did so because of lack of water. The nights are beginning to get cold now, but the annuals are still in bloom. The monkshood is a reliable late fall bloomer.
I have mine planted under a locust tree in the center of one of my shade gardens. I moved it to this area two years ago. You see when I first planted it, I put it on the edge of a pathway where it got dappled sunlight in the morning. Now it gets mostly shade during the hottest part of summer, but as the leaves on the trees begin to fall, it gets more sun. The blooms are larger this year and the plant has grown taller. I believe I have found it a permanent spot in the garden where it will thrive. The plants that grow directly around it include an evergreen tree and hellebore.
Although I have tried to grow this species from seed – and have had the seeds sprout – I fail to be capable of growing them into adulthood. This may be – in part – because as summer creeps in it becomes harder and harder for me to find time to care for the young seedlings in my greenhouses. Some thrive on minimal care – and others such as the monkshood perish. The ones I have actually came from a plant sale – and the one I bought has multiplied. It is not aggressive at this point, but has put out several new starts which I am grateful for.
The dark blue flowers stand out in the garden. Monkshood is truly a majestic plant that every gardener should grow – but remember it is also a toxic plant and thus is it best to wear gloves when working with it and plant it towards the back of your border so innocent garden guests don’t bump into it.
All-in-all, monkshood is a carefree plant. Once it was established, it has required almost no care. I didn’t water mine once this year and it looks better than it ever has. I do not fertilize either – an occasional top dressing of compost and the decaying leaves from the trees is all my plants get.
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I brought this Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer home in August. I received it during the BlogHer’13 Conference from the good folks at the Ryobi booth. Carrying it from the exposition hall back to the hotel I truly began to wonder if this string trimmer would be like all the others ones I had tried – way too heavy for me to use.
Once I was back home, the first thing I did was await the charger. You see, they had the battery and the weed eater at the exposition hall but not the charger. I was surprised at how fast they got the charger shipped to me and thus was able to charge the battery and test the Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer out within two weeks of being back home.
The first area I tackled was truly overgrown with weeds – not just grass, but those nasty weeds with tougher stems that it seems even lawnmowers have trouble mowing down sometimes. The battery lasted about 15 minutes – which is really all I lasted. It wasn’t because the Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer was heavy or hard to maneuver, it was because I have some medical problems that make holding and using weed eaters difficult.
Now if I had been able to go on for longer, I would have simply plugged the Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer into an electrical cord and kept on weed eating. You see, that’s another really nice feature of this particular string trimmer – it works on a battery and it works via electrical cord - thus you can keep going as long as you want.
For those of you who live on a large piece of land like I do – or simply don’t like the thought of dragging a cord around with you – the battery charges back up fairly quickly. I was able – and remember I do have some issues that hold me back - to recharge the battery three times during a single afternoon and go back out to do some more weed eating.
For safety’s sake, be sure to operate your Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer safely by wearing safety glasses, gloves, closed toe shoes, long pants and long sleeved shirts. Be sure to choose clothing that fits well and is not loose
The holidays are just around the corner – and if you know of someone looking for a weed eater this holiday season, I highly recommend the Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer – and if you don’t get it for the holidays, be sure to get one in time for the spring gardening season. The Ryobi 18 Volt Hybrid String Trimmer is lightweight, powerful and oh so easy to use!
Fall is here which means winter isn’t far off and it’s time – once again – to bring your tropical plants indoors. We all know the drill – move the plants out in spring, redecorate, then panic once the nights begin to cool down. If you’re like me, not only have the plants you moved outdoors last spring grown drastically but you’ve added more plants to the list. Space is tight here and sometimes I truly wonder how the heck I managed the winter before – even with a greenhouse – because as we all know, in cold climates like Indiana you just can’t rely on keeping your greenhouse hot enough to keep the really tropical plants alive. Never mind the ice and heavy snowfalls that often knock the power out – and believe me, a greenhouse cools down real fast when it’s dark outside and the heater quit working.
So, what’s a plant lover to do? Make room of course. Donate or store the stuff you can’t use or don’t need. After all, the plants deserve a place in your house. The other option is to get creative. Choose indoor decor that looks good with or without plants. Now, you may be thinking what the heck does she mean. Bird cages are a great example. You can decorate with them by themselves or fill them with live plants, nicknacks, candles or even silk flowers.
I chose to put some of my smaller plants into some rustic looking metal birdcages this year. I found them at an end of the season clearance sale for 90% off. That’s a fantastic deal in itself. I then went to our local hardware store with the greenhouse attached and found plastic square shaped plant saucers that fit perfectly in the bottom of the bird cages. Best of all, the ones I chose were just 62 cents each and had star indents in the bottom to hold a little water for extra humidity. We all know plants like humidity and the house can be a little dry over winter. These plant saucers were a perfect choice and ideally priced.
Once I was home, I set two plant saucers in the bottom of the metal bird cages, watered my plants well, let them drain and then set them on top of the saucers. I closed the lid and set my birdcage in front of a window. Besides looking really cool, the cage has a fastener on it. What a great way to keep tiny hands and pets away from my smaller plants.
Here is a video showing how a
works. I have a rain barrel under my chain to catch the excess water. The chain makes a soothing sound and the water falls between the separate cups. As the individual cups fill they start to empty into the lower cup which then fills up and empty into the next cup. This goes on until all the cups get filled. At this point the rain barrel gets filled.
originated in Japan and they were called “kusari doi” is considered a “kinetic sculpture” and provides water music which promotes peace and tranquility dating back hundreds of years where they were used to transport water from the rooftop to the ground level. Where the water can then be of more use than simply falling on the ground. They are commonly made of copper. The are also available in a variety of designs and sizes.
Many use their collected water to water their plants as it is much better than simply going to the tap and getting water that way.
Just listening to a rain chain in action is a pleasant sound to experience. Using one to replace your regular downspout will increase the aesthetic view compared to the dull downspout.
Here are some pretty neat videos I took of butterflies, bees and moths in the garden this year. I hope you enjoy them! All of these videos were taken at Exotic Gardening Farm & Wildlife Habitat in Marion, Indiana. We do have a Homesteading Festival once a year. This year it is on Sunday, September 22. The public is invited to attend. I can’t guarantee what you will see on that day in regards to butterflies and birds but what I can tell you is there are lots of them hanging around this year.
This first video is of a hive I came across in my front garden while I was weed eating. I had no idea it was there. I was working away when suddenly I realized I was covered in bees. I am not sure what type of bees these are but they did not sting me. The hive is beautiful. I left the area and came back several hours later with my camera to shoot this video.
[H2]Moth In Barn[/H2]
I saw this moth on the floor of my barn in an empty stall when I went to water the goats. I wasn’t sure if it was ok, but I wanted to find out. I do not know what type of moth it is, but the good news is it flew away at the end of the video and nested on the ceiling of the barn instead of on the floor.
[H2]Monarch Butterfly On Butterfly Bush[/H2]
I was getting a bit concerned because I had not seen a single Monarch Butterfly this year. I have a dedicated butterfly garden with lots of milkweed and other nectar plants. I went out with my camera to see what I could find fluttering about and saw this Monarch drinking nectar from the butterfly bush. It didn’t seem to care that I was there filming it.
[H2]Silver-Spotted Skipper And Bees In The Garden[/H2]
There are at least two Silver-Spotted Skippers in the video along with lots of bees.
Daylily – ugh – the word makes me cringe but I have to tell you about this awesome plant combination of daylilies and geraniums. I live in a town where daylilies and hosta are all the rage. I have both in my garden because – well – people expect to see them when they come. I think people like them so much because they are so easy to grow and they multiply rather rapidly compared to other types of plants. Now I will agree when they are in bloom, the colors and the bloom sizes are wonderful. They come in vibrant colors such as red, orange and yellow – so, yes, they do make a statement, but the darn flowers only last a day and when they are done blooming you have nothing but green foliage left to look at. Now the foliage does arch and has sort of a grassy look, but still who wants all green in their garden most of the summer? Not me.
I have found some good uses for daylilies however – like around the base of a tree. The foliage chokes the weeds out which means less trimming work for me and daylilies will bloom in shade – although they prefer full sun. They do multiply even around tree roots which is wonderful because as we all know that area is quite dry. Daylilies don’t seem to mind dry conditions and even perform well during droughts – which I guess makes them useful in a lot of situations but they still don’t make my favorite list – that is, until I grew ‘Going Bananas.’
Daylily ‘Going Bananas’ is very drought tolerant and blooms her little head off. ‘Going Bananas” produces masses of gorgeous yellow blooms all summer long. This daylily is going to convert me into a daylily fan – especially if more like her are introduced into the trade.
I planted this particular daylily in a raised bed filled with compost and sandy soil. Her bed partner was a perennial geranium named ‘Blushing Turtle.’ Yellow and purple seemed like a good combination and I thought maybe the geranium will grow rapidly enough that the daylily won’t be noticeable after she stops blooming. The geranium has grown rapidly and I have moved some of the stems so they lay under and around the daylily instead of covering it up. I absolutely love the combination of these two plants together and best of all, they start blooming at the same time so I get a mass of color in the one corner of the raised bed.
Daylily ‘Going Bananas’ is a Proven Winners introduction, is fragrant, salt tolerant and ideal for erosion control. Geranium ‘Blushing Turtle’ is a Blooms Of Bressingham introduction that blooms right up to the first frost and has fragrant foliage. If you haven’t grown either of these two plants, do get them. Plant them together and let me know how they do for you. Both of these plants are real winners when it comes to outstanding perennial plants!